Greetings to everyone

It is indeed an honour and privilege to update you about Council's fourth and last meeting of the 2023 academic year.

We had a very successful meeting on 16 November 2023 on the Vanderbijlpark Campus, with some members attending in person and others virtually.

We are in the last stretch of 2023, but there are still much that need to be finalised. 2023 has been a year filled with numerous highlights for the NWU, and we stood strong against the onslaughts from a few fronts including the National Student Financial Assistance Scheme (NSFAS) and the ongoing power cuts/loadshedding.

We believe that although 2024 will bring its own challenges, the NWU will again rise to the occasion and be the shining star in the higher education sector it has always proved to be.

View my video message below.

Ms René Kenosi was unanimously elected as the new deputy chairperson of Council. The position became vacant after the second term of the previous deputy chairperson, Mr Obakeng Mongale, ended on 21 September 2023. Ms Kenosi joined the NWU Council in 2021 after being appointed for her special expertise (auditing and finance). She currently serves on the executive committee of Council as well as on other Council sub-committees.

Council has full confidence in Ms Kenosi and congratulates her on her election. Her willingness and acceptance to serve in the capacity as deputy chairperson is greatly appreciated. We wish her the best for the task ahead. Council further expressed its appreciation to Mr Mongale for the services rendered to Council and the NWU for the past six years.

Management, under the leadership of the principal and vice-chancellor, presented a report to Council primarily focusing on the mid-term evaluation of the university's performance as measured in terms of the 2023 Annual Performance Plan (APP).

The report also highlighted some of the key areas that will receive special attention during 2024, a special year for the NWU as we will be celebrating our 20-year anniversary.

Council noted Management's 20-year anniversary celebrations plan and pledged its support and participation in the activities.

Council further noted the good work and progress made and congratulated the vice-chancellor and management. Council reiterated its support for the newly approved strategy of the NWU – Taking the NWU forward, 2024 and beyond. Click here to view the presentation.

Council approved the mid-year performance report which will now be submitted to the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), together with the financial performance for the six months ending 30 June 2023.

Council is satisfied with the manner in which the university management addressed the challenges during 2023 and ensured that the NWU achieves its set goals and objectives. We look forward to more enhancements and innovations in both the academic and support environments, considering the lessons learned in the past years.

Council approved the 2024-2026 budget, subject to the principle that the budget may need to be adjusted when new information is received from the Minister of Higher Education, Science, and Innovation (specifically regarding the subsidy allocation and fee increase adjustment recommendation, as well as actual enrolments for 2024).

Council further approved the proposed infrastructure projects and funds allocated for macro-maintenance, the projected minimum fees payable by students, as well as the spatial development framework.

Communication regarding the percentage increase for tuition and residence fees will follow as soon as the university receives recommendations from the Minister.

The mid-year financial statements ending on 30 June 2023, were also approved.

Council approved the university's Annual Performance Plan (APP) for 2024. The APP serves as an important input into the budget process and determination of strategic projects and will soon be made available on the staff intranet.

The approved plan will be submitted to the DHET.

Council noted the potential risks posed by the recent developments at NSFAS regarding the appointment of service providers and direct payments to students.

These developments as well past experiences with payment delays especially in the beginning of the academic year, convinced Council that precautionary measures are necessary to facilitate a smooth start of the 2024 academic year.

Therefore, Council approved that the NWU advance the cash to pay out allowances to NSFAS students, to support the start of the 2024 academic year. This approach has been successfully implemented in recent years.

The following policies were approved, and will shortly be available here:
  • Reviewed NWU General Academic Rules (A-Rules) (Certain rules will come into effect as from 2024 and the remainder will be enforceable from 1 January 2025)
  • Human Rights Policy
  • Policy on the generation, review and approval of policies, constitutions, rules and procedures
  • Teaching-Learning strategy
Council took note that a review of the approved framework of the 2024 academic calendar had been requested by the Student Information System (SIS) Project Management Team owing to the obligation to get all relevant systems ready for the go-live date of the system in January 2025. Considering Senate's recommendations, Council approved the amendments.

The framework will be published on the university's website soon.

Council approved that Management Cybernetics continue as a niche area based on their track record of scientific quality, productivity, relevance, management, and clear indications of a viable research entity.

The entity is encouraged to continue developing NWU researchers, nurturing the relationship with industry, while at the same time optimising the financial opportunities from commissioned research, and from developing business artefacts.

Council approved that this entity should continue as a niche area and with the support of the deanery and entity members consider application for a focus area. International visibility is demonstrated with three memoranda of understanding with international universities and a representative on the Music, Spirituality and Wellbeing International Network.

The entity is also involved in the organisation of international conferences, and regular performances. The establishment of promising international networks is also in progress.

Council approved that Community Psychosocial Research continues as a focus area and be re-evaluated in 2024 before the external evaluation in 2026. The entity has a good community involvement and a diverse target market which also indicates its relevance.

Its involvement in national and international projects that aim to contribute towards generating psychosocial theory for the South African context also underlines its relevance.

Council approved that Pure and Applied Analytics continues as a research focus area. From a general perspective, there is no doubt that this research focus area is viable in the medium to long-term.

This entity is consistently producing a good number of subsidy-bearing article equivalents mainly as articles.

Council approved that Human Metabolomics continues as a research focus area.

This entity has been contributing significantly to the NWU research outputs over the past three years, and there is also a high demand for graduates from this group.

The NWU is required to comply with Section 20 and Section 23 of the Employment Equity (EE) Act 55 of 1998 which mandates designated employers to develop and execute a successive EE plan aimed at achieving meaningful advancement in attaining employment equity within the employer's workforce.

Given the impending expiration of the existing EE plan on 31 December 2023, it is imperative to establish a follow-up EE plan to span from 2024 to 2026. Council approved the successive EE Plan.

The plan will largely focus on:
  • Barriers for attracting people from the designated groups and people living with disabilities.
  • Acceleration of women in leadership positions.
  • Succession planning for critical and scarce positions.
  • Retention strategies; and
  • Embedding an inclusive organisational culture.
Great progress has been made since 2017, but we unfortunately still fall short in reaching our targets. The successive EE plan for 2024-2026 will enhance targets to enable the university to achieve its EE goals.

Council approved that compulsory medical aid or medical insurance be applicable to the following categories of employees from the commencement date of these conditions of service:
  • All fixed term (with benefits) and permanent academic (A5 to A9) and support employees (P1 to P10), appointed as from 1 January 2022, to be a member of a medical aid.
  • All fixed term (with benefits) and permanent support employees (P11 to P19), appointed as from 1 January 2022, to either be a member of a medical aid or medical insurance (administered by the university).
The conditions will be published on the Intranet soon.

Council approved for People & Culture to engage with organised labour on the finalisation of the minimum service agreement and to conclude and sign the agreement as directed by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). This will specifically deal with services regarded as essential services.

Online registration will commence on 22 January and close on 10 February 2024. First-year students are expected to arrive during the period 1 to 4 February.

The formal orientation programme will commence on 3 February and conclude on 10 February. There will be an informal orientation and co-curricular programme for students during the period 12 to 16 February in the evenings. Classes for all students will commence on 12 February 2024.

Council noted progress made regarding the planning of the 2024 registration period and orientation programme, as well as the fact that the programmes are subject to change, and are continuously refined as part of the planning process. Council approved the 2024 Registration and Orientation programme.

Council approved the naming of the new Mahikeng Campus Residences as recommended by the Honorary Awards Committee as follows:
  • Cluster 8 - Harmony Heights
  • Cluster 9 - Lesedi (Light)
  • Cluster 10 - Khayalethu (Our Home)
  • Cluster 11 - Thutong (Place of Learning)
  • Cluster 12 - Protea (South Africa's national flower)
  • Cluster 13 - Lethabong (Place of Happiness)
In terms of the Higher Education Act and the Statute of the NWU, Council is expected to fulfil certain responsibilities regarding the governance of the university. The NWU Legal Office made a presentation to Council members reaffirming the importance of their legal responsibilities and how these should be executed.

The NWU Council has thus far undoubtedly delivered on its fiduciary duties without fear or favour, and will continue to do so to ensure proper governance.

Council was informed that on 23 November 2023, the NWU's Medical School Task team lead by myself and also including the principal and vice-chancellor, together with the North West Provincial Government will meet with the National Minister for Health and his executive management. The purpose of this meeting is to present the final proposal to the Minister for their consideration and approval.

We are optimistic that this will be the beginning of the final stretch in our dream to open the NWU Medical School.

Council is appreciative of the way in which management and every staff member and student of the NWU are playing their part to ensure that the university stays on track in its continuous pursuit for excellence.

Once again, I thank all members of the university community for their continuous and unwavering support during 2023 in ensuring that the NWU continues to leave its mark nationally and internationally.

I wish you and your families and friends a wonderful festive season. Please have a well-deserved rest and come back in 2024 rejuvenated to tackle the challenges and take advantage of opportunities as you have done in the past.

Best wishes

Bert Sorgdrager
Chairperson: NWU Council

For more information please contact Amanda van der Merwe.
The date for the first Council meeting in 2024 will be announced soon.