South Africa (University of South Africa) Commitment to the academic agenda central to VC’s Summit

Steered by Prof Puleng LenkaBula, the Principal and Vice-Chancellor’s Summit is currently under way in Polokwane, Limpopo. The event is a continuation of the discussions, reflections and outcomes of the Lekgotla held in Maropeng earlier this year. Some of the deliberations to take place include the evaluation on the strategic pillars of the university.

Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Puleng LenkaBula

The themes chosen as key areas for discussions at this year’s Summit, are, among others:

  • Priorities for the 2024 academic year
  • The national, sectoral and institutional strategic outlook within which the university operates
  • Enrolment planning
  • Student services and academic support
  • The university’s Ten Catalytic Niche Areas
  • Institutional culture, governance and compliance

Unwavering commitment to shaping futures and changing lives

In her opening address, LenkaBula, Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor (VC), acknowledged the significant role that the university has played in the knowledge arena, and the way in which it continues to make history by changing people’s lives across generations.

“We are gathered to continue the journey that we began in March 2023 at the Principal and Vice-Chancellor’s Lekgotla, that is, we interrogated who we are, what opportunities lie before us, the challenges that we must extricate ourselves from, and how we can strengthen the primacy of our academic programme, including its resources,” she stated.

The VC extended her gratitude to the academics, support staff, alumni and all other stakeholders of the university who have made the august institution’s 150th anniversary a success. “This event,” she said, “was a historical milestone that was relevant not only for the university, but for our country and the continent in knowledge contribution. The leaders of our country also came to acknowledge this milestone – that of Unisa’s 150 years of unwavering commitment to shaping futures and transforming lives.”

Prof Puleng LenkaBula addressing academics and support staff

Unisa remains steadfast

Regarding individuals who wish to vilify the university, the VC affirmed that the integrity of the academic programme will not be derailed, nor will the university’s mandate in touching lives and changing society. She reminded those holding managerial duties that they have a moral, ethical and legal duty to ensure that the people who report to them do their work.

“In our pursuit for academic excellence,” said the VC, “it is important to evaluate our organisational structure to ensure that we remain fit for purpose, and responsive. We will also be looking at whether the structures that we lead are still optimal for the university, and how best to mitigate their shortfalls,” she explained.

She went on to say that the institution should be recognised for its worth, not simply its size, that it is celebrated among the best in the world, and that the university has a pool of experts who are the first point of reference to address or resolve local and global crises.

The state of the university, a paramount highlight

“We have finally received the report from the Council of Higher Education (CHE) and the Independent Assessor’s Report, and will, in terms of these, evaluate our strength, areas of development, and areas that need improvement,” remarked the VC.

Commenting specifically on the Independent Assessor’s Report, she stated that areas of concern, concurrence and dissonance were identified, while others warrant a further review and investigation.

Attendees, comprising academics and support staff

Unisa remains first choice for the majority

The VC remarked that despite the challenges faced by the university, management still has the responsibility to ensure that it functions optimally. “We have a mandate to future-proof our people,” she remarked.

The VC also lauded the CHE, whose full audit found that the academic project at Unisa is still on track and that the university has played a significant role in providing access to education for those who could not enter other universities. “Further,” said the VC, “the CHE found that the institution is now a university of first choice for adult learners, professionals, and first-time students in higher education. This audit report prompts us to be accountable in everything that we do. Let us engage truthfully with the report so that we can improve,” she said.

All hands on deck

In conclusion, the VC said: “The annual Principal and Vice-Chancellor’s Summit is an open platform for collaboration and innovation, but also for looking clearly into areas that are recurrent structural problems for the university and how can we work together to mitigate these problems, by sharing best practices through addressing challenges and opportunities facing the students and other stakeholders of the university.”

By fostering a culture of open dialogue and collaboration, the Summit aims to facilitate rigorous engagements between academics and support staff in order to find ways of improving the university’s core functions and its commitment to the academic agenda. These engagements will continue for the next two days.


* By Godfrey Madibane, Acting Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement