Council notes

13 March 2009

The Council met on 4 March in the refurbished Mafeje Room, the first full-Council meeting of 2009.

Council took stock of 2009 student registrations. UCT made more offers this year, and first-year registrations (4 430) were 200 up on 2008, mainly in the Faculty of Engineering & the Built Environment and the Faculty of Science.

Undergraduate numbers at the end of the first week were 800 up on last year's total (200 first-years and 600 in the senior years). Council was briefed on the pressures this is putting on classroom and residence space, and on teaching, and noted the steps the executive is taking to address these issues.

The pressure on student housing was of particular concern to Council, which decided that existing services aimed at procuring third-party-provided student housing should be expanded to operate year-round.

The Higher Education Act, 1997, lays down Council's responsibility for the governance of the university. The Council has reviewed the way in which the Vice-Chancellor accounts to the chair and deputy-chair, and how Council exercises its governance and oversight functions.

Accounting by Senate (in the annual reports on teaching and learning, on research and on social responsiveness) and by the Audit Committee (on financial and system controls) were identified as being important. Council has asked for more rigorous reporting. Among the reports considered at this Council meeting was one from the Audit Committee (Colin McClelland, though not a member of Council, has the right to attend Council meetings and does so whenever the Audit Committee reports) and one from the Remuneration Committee. The Remuneration Committee acts for Council in setting mandates for salary negotiations, determines salary ranges for staff that are not unionised, and decides staff salaries. It is required to report decisions to Council, which it did in this report.

During the 1990s the university outsourced many support and service functions. Over the past decade the Council has required contractors providing these services to adhere to a code of conduct, which sets minimum pay levels and standards of decency, among other things. Council reviewed the code, the way it is being implemented, and the compliance-reporting requirements under the code.

The long-term access and parking policy elements include park-and-ride facilities, the increased use of Jammie Shuttles and making car-users pay for on-campus parking. The Council set 2009 parking prices ahead of the 2009 salary negotiations with trade unions, and has now formally rescinded this decision. Having done so, it has called for greater urgency in taking measures to encourage more car users to use the Jamie Shuttles and to establish park-and-ride facilities.

The Council gave attention to two capital development projects. The first was to receive a progress report on the plans for middle campus buildings and to accept the Building and Development Committee's conclusion that, for heritage and precinct-plan considerations, the scope and size of the plans should be reduced (as a consequence ICTS will not move to the middle campus, though new buildings will be put up for the School of Economics and for a cluster of student administration offices).

The second was a report on planned additions to residence stock, which Council recognised as an increasingly important factor in student enrolment. The plans for student housing involve an increase of some 800 places in the short term, but also involve the strengthening by Student Affairs of its capacity to broker and mediate the provision of student housing by third parties, from individual landlords to developers.

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