Report from UCT Council

26 April 2010

The first full Council meeting of 2010, held on 27 March, saw new faces and a new meeting format: six vacancies had been filled (see Monday Paper Vol 29#05) and five of the new members were attending their first meeting; and Council had gathered for a day-long meeting on a Saturday for the first time.

Highlights of the agenda were: the Vice-Chancellor's objectives for 2010, and a review of strategy; a report on transformation; the Finance Committee's report on the management accounts for 2009; the appointment of auditors to UCT, following a competitive tender process; a debate and decision on outsourcing selected services as a strategy; the appointment of a deputy vice-chancellor; the reports of the Remuneration and HR Committees of Council; a motion calling for a review of the student registration process; and preparation for the Minister's Higher Education Summit on 22 and 23 April 2010.

Max Price's objectives and performance goals for 2010 related first to six strategic goals and performance indicators under five headings: governance and leadership; attracting and retaining excellent staff; financial sustainability; positioning UCT in a leadership role in civil society; and meeting key operational challenges.

The strategy review involved reviewing the strategic plan for 2010 to 2014 adopted in December 2009, and plans for achieving the goals set then. Recent debates in Senate and in the Building Committee, which had questioned what the medium term (ie, to 2020) growth trajectory should be, were reflected in a report by the chair of the Building Committee, and Council has asked ExCo to review this strategy.

Council accepted a comprehensive report on transformation, dealing with the goal of transforming UCT towards non-racialism, providing redress, promoting inclusiveness, and ensuring the recognition of African voices. Progress was reported towards recruiting a Director of Transformation Services and appointing a University Ombud.

The management accounts for 2009 showed positive results in the General Operating Budget, where the consolidated income statement reflected a turnaround from a budget deficit of 1.9% (R28 million on planned expenditure of R1.532 billion) to a surplus of 1.6% (R25.7 million on expenditure of R1.538 billion).The self-contained student housing budget reported a similar result, with revenues before meeting capital repayments totalling R161 million and costs of R154 million. While the margins are small, and bearing in mind the major capital programmes planned for the next three years, the Council was nonetheless pleased at the financial strength reflected in these management accounts.

Council's policy on the appointment of auditors is to seek competitive tenders from the four major firms every eight years (or more frequently, if necessary). Ernst & Young has been re-appointed as auditors to the University for 2010, with the expectation of annual renewal for three years.

Other matters discussed and already reported in Monday Paper (Vol 29#05) included outsourcing, the appointment of a fourth DVC in Professor Crain Soudien, and the orientation and registration process.

Council's HR Committee and Remuneration Committee presented annual reports at the meeting. The Remuneration Committee - which sets the mandates for salary negotiations, and determines salaries for the VC and the members of the senior leadership group (SLG) - reported the outcome of the 2009/2010 negotiations with the three trade unions (NEHAWU, the Academics' Union and the Employees' Union) and put before the Council the pay decisions for the SLG. (These are reported, and placed in the public domain, in the University's annual financial statements, which will be submitted to Council in June.)

The orientation and registration process - and in particular, students' perceptions of the process - was the focus of a motion put by the Students' Representative Council (SRC) member of Council, and adopted by Council, for the appointment of a task team to review registration processes. The hope expressed in the motion is that UCT will move towards self-service, online registration, and provide more effective curriculum advice for those who need this. This task team will be convened by DVC Crain Soudien.

The Minister of Higher Education & Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, called a higher education summit for 22 and 23 April 2010. Each of the public universities was invited to send a delegation of five, and the make-up of the delegation was determined by the Ministry. Council was represented in this delegation by Council member Graeme Bloch, who is an education specialist with the Development Bank of South Africa.

Reported by the Registrar, Hugh Amoore

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