Report back from first Council Meeting of 2018, March 17

23 March 2018 | From the Chair’s Desk

Dear members of the campus community

I write to inform you of some of the key matters considered and decisions taken at a meeting of the University of Cape Town (UCT) Council held on Saturday, 17 March 2018.

1. Appointment of the new vice-chancellor

I wish to again congratulate Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, who has been appointed as the new vice-chancellor of UCT with effect from 1 July 2018. Professor Phakeng is currently the deputy vice-chancellor for research and internationalisation. She will take over from Dr Max Price, who has been the university’s vice-chancellor since 2008.

2. Appointment process of the deputy vice-chancellor for teaching and learning

Having noted recent allegations as recorded in media reports and social media postings, Council rejects the unfounded allegations that it has been racist and anti-transformation in the appointment of the deputy vice-chancellor for teaching and learning. Council welcomed and expressed its full support and confidence in Professor Lis Lange, the newly appointed deputy vice-chancellor.

Read the Council’s statement...

3. Selection committees for senior posts

One of Council’s most important functions is to make senior leadership appointments and to ensure smooth leadership transition. With Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng appointed as vice-chancellor of UCT with effect from 1 July 2018, Council resolved to immediately commence the search process for the post of deputy vice-chancellor for research and internationalisation. Council members have been appointed to serve on this selection committee, and also for those additional senior posts that will become vacant soon. These include the post of dean of Higher Education Development, and the post of executive director of UCT Libraries. Council is aware that filling the senior post vacancies – where they already exist or are pending – is a matter of urgency.

Council confirmed the selection committee for the post of chief operations officer. Council also approved the appointment of external members to the University Audit Committee (UAC). They are Mr Tyrrel Murray and Ms Zama Khanyile. Mr Murray and Ms Khanyile are chartered accountants with relevant experience that will support the work of the UAC very well.

4. Membership changes on Council

Dr Heidi Raubenheimer has resigned as a member of Council as she is due to take up a position at the CFA Institute in Virginia, USA. A process to fill the Council vacancy will commence immediately.

Council welcomed Mr Neo Mkwane, the postgraduate student member nominated by the Students’ Representative Council to serve on Council.

5. Annual reports of the university’s committees

Council considered the annual reports of the University Human Resources Committee (UHRC) and the Remuneration Committee, and the reports on the university’s finances as submitted by the University Finance Committee.

The UHRC provided important oversight in the 2017/18 period for code of conduct and employment equity reporting. Importantly, the ongoing focus is on the alignment of HR strategy with the overall strategic plan of the university. This includes how equity goals could be advanced through setting stretch targets, the recruitment and filling of key roles in the senior leadership group, and the review of the role of academic heads of department, for which the input of the Academics Union and academic staff is crucial.

Council also considered a draft report on transformation activities and interventions undertaken during the course of 2017. The transformation agenda is at the core of UCT’s Strategic Planning Framework 2016–2020. The comprehensive draft report will enjoy further internal consultation, including Senate and the Institutional Forum, ahead of Council’s further consideration in June 2018.

6. Undergraduate financial aid in 2018

In December 2017 President Jacob Zuma announced free higher education for poor and working-class students. This does not mean that universities may not charge fees for students below a certain income. Instead, it means that the government will provide bursaries through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to those students who qualify for the funding in order that they may pay their full cost of study. While this is positive news for students and for universities, the concern remains how sustainable this government funding will be.

7. Report of the Naming of Buildings Committee

Council noted a report from the Naming of Buildings Committee (NoBC) that a consultation process was under way with members of the Khoisan community about the proposal to change the name of Memorial Hall to Sarah Baartman Memorial Hall. Consultations continue and Council will receive a final report from the NoBC at the next Council meeting in June 2018.

8. Purchase of tomography scanner

Council authorised the purchase of a fully funded positron emission tomography / computed tomography (PET/CT) scanner. UCT’s Faculty of Health Sciences is expanding its research imaging facility by adding this scanner. The faculty hosts the Cape Universities Body Imaging Centre (CUBIC), which was established in 2015 as a dedicated research site. It aims to offer affordable rates for researchers to use the facility. Research in the unit focuses on the role of medical imaging in responding to global healthcare problems. The addition of a PET/CT scanner will complement and broaden the scope of CUBIC. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has made a significant donation towards the purchase of the scanner.

9. Optional medical aid for payclass 6 staff

In the 2018 substantive agreement with the coalition of unions representing payclasses 2–6, the UCT executive agreed that medical aid should be optional for payclass 6 staff. However, this required a change in the condition of service and was subject to Council approval. In the 2017 negotiations, the submission from the unions was that medical aid was becoming increasingly difficult to afford and that staff were willing to manage their own healthcare. Council approved the change to the policy, which will henceforth allow optional medical aid cover for staff in payclass 6 on the same basis as was approved for payclasses 2–5 in 2017.

10. New building for the Africa Institute for Skin Health

The Services SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority) has approved the funding for a building to house the Africa Institute for Skin Health. The new building, which will house six floors of office and laboratory space, is proposed for a site at the Faculty of Health Sciences. Council approved the proposal for this Services SETA-funded building subject to contractual terms being agreed.

11. Budget for UCT Water Task Team

Council approved a budget request of R2 million to fund research into water management options for UCT as part of the work currently under way by the UCT Water Task Team.

12. 2019 initial fees for local and international students

Council approved the proposal for the initial fees – both local and international – for 2019 to be payable 10 days prior to the start of the 2019 academic year.

13. Residence swap

In an endeavour to expand student residence capacity, Council mandated the executive to approach the Western Cape Provincial Government about a residence-swap proposal between UCT and Groote Schuur Hospital. The aim is that UCT will have full use of Rochester House, thereby consolidating and increasing the student residence capacity.

In conclusion, Council, noting that the work of the Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission (IRTC) has commenced, places on record its appreciation to the commissioners for the work that they are doing at this critical time in UCT’s history. Thank you sincerely to our IRTC commissioners: Dr Yvette Abrahams, Dr Malose Langa, Mr Mosibudi Mangena, Ms Yasmin Sooka and Justice Zak Yacoob.


Sipho M Pityana
Chair of UCT Council

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