Dear members of the UCT community
It is that time when we are inching closer to the end of what has been yet another tough year. We began this year with much enthusiasm and great expectations. This was particularly encouraged by our resolve to reimagine and rebuild our campus following the fires that affected our campus in 2021. The much-welcomed signs that COVID-19 was significantly subsiding contributed greatly to our renewed enthusiasm.
Despite the many challenges we faced, the academic project prevailed with a successful conclusion of the academic year. We can all be proud of our achievements. This is testimony to the contribution of our staff, students, donors, alumni and many supporters and friends. And for this, we can never cease to express words of appreciation and gratitude to all of you and your families.
Council convened its fourth and final ordinary meeting for this year on 3 December 2022. I write to you as usual, on behalf of Council, to update our UCT community on key matters considered by Council and to inform you of some of the decisions taken.
Academic core business
Council engaged with the 2021 Teaching and Learning Report as a record of the work undertaken in this area of UCT’s academic project, and particularly so during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. We appreciate how the university’s undergraduate teaching and learning programme was able to respond under trying circumstances and we encourage you to read this important report.
As forward planning for the next cohort of students who will enter our university, Council also approved the undergraduate student admissions policy proposals and entrance scholarships for 2024 as proposed by the Senate. Additionally, Council approved the Senate’s proposed revisions to the terms of reference of Re-admission Appeals Committees.
In the area of research, Council supported a research investment proposal and business case that seeks to strengthen areas within the university that have the potential to increase research productivity and to attract and retain academic research talent, noting that the proposal will be submitted to the Joint Investment Committee and the UCT Foundation for consideration.
Finally, Council confirmed the award of honorary degrees, but the detail remains confidential until the recipients have been advised and confirmed their acceptance. At that point, the university will make an official announcement.
We approved the Annual Performance Plan (APP) for 2023 for submission to the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation. The Risk Schedule component of the APP has been referred to Council’s Audit and Risk Committee (UARC) for further consideration and Council will be guided by the advice of the UARC.
We also approved Council’s objectives for 2023 against which the Auditor-General audits the extent to which we meet our predetermined objectives. The objectives relate to Council’s statutory oversight, strategy, governance and internal responsibilities.
Council appointed members to the selection committees for senior posts. These include the posts of Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning; Executive Director: Human Resources; and Dean of Science. These posts will be filled in good time through proper processes and procedures.
Council approved the 2023 budget, inclusive of the general operating budget and capex. Tuition and residence fee increases were approved as part of the 2023 budget and the details will be communicated by the university. We noted that should the ministerial increase announcement differ to the Council-approved increase, UCT will comply with the ministerial recommendation, and the 2023 budget will also be adjusted accordingly.
To mitigate the impact of loadshedding, we approved a 2022 out-of-cycle capital allocation in support of electrical infrastructure refinements to secure a loadshedding exemption for upper campus and the Health Sciences campus from the City of Cape Town. Further engagements with the City of Cape Town are in progress in this regard.
Student Housing and Residence Life: lease to own model
Council supported a strategic initiative aligned to Vision 2030 goals and approved a proposed Lease to Own (LTO) model to increase the university’s current student residence bed stock to be able to accommodate a third of enrolled students by 2030. A property acquisition in Salt River was approved in support of this strategic initiative. The LTO model will be subject to approval by the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation.
There’s no doubt that, like the preceding years – 2021 when we had to surmount challenges posed by the Table Mountain fire and 2020 when we were hit by COVID-19 along with the rest of the world – we have shown resilience in emerging out of the challenges encountered in 2022.
Please receive Council’s sincere appreciation for the contribution that you have all made to UCT this year. Through your hard work and creative thinking, we have maintained our place as the leading university in Africa. Through every change, your steady hand has helped to keep the university performing at its best. Your work has made it possible for us to continue to thrive and excel as a leading research and teaching and learning institution. This, and countless other milestones attained in 2022, are among what we look back at with pride.
Of course, we have also not been spared of considerable issues regarding challenges facing the work of Council and Senate, with a focus on governance and ensuring that the best interests of the university are served. With the university representing so many constituencies and interest groups it is probably not completely foreign that tensions will rise from time to time. However, the main thing to remember is that we will continue to pursue our Vision 2030, which is to unleash human potential and create a fair and just society. As a university, we have been challenged before, our resilience was tested, but we overcame.
The recent years have been full of various headwinds and disruptions for all of us. We have had to address these challenges as we go; and relied on each other for support and guidance. What held us together in the past was our commitment to our vision and a commitment to each other. This shall be our guiding light as we seek resolutions on these matters.
We are cognisant of our responsibilities to ensure the continued well-being of our university so that it can deliver on its promise to our country and our continent, and on that you can be assured that we will, at all times, put the university first.
In the words of writer Hal Borland, the end of a year is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instil in us. With the experiences that 2022 has provided us, let us join hands and go into the New Year with renewed vigour, applying our newfound wisdom and continue giving our best in service to the university.
I wish to also take this opportunity to congratulate all students graduating at the various ceremonies in December. I honour your commitment and wish you well as you move on to the next chapter of your lives.
As another calendar year is about to lapse, we wish you all the best during this festive period. Have a well-deserved year-end break, and be safe.
Babalwa Ngonyama, CA (SA), MBA
Chair of UCT Council
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