Universities South Africa (USAf) News Update

Up to R336 million raised by USAf in 2020, in support of students and lecturers

Dr Linda Meyer
Dr Linda Meyer, Director: Operations and Sector Support, led USAf's fundraising drive that secured R336 million in 2020.

At the first meeting for 2021, of the Teaching and Learning Strategy Group, Dr Linda Meyer, Director: Operations and Sector Support at USAf, updated the TLSG on the outcomes of USAf's fundraising efforts that she had taken a lead on, during 2020.

Just over R336 million was raised by her directorate from a collective of donors, namely ABSA, the Standard Bank Group and two Sector Education and Training Agencies (SETAs). Dr Meyer added that all of this funding was channelled to university support by way of student bursaries and the digital transformation and capacity development of academics.

Dr Linda Meyer, Director: Operations and Sector Support, led USAf's fundraising drive that secured R336 million in 2020.

The table below lists the donors by the amounts they granted USAf in 2020.

Donor Contribution amount, purpose and target
ABSA R6 million worth of learning devices sponsored at seven universities selected in five provinces.
The Standard Bank Group R3 million worth of learning devices, data bundles and food vouchers sponsored for students at six universities deemed by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation to be at high risk.
The Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority (SASSETA) R5,4 million initially and a subsequent R4,9 million in bursaries for 77 students in the missing middle category enrolled in the fields of Law, Psychology or Social Work. Another R1,9 million was granted in bursaries for the training of employed learners on the National Certificate: General Security Practices
The Education, Training and Development Practices Sector Education and Training Authority (ETDP SETA) R280 million in total, R200 million of which sponsored bursaries of at least 7000 students enrolled for undergraduate study, and R80 million was awarded for bursaries of at least 2500 postgraduate students. An additional R35 million was granted for the University Lecturer Development Programme (ULDP) with USAf for the 2021/2022 financial year.

From the R280 million secured from the Education, Training and Development Practices Sector Education and Training Authority (ETDP-SETA), one of the contractual requirements was that universities would complete bursary agreements with the benefitting students. To date, 4,300 bursary agreements had been secured from some of the 9,500 student beneficiaries. Six universities, experiencing some challenges, had negotiated more time while working towards a 30 March deadline. The USAf Office was supporting them to meet their contractual obligations. Dr Meyer also reported that, following a recently completed audit, ETDP-SETA has commended USAf for the way it hand handled this grant.

In addition to the figure mentioned above, the ETDP-SETA granted USAf a further amount of R35 million, which has since been channelled to capacitating university lecturers in technology-based teaching in partnership with the Higher Education Leadership and Management (HELM) programme. Dr Meyer added that an additional R50 million had been secured from ETDP-SETA for the 2021 academic year. This grant, aimed at 500 first-year BEd students, would see each individual getting R100,000 per year in what was envisioned to become a multi-year project.

Group update on the HELM programme for 2021

Dr Oliver Seale

The TLSG also heard from Dr Oliver Seale (left), Director: Higher Education Leadership and Management (HELM) programme, that there was a more deliberate attempt, from 2021, to align HELM's activities and optimise synergies with the work of strategy groups for bigger benefits to the university sector. In addition to the already established executive education, thematic workshops, seminars and webinars, Dr Seale alerted the TLSG to the discussions on the Masters and Post-Graduate Diploma in Higher Education Leadership which will be executed in collaboration with institutions already offering similar qualifications in this regard.

He also introduced a battery of new programmes responding to felt needs within the sector, such as the University Lecturer Development Programme (ULDP); the Student Success Collaborative Forum (SSCF) and the Universities Learning Futures (ULeFu).

In a nutshell, the ULDP is aimed at developing and accelerating digital transformation and technology mediated learning for academic staff. Thanks to the R35m grant secured from the ETDP-SETA, HELM begins to roll out this programme in 2021 for two years, with 900 lecturers spread throughout the 26 member institutions of USAf supported by 100 Master Trainers. The programme will develop lecturer competencies in areas including Teaching and Learning in a Digital Environment; Curriculum Development and Assessment; ICT for Teaching and Data Analytics; Educational Leadership and Academic Entrepreneurialism.

The SSCF, a project conceptualised at USAf's Higher Education Conference in October 2019, is being funded to the tune of R5,2m from the DHET's University Capacity Development Programme. Project activities will be informed by the approved UCDP funded plan and guided by an Advisory Committee and supported by experts and specialists from the HE sector. Dr Seale told the TLSG that HELM was in the process of securing project administrative personnel in the form of a Senior Manager and an Administrative Officer in the next two months. More details on this will be shared with the sector in due course.

ULeFu, in turn, is a sector-wide facility aimed at transforming and advancing digital learning design and access, as an enabler of the current and future knowledge enterprise in all historically disadvantaged institutions. Informed by USAf's principles of sectoral coordination, collaboration and complementarity, the ULeFu project proposal will be submitted to an external funding agency with a budget of R5.1m over a two year period from 2021 to 2022. The facility will drive three main activities, namely (i) digital teaching and learning pedagogies and assessments (ii) digital T&L zone and (iii) a virtual T&L Community of Practice that will assemble DVCs, Deans of Students and Directors of Teaching and Learning. The detail of project design will be informed collaboratively by appropriate expertise in the sector.

Optimising technologies to improve the quality of teaching and learning

Dr Seale also reported that this matter forms part of HELM's ongoing engagements with USAf's member institutions and other key role-players in this regard.

The inaugural TLSG meeting provided a platform for laying out the Group's programme for the year and obtaining relevant policy, programme and project updates from the Council on Higher Education, the Department of Higher Education and Training, and also from the USAf Office.

The broad purpose of the TLSG is to provide strategic advice to the USAf Board on teaching and learning related matters within the higher education sector, and to undertake activities that enable USAf to respond effectively to the equity of access and success and teaching and learning challenges. The Group is made up of eight members, all experts on teaching and learning drawn from the university sector.

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