Vice-Chancellor Prof Peter Mbati recently hosted a delegation from the department of higher education and training who were on an oversight visit. Led by the Deputy Director General for University Education Dr Marcia Socikwa, the delegation came to engage with the university and see progress on projects funded by the department through the Sibusiso Bengu Development Programme.
In his welcoming address to the delegation in the presence of SMU management and oﬃcials, the Vice-Chancellor said the support SMU gets from the department in particular the Sibusiso Bengu grant has assisted a lot in a range of areas. He further told the delegation that SMU has completed a restructuring programme of Senior and Executive team to ensure alignment with the new strategic plan and to allow the University to deliver on its core mandate to increase eﬃciency in the system.
“We also very recently had a meeting of the senior management committee with a focus on the centrality of the academic project because many times one of the challenges we face in higher education and for various reasons is that we start to drift away from why we are created as higher education institutions and our focus and energy gets invested elsewhere”, said Prof Mbati.
He further mentioned that the University went through a culture survey and many processes to reconﬁrm from many stakeholders of the university from Council, labour, management, staﬀ and students about the values SMU must embrace as a university to refocus and rededicate itself to what must be done.
“There is still a lot that has to be done at SMU and the funding we receive through the Sibusiso Bengu programme and the support from the department will help us deliver projects on time”, said the VC.
“We have a new business model to allow us to be ﬁnancially sustainable over a period of time. We currently also get a special dispensation grant from the department to allow us to meet our obligations as a university. The new business model sets out projects that we need to embark on including increasing our student numbers, developing new programmes, expanding on the third stream income”, continued Prof Mbati.
The DDG Dr Socikwa in response said, “I must say that when one contrasts the universities this side with the urban centred ones, you are saddened, you immediately realize the need for extensive investment”. She also said the department wants to see excellence in our institutions and remember them for the legacies created. “We really need to reimagine how we want to be and I am happy that SMU has started with a new business model, we also need to acknowledge the vast sums of money directed at SMU. The university was allocated R144 million and managed to spent 120 million. Funding was made to support 11 projects at SMU and the department would like to look at and speak about them”, said the DDG.
She further mentioned that the delegation came to appreciate the challenges but also the opportunities and to engage vigorously as required so that by the time they left, they should be in a position to conﬁdent about the objectives of these investments and are able to support the University’s initiatives with the requisite enthusiasm and energy.
“We also need to understand what is required to turn around the fate of SMU. Since the inception of the development programme SMU received over 150 million and as a department we would like to see progress on the approved projects and are uncompromising on that. It is no secret that SMU is among the universities that have been able to deliver on their projects”, said Dr Socikwa. The department praised SMU for submitting its annual report way before time and called on other institutions to emulate SMU.
The Director for Development Grants at SMU Mr Theo Bhengu took the delegation through a presentation that detailed the projects that have been completed, those underway and proposed future projects. He reported that in the ﬁrst cycle (2016/17-2020/21), the HDI-DG signiﬁcantly contributed to achieving SMU strategic goals as a new institution after the demerger from the University of Limpopo (UL), through the following projects:
- Re-engineering of business processes
- Review of governance systems
- Document management system
- High Resolution Transmission Electron Microscope (HRTEM)
- Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Audit
- Bulk Contribution to the City of Tshwane
- Establishment or increasing capacity of strategic departments, i.e. Institutional Planning, Development (Advancement & Internationalisation), Grants Management and Infrastructure Planning and Development
He further said that SMU has made proposals for funding under the Sibusiso Bengu programme on 18 new projects that are in line with the strategic objectives of the institution across all areas.
After robust discussions, Mr Alfred Makgatho from DHET gave a brief report on the proposed projects and also mentioned that there is support for the proposed projects pending approval from the Minister. However, he advised that there were several other projects that SMU will have to revisit as they could not be supported in their current form. The department placed emphasis on the future sustainability of the institution so that the University is able to fund its other programmes.
The CFO Mr Eminos Manyawi expressed the University’s appreciation to DHET for the continuous support and committed to furnish the department with all necessary documents and reports. He further pleaded for further funding to ﬁnance planned projects. During the tour of campus, the delegation was taken through the premium 2000 beds facility which is at an advanced stage towards completion, the bulk water project currently under way, the electron microscope unit and other projects.
The visitors were later taken on a campus tour to see amongst others, the premium 2000 beds student accommodation facility ﬁnanced by the department, the facility for relocation of the Electron Microscope Unit that is being renovated. Once completed, the facility will ensure stability of the new High Resolution Transmission Electron Microscope(HRTEM). They were also shown the bulk water project currently underway around campus.
The purpose of the Sibusiso Bhengu Development Programme is to decisively redress the inequalities that have impacted the development and sustainability of the HDIs and to contribute to their further development as strong universities, in a diversiﬁed system, which are socially embedded and responsive, are highly regarded and valued, including by the communities from which their students are drawn, and which produce both graduates and new knowledge that can make a contribution to socio-economic development in local, national, regional and international contexts.
Newsflash DHET Visit