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SMU poised to soar higher through its new Strategic Plan

SMU poised to soar higher through its new Strategic Plan

At the end of a two-day intensive Council strategic planning workshop that took place from 05 – 06 September 2023, the SMU Council engaged robustly on the proposed strategic priorities of the University. The session was attended by both the Council members and members of the University Management team led by the Vice-Chancellor. The new Strategic Plan for 2024 to 2028 will be grounded on the centrality of the academic project and excellence in its operations and services to staff and students. The University Council reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring that the University continues to pay sufficient attention to the quality of the graduates it produces, who will be able to serve the greater good of our nation and the world. Therefore, the environment within which these students are molded, including their student experience, should be prioritized in the new strategic plan.

In light of several new developments in the academe, changes in policies at institutional and national level, and the need to align with best practices both nationally and globally, there was a need to review the 2021 – 2025 Strategic Plan for relevance and impact, which has led to the development of the new Strategic Plan 2024 – 2028.

It is important to note that health sciences degrees are expensive to offer. The Council has, therefore, resolved to introduce appropriate measures to secure the financial viability of the university in the medium to long term. In his introduction of the 2024 – 2028 strategic plan, the Vice Chancellor, Prof Peter Mbati, presented the following factors which are relevant in the crafting of the strategy:

• Financial sustainability for SMU as a priority in securing the future of the academic project.
• The provision of quality services and products.
• Improved levels of staff efficiency.
• A digitization strategy for the university.
• Professionalization of the workforce.
• Building a strong SMU brand.
• Production of globally competitive graduates.
• Well defined collaboration between SMU, Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital, the SMU Dental Hospital, the National Health Laboratory Services and the Gauteng Department of Health.

Some of the key institutional initiatives discussed during the planning session included the following:
• The establishment of a Centre for Pandemics.
• The proposal for the re-establishment of a School of Veterinary Sciences and Animal Health.
• Report on the commercialization of SMU land, and;
• The New Business Model, aimed at ensuring SMUs sustainability.

In her concluding remarks at the end of the two-day workshop, the Chairperson of Council Ms. Maria Rambauli reflected on the long and sometimes arduous journey in stabilizing leadership and governance at SMU. She reminded delegates that while there were a lot of achievements that the University could be proud of, the journey ahead still required dedication and focus, and that the well-crafted 2024 – 2028 strategic plan would be the road map to guide us. It is anticipated that the Council will approve the strategy at its next sitting. Thereafter, a process to create and deepen awareness around the strategic priorities of the University amongst stakeholders will be prioritized.

SMU student scoops a top award

SMU student scoops a top award

The Academy of Pharmaceutical Society of South Africa held its 42nd annual national conference at Zimbali Resort, Durban, KwaZulu natal. The conference which was hosted by University of KwaZulu Natal, took place from the 31st of August 2023 to the 2nd of September 2023. In attendance were top researchers in Pharmaceutical Sciences from across the nine Pharmacy schools in the country. Different master’s students from across the country presented their work and competed for the Young Scientist Award. This is an award, given annually at the conference, in recognition of creativity and excellence among young scientist, as evidenced by their research work.

Mr. Emmanuel Kiyonga, who is a Master of Pharmacy student at the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the School of Pharmacy won the young scientist award for his research titled, “Co-crystal systems for solubility enhancement of Raloxifene HCl in Breast cancer and osteoporosis therapy.” This is a historical achievement given that this is the first time a student from the School of Pharmacy at SMU has won since the introduction of the award in 1981.

Prior to winning this award, Mr Kiyonga also won first place for postgraduate podium presentation at the SMU research day in 2023. One of the critical aspects of his study is to come up with a novel Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient that can improve the oral bioavailability and clinical effectiveness. Mr Kiyonga is currently conducting further evaluation and optimization of the co-crystal that has been developed. Mr. Kiyonga is supervised by Mr. Madan Poka and co-supervised by Dr. Bwalya Witika from SMU, Professor Yahya Choonara and Professor Pradeep Kumar from WITS. In response to his award, Mr. Kiyonga said that….

“I feel proud and at the same time humbled. Winning such a prestigious award is not something I even imagined. All thanks to the team effort from all presenters at the conference from the department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the School of pharmacy, SMU”.

“We dominated the conference with our various ground-breaking research. The calibre of research work presented from all SMU presenters indicated that the winner of the award had to be from SMU. I feel honoured to be the one who won the award on behalf of the team. This was a dream come true for me. This is the greatest lifetime achievement I have ever received, and I know it will go with me for life. I also believe it is the gate way to so many opportunities for me in the academic world”.

The Department and School takes pride in this achievement as it showcased the talent and innovative research taking place at SMU.

Newsflash - SMU student scoops a top award

Promoting Japan-South Africa relations Professor Peter Mbati meet with His Excellency, Mr. Ushio Shigeru

Promoting Japan-South Africa relations Professor Peter Mbati meet with His Excellency, Mr. Ushio Shigeru

On Monday, 28 August 2023, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU) Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Peter Mbati paid a courtesy visit to ency, Mr. Ushio Shigeru, Ambassador to South the Embassy of Japan. Prof. Mbati was accompanied by Acting COO, Prof. Patrick Demana and Director Internationalisation, Dr. Carlien Jooste. With more than 30 years of full diplomatic ties between South Africa and Japan, the SMU delegation was welcomed by the Ambassador in his chambers. The purpose of the meeting was two-fold. Firstly, the aim was to re-introduce SMU to the Embassy of Japan researchers and staff in attendance and secondly, to explore areas of engagement, infrastructure development, research, and other possible mutually beneficial opportunities.

Ambassador Shigeru shared his knowledge of SMU and indicated that he is aware of SMU through his predecessor. He commented that: “We, Japan, are not that strong in pharmacology, but we can share our knowledge in pandemic preparedness as this has become one of our strengths.” Prof. Mbati indicated to the Ambassador that Prof. Patrick Demana, while being Acting COO is also the Dean of the School of Pharmacy and that the School can in turn assist with work around pharmacology as well as the development and manufacturing of vaccines.

Before the presentations began, Prof. Mbati commented that: “SMU would like to extend an official invitation to you, Ambassador Shigeru and your colleagues to visit our campus and to observe the work being done in our various Schools.” This invitation was welcomed by the Ambassador. Prof Mbati then proceeded to open the presentation section of the meeting with a brief presentation, which not only focused on SMU, but also highlighted various
strategic focus areas that SMU would like to explore with Japan-based entities.

Prof Mbati further discussed infrastructural development needs with a specific focus on a SMU Biomedical Sciences Research Laboratory and Centre for Pandemics to be established at SMU. As there are currently approximately 160 Japanese companies operating in South Africa, Prof. Mbati also focused on the need for collaborations which would enhance entrepreneurship within SMU’s incubation centre. The discussion concluded with a focus on SMU’s research activities and the various centres and units within SMU.

In their response, addressed by the Embassy’s Researcher in the Economic and Development Section, Mr. Takehiro Yamada, focused on international research cooperation opportunities available to South African higher education institutions. Mr. Yamada discussed the impact of AJ CORE (the Africa-Japan Collaborative Research) and SATREPS (Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development Progress). Both these research collaboration entities are based in research collaboration that will contribute to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

AJ CORE specifically focuses on realizing the SDG goals through Science, Technology and Innovation (STI’s). Prof. Mbati commented that AJ CORE is indeed an opportunity for SMU to not only build multi-lateral partnerships but enhance its research footprint. Mr. Yamada commented that: “As a new multi-lateral research framework, AJ CORE connect three (or more) countries: Japan, South Africa and at least one other African country.” The Japanese teams will be supported by their Japanese Research Foundation and South African teams by the NRF. A new joint call for proposals is set to be announced in February 2024, which SMU is looking forward to participating in.

Mr. Yamada further discussed SAJU, the South Africa-Japan University Forum. The Forum’s aim is to provide a structured framework for collaboration between the higher education institutions of the two countries. Its goals are to:
1. Increase mobility of researchers and students;
2. Increase join R&D collaboration;
3. Establish exchange programmes among universities; and
4. Institutionalize cooperation among universities of the two countries.

He indicated that SMU researchers should familiarize them- selves with SAJU as a new call for participation and attendance of a SAJU Forum Conference is imminent.

Dr. Carlien Jooste invited members of the Japanese Embassy team responsible for cultural exchange and studying in Japan to SMU’s International Scholarships Information Session to be held on the 14th of September 2023. Mr. Ryan Keet, respon- sible for the JET programme, MEXT Scholarship and Cultural Events will be visiting SMU to offer more information on these programmes. MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology) offers scholarships to foreign students who wish to study at Japanese universities under the Japanese Government Scholarship, while the JET Programme is the teaching English in Japan opportunity.

In conclusion, both parties acknowledged their support of one another and a need for continued sharing of information to grow South Africa-Japan relations within higher education.

VCs Desk - Promoting Japan-South Africa relations Professor Peter Mbati meet with His Excellency, Mr. Ushio Shigeru_compressed

SMU embraces digital transformation to enhance the Academic Project

SMU embraces digital transformation to enhance the Academic Project

SMU is committed to the acceleration of its digital transformation journey to enhance teaching and learning experience of its staff and students. This is according to the Vice Chancellor, Prof Peter Mbati, following the conclusion of the 29th Annual PwC Education Conference held at the Century City Conference Centre in Cape Town from 21–22 August 2023.

In this context, the School of Science and Technology has been identified to start the pilot phase for the opportunities presented by disruption in pedagogy through generative artificial intelligence (AI). According to the Vice Chancellor, a comprehensive strategy for all the five SMU Schools will be developed for implementation over a two-year period. “Because of the substantial investment that will be required to achieve this vision, targeted partners, both in government and the corporate sector, will be approached to walk this this journey with us” says Mbati.

Regarding issues of governance, the SMU Chairperson of Council Ms. Maria Rambauli, who was part of the panel of Council Chairs, made a strong case for a clear delineation of responsibilities between Council and Vice Chancellors to ensure proper functioning of governance structures within higher education institutions. Rambauli further stated that in many instances, governance challenges arise when nonexecutive Council members interfere in the operations of university management structures. “Our role as Council is to set the strategy and to hold the Vice Chancellor to account” said Ms Rambauli.

The conference also identified technological disruptions as part of megatrends that will continue to change societies for many years to come. It is, therefore, important for SMU to consider a clear set of generative AI policies and strategies, stakeholder management on setting expectations and training on ethics and governance. The AI wave is inevitable and SMU must embrace its accompanying risks and opportunities. Curriculum and pedagogy transformation, and a change of our assessment strategies will also be important. The keynote address was delivered by Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the former Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa and former Executive Director of UN Women.

VCs Desk - SMU embraces digital transformation to enhance the Academic Project

Congratulations to Prof Mbati as he joins the International Association of University

Congratulations to Prof Mbati as he joins the International Association of University

Congratulations Peter Mbati for his confirmed membership of the International Association of University Presidents (IAUP). In this regard, he joins a group of peer Presidents and Vice Chancellors who together comprise the world’s preeminent organization of university leaders. The International Association of University Presidents (IAUP) is an association of university chief executives from higher education institutions around the world. Membership is limited to those individuals who serve as Presidents, Rectors or Vice-Chancellors at regionally accredited colleges or universities. The IAUP had its foundational Triennial Conference in 1965 and has continued to strive for excellence in the following areas:

  • To increase the exchange of experiences, levels of collaboration and networking between university leaders.
  • To provide a well-informed forum for university leaders throughout the world.
  • To contribute to a worldwide vision of higher education.
  • To strengthen the international mission of institutions throughout the world.
  • To make every effort for the voice of educational leaders to be heard.
  • To support sustainable development in a context of global competency.
  • To promote peace and international understanding through education.
  • IAUP is a NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) holding the highest (ECOSOC) consultation rights at the United Nations and formal consultation rights with UNESCO.

The IAUP acknowledges that we are living in unprecedented times, with challenges and opportunities worldwide. In this context, it seeks to provide a platform for higher education leaders to learn from what is working, to note what has not worked, and to effect the necessary improvements, while reinventing, innovating and extending the boundaries of what we know. It is envisaged that Prof. Mbati’s appointment to the IAUP will have a positive impact not just for SMU but also for our country and the African region in general with regard to quality, relevance and innovation.

Newsflash - Congratulations to Prof Mbati as he joins the International Association of University

SMU hosts a high-level delegation from the Gauteng Department of Health

SMU hosts a high-level delegation from the Gauteng Department of Health

Deepening stakeholder relations is important to the growth and development of SMU, especially given the interconnectedness that the university has with different critical role and their contribution to its success. Anchoring this understanding, the Vice Chancellor Prof. Peter Mbati hosted a high-level delegation from the Gauteng Department of Health (GDoH) on the Campus on 03 July 2023. Leading the delegation from the GDoH was the Acting HoD Mr. Lesiba Malotana, who was accompanied by amongst others, the DDG for Corporate Services, Ms. Basani Baloyi, Advisor to the MEC, Dr. Victor Ramathesele, and Dr. Terence Carter of the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI). This meeting follows on the heels of earlier meetings between the University Management and the MEC of GDoH, Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko, and the Minister of Health, Hon. Dr Joe Phaala. Discussions happened in a frank and conversational manner, with respective parties gaining appreciation for current context and challenges, and providing reports on the status of various matters previously deliberated on. This approach sets a good foundation for finding solutions to problems, and also to ensure constant feedback and monitoring on developments on matters affecting the University and the Hospital. It also helps build working relationships between persons responsible for functions from the perspective of GDoH and SMU, and allows for quicker interaction to address matters.

Feedback revolved around a number of issues, providing important insights and timeframes. A draft bilateral MoU to govern the relationship between SMU and GDoH has been shared with the University for further inputs. Whilst a short-term resolution for the staffing needs in the School of Oral Health Sciences has been implemented, a long-term solution to address the staffing needs for both Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital (DGMAH) and the SMU Dental hospital are receiving appropriate attention and should be finalized within the next six (6) months. Urgent repairs to some critical infrastructure backlog maintenance at the DGMAH and the Dental Hospital have been initiated, and there is a commitment by GDoH to embark, in a prioritized fashion, in resolving all other infrastructure and maintenance challenges in the clinical training platforms used by SMU staff and students. Other important agenda items explored included expansion of the SMU PQM to cater for a range of training needs and, the resuscitation of student bursaries by GDoH. The meeting emphasized the importance of GDoH and SMU jointly managing joint appointees across the entire value chain, from recruitment, including adverts and interviews, appointments and performance management. It was accepted that making reference to GDoH as the “Primary Employer” is incorrect and inadvertently exposes fissures of inefficiencies in the management of joint appointees. This will be immediately resolved by the HR heads from the University, DGMAH and the Dental hospital.

The parties agreed that there will be monthly progress reports on the various work streams, including progress towards planning, resourcing and implementation of a new state of the art tertiary academic teaching hospital that is fit-for-purpose.