In the quest to enable universities to perform their core functions of teaching, research and community engagement, Universities South Africa undertakes numerous projects as pre- determined, to respond to specific needs within the university system.

Underneath are a few examples of current key projects.

Rural Campuses Connection Project (RCCP)

The Rural Campuses Connection Project (RCCP) was established with the aim to connect 18 rurally-based university campuses to the South African National Research Network (SANReN) in 2012. Phase One of this project was completed in 2014. HESA partnered on this project with the Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa (TENET), to implement this project with the R28m grant provided in 2011 by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).

During October to November 2014, an external evaluation was conducted to determine:

  • project value to universities;
  • the state of project implementation and management processes;
  • the technical uptake or extent of usage of additional bandwidth capacity;
  • project sustainability and related risks, as well as
  • key lessons learned from this project, and the rationale for further broadband roll-out.

The evaluation yielded numerous positive results, key of which was the increase in broadband coverage for most of the benefitting institutions from around 6 and 8MB per second in 2010/11 to between 350 and 400MB per second. At the time of the evaluation, some universities were beginning to register cost savings as a direct consequence of internet connectivity. Student internet access was enhanced, even though value in this regard varied from institution to institution. Another benefit reported on the institutional services front was the ability of some universities to process student applications, and registration, online.

As a result of these successes, the DHET has since allocated an additional R71million to fund a second leg of the RCCP.

Click here for the executive summary of the evaluation report.

National Benchmark Tests Project

The National Benchmark Tests Project (NBTP) is a key project of Universities South Africa conducted in collaboration with the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED) at the University of Cape Town (UCT). The National Benchmark Tests (NBTs) were first commissioned by HESA as instruments which independently enable universities to a) test new admissions’ readiness for university education; b) identify needs for additional support interventions during the first year of study and to c) construct appropriate interventions – where necessary – to enhance success of students admitted on the basis of the National Senior Certificate (NSC). The NSC replaced the differentiated Senior Certificate with effect from 2008.

Following the extension of this project during 2014, Universities South Africa put together a project steering committee whose mandate includes providing specialised information and advice to the Board on the strategic direction of the NBTP and to help ensure the successful implementation of the project. The Steering Committee will furthermore advise and make recommendations to the Board on potential sources of funding and all opportunities aimed at ensuring the general sustainability of the NBTP. The committee will also help Universities South Africa and CHED/UCT plan for a biennial NBTP National Consultative Workshop as a platform created by the project for critical learning and reflection about the NBT and its impact on students.

As at 1 July 2015, the steering committee consisted of the following members:

  • Professor Chrissie Boughey – Rhodes University (Chairperson)
  • Prof Yunus Ballim – Sol Plaatje University,
  • Dr Nothemba (Pinky) Mrwetyana – Central University of Technology,
  • Prof Cheryl Foxcroft – Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
  • Prof Kinta Burger – University of Johannesburg,
  • Dr Dan Mokoena – Vaal University of Technology, who represents the Admissions Committee
  • Professor Nan Yeld – DHET
  • Dr Rufus Poliah – Department of Basic Education
Click here to visit the NBT Project site under the CHED

Higher Education Price Index (HEPI)

During 2014, Universities South Africa developed higher education price index for public higher education, in order to provide a solid basis for advocacy for increased funding for universities so that current levels of service provision can be maintained and the sector can be expanded as anticipated in the National Development Plan.

Based on expenditure data provided by 18 public higher education institutions, the 2013 higher education price index was found to be 7.5%, substantially higher than the consumer price index of 5.7% in the same year.

Click here for the executive summary of the HEPI Report

Study on Remuneration of Academic Staff

Findings of this study, which was commissioned by Universities South Africa’s Funding Strategy Group in 2012, were finally released in December 2014. The study aimed to compare the guaranteed remuneration packages of permanent full time academic staff across universities, with their counterparts in the public and private sector respectively.

Based on the comparison of guaranteed packages, it emerged from these findings that the academic profession, in general, pays relatively well against both public and private sectors, particularly at the more senior job levels. However, comparisons on other variables presented conflicting findings (details are in the full report).

In conclusion, the remuneration study showed that academic jobs paid less than comparable public sector jobs, and that an academic career was probably perceived to be less well remunerated, overall. While this perception places a challenge in the academic sector, of attracting young graduates into a career in academia, the remuneration study findings showed that universities can counter the perception by communicating both the broader benefits and value of an academic career, and the fact that over the long term, remuneration packages at senior levels are very competitive at least with the public sector, and even with guaranteed packages in the private sector.

For Universities South Africa, an organisation that uses empirical evidence to argue its policy standpoints, these findings provide useful discussion points on the development of strategies to build and sustain a future generation of academics – with a focus on increasing representation of women and people of colour.

Click here for the study report.
Click here for Universities South Africa’s response to the report

Consumer Protection Act; guidelines for universities

The Consumer Protection Act, 2008, (CPA) came into force on 1 April 2011 and has far reaching consequences for universities. The CPA affects all transactions and interactions with consumers for the provision of goods or services. Consumers, for the purpose of universities, include students as well as other persons or entities to which universities provide goods or services that are protected by the CPA. Universities are bound by the CPA in the provision of its primary services (education) and any ancillary services (access to facilities, accommodation, provision of goods) provided to consumers.

Universities must therefore ensure that all its consumers are treated fairly and afforded the rights as prescribed by the CPA. To that end, Universities South Africa started a process in 2014 to develop guidelines to assist its member institutions to comply with the CPA in their daily operations and resolving complaints in a manner that is consistent with the CPA provisions.

These guidelines, which were finalised early in 2015, and were disseminated to all member institutions, are aimed at facilitating compliance with the CPA by ensuring, among other matters, that:

  • all employees dealing with consumer related matters are adequately trained on the application of the CPA
  • the marketing, promotion and sale of goods and performance of all services are carried out in compliance with the CPA
  • its terms and conditions, policies, agreements, application or registrations forms are compliant with the CPA
  • it has protection in its agreements with third party suppliers who act on its behalf in providing goods and/or services to consumers
  • consumers are provided with all necessary information in relation to warnings, hazards or safety related concerns as well as terms and conditions which need to be brought to their attention; and
  • consumers, staff, contractors and other relevant stakeholders are aware of the university’s internal complaints resolution processes.

Each university is however responsible for its own compliance.

Click here to view the guidelines