Higher Education Leadership and Management

HELM is a programme of Universities South Africa and has a strategic partnership with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), who provides financial support through the University Capacity Development Programme (UCDP).


HELM programmes have been designed to assist individuals and organisations to identify their capacity needs within their specific context and align individual leadership development pathways with organisational objectives. The activities focus on developing individuals’ capacities in key areas required to support various dimensions in the higher education system and on building communities of learning and practice to strengthen the higher education systems. The outputs from each activity will combine to strengthen university governance and performance and contribute to positive sectoral outcomes.

Since its reintroduction in 2017, HELM has designed and delivered programmes and courses for Deans, Heads of Schools, Academic Departments and HR Directors and Managers, as well as thematic workshops for VCs, DVCs and Institutional Planners.

HELM interventions are evidence based and one of its research projects initiated in 2018, is a book on leadership development for Deans in South African universities. Other focus areas for research in HELM will include women in leadership, management models in universities and student-centred administration.

“My predecessor warned that this is a very lonely position. I only realised it when I experienced the relief of being among peers in these sessions”.
Executive Dean, NWU


“It was a great opportunity to understand and share ideas from peers after a great presentation by the facilitators’’
Head of Department, UWC

HELM history

When HELM was initially launched in 2002, it was conceptualised to offer Vice-Chancellors and senior management strategic insight into the specific challenges that exist within the South African higher education landscape. In the publications listed below, alumni accounts bear testimony to the value derived over the years from as far back as 2003.  Through these publications, HELM Fellows share their programme experiences and outcomes, as well as how exposure to HELM events influenced their career aspirations and progression.

Click here for anecdotes of Fellows who underwent the HESA/ American Council on Education (ACE) Exchange programme between 2003 and 2008.

Click here for testimonies from the 2011 cohort.

Click here for first-hand feedback from the 2012 Fellows.

Click here for the story of the Class of 2013.

Until 2015, leadership and management development events under the HELM programme varied from year to year depending on the expressed needs of member institutions, availability of funding and other factors.

HELM from 2018

Today, HELM has been reconfigured and repositioned to create cutting edge solutions that address organisational and individual capacity needs for leadership and management development. The objective is to ensure that the system is endowed with appropriately skilled academic leaders and managers who will be able to steer these institutions towards an invigorated and sustainable future.

HELM continues to offer valuable perspectives on the contemporary leadership and management context, complexities and challenges facing universities.  The need has never been greater for HELM to provide all levels of university leadership with skills, strategies and insight into this ever-shifting terrain.

Programmes and Events (2019)

Download the 2019 brochure here or if you would like any information on upcoming events contact the Programme Coordinator, Michelle Buchler, on 012 030 0677 or at helm@usaf.ac.za