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).

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. Since its revitalization in 2017, 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.

A unique programme addressing distinct needs of higher education

What differentiates HELM from other development initiatives are a number of unique factors that are used as an effective leverage to engage the higher education system:

  1. providing evidence-based leadership/management development interventions for key roles and functions in the higher education sector;
  2. providing higher education leadership with up to date and relevant knowledge on core aspects of leadership and management within the sector;
  3. creating an informed, holistic view of the leadership/management context and challenges, which facilitates a collective systemic approach and response;
  4. establishing sectoral credibility and legitimate authority which facilitates easier access to external and expert resources;
  5. ensuring that programme content or initiatives are integrated and sensitive to the context of higher education, thus giving unique access to policy analyses and insights at national and international levels; and
  6. producing pooled data and information on leadership/management capacity issues that are sourced, analysed and synthesised in a sustainable and cost-effective manner.

HELM programmes and interventions 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 two years ago, 759 participants (i.e. Vice-Chancellors, Deputy Vice-Chancellors, Executives, Deans, Heads of Schools and Academic Departments) have participated in the 20 programmes/workshops offered by HELM. These workshops have been well attended and appreciated by participants.

Given the success of HELM in South Africa and the needs in the Southern Africa Development Community SADC and on the African Continent, USAf with the endorsement of its strategic partner, the Department of Higher Education and Training, will establish the HELM Institute in 2021.

“The programme allowed me to put all the activities I engage in on a daily basis into perspective. I was able to place myself at the centre of these activities and identify my roles. This was enlightening and truly motivating.” HoD, CUT, 2019

“This was an excellent session in terms of understanding the complexity of leadership and management. I enjoyed all the tasks that were done in this session. I could relate to a number of issues pertaining to my role as a Dean. I was able to find or realize some of my strengths and areas that I need to prioritize in my own work space.” Dean, UWC, 2019

It will focus on three capacity building areas: (i) research and scholarship, (ii) bespoke leadership/management programmes and (iii) institutional advisory services and organisational support. The Institute will be a pan-African initiative, with regional partners such as the Southern African Regional Universities Association (SARUA) and Council for the Development for Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA). Through this initiative, strategic alliances will also be explored with leading organisations such as the American Council on Education (ACE), the British Council, Advance HE (UK) and the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU).

For more information see the HELM Brochure.