Transformation — part of everyday business at UKZN

As part of the overall transformation plan, the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) has adopted a transformation charter — the first of its kind in the higher education sector in South Africa. 

The charter ensures that transformation is part of everyday business and that it is entrenched in all aspects of the university’s strategic orientation, goals and conduct.  As a result, the responsibility does not fall to one person (either the Vice-chancellor or a “transformation officer”) but is owned by the entire university community. 

This approach has resulted in a transformed workforce and ethos.  Our demographics, policies and processes and access opportunities have improved dramatically since the 2004 merger; centralising the core values of transformation.

Specifically, in relation to the demographic profile, in 2015, 68% of the 43 283 students enrolled are African South Africans, as opposed to 50% of 45 666 in 2004.  In 2014, 62% of the 9 591 graduates were African South Africans — an increase from 44% of 8 525 in 2004. Our staff profile has changed in concert with the student profile. In 2004, only 16% of 1 564 academic staff were African South Africans (47% Black); in 2015, this has increased to 28% of 1 349 (61% Black). Overall, the staff racial profile improved from 26% of 4 001 staff being African in 2004 to 38% of 3 157 in 2015.

We have also transformed the gender profile of the University.  In 2004, a healthy 56% of students were women. This position has improved marginally to 58% in 2015. Of our graduates, in 2004 57% were women versus 61% in 2014. We have improved the academic staff gender profile from 41% women in 2004 to 48% in 2015.


Together with the change in staff demographics, we have achieved a dramatic increase in research activity. In 2004, only 32% of staff were research active. This improved to 52% of staff being research active in 2012.  

While only 35% of academic staff possessed a PhD in 2004, this has increased to 56% in 2015. These increases have seen UKZN top the Department of Higher Education and Training productivity report for the past two years in a row. We believe that this puts to bed the myth that transformation can only be achieved with a drop in standards. 

Indeed, not only has UKZN achieved demographic transformation together with research excellence, we argue that the research excellence has been achieved through demographic transformation.

As compelling as these statistics are, it is important to look at non-demographic transformation as well.

 UKZN is particularly proud of our access record in opening the doors of higher education learning to students from a variety of cultural and economic backgrounds; and particularly our profile in attracting, retaining and graduating students from the African continent which resonates with our mission to be the premier university of African scholarship. Each academic program at UKZN has set aside a minimum number of places for students from quintile 1 and 2 schools. 

Such students come from very impoverished homes and are often the first in their families to access higher education opportunities. Our intake doubled from 1 315 out of 17 345 (8%) in 2007 to 2 763 out of 17 677 (16%) in 2015. 

We have also undertaken a dramatic overhaul of our curricula to ensure more relevant content appropriate to the changing landscape of South Africa and the pursuit of African Scholarship. 

We were the first university to adopt IsiZulu as a module requirement for all students.

We have also taken the discourse to a higher level by developing a unique tool to help monitor, guide and drive transformation. While all sectors in South Africa argue convincingly that they are involved in transformation activities, so far, there has no been any way to properly measure the success of these efforts. 

In a first for South Africa, researchers at UKZN devised an “Equity Index” that indicated the disparity between an organisation’s demographics and national (or regional) demographics. 

At UKZN, we were able to determine that the overall profile of our staff demographics was progressing well towards reflecting the national profile.  

However, we were also able to gauge that our academic staff profile had stagnated.  This has led to a series of targeted interventions to ensure that our staff profile achieves its required shape and size.

The UKZN experience demonstrates that that while challenges remain, transformation in higher education can be achieved and can inform the strategic direction, values and activities of institutions.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Advertorial
Guest Author

Related stories

Corporates: A force for good for a sustainable future

In order to see people and nature thrive what is required is a strong focus on partnerships – we cannot act alone anymore

Cartoon by Carlos: No escapé for Senor Agrrizi

Angelo Agrizzi will have to enjoy the South African government’s hospitality for the time being

Combatting wildlife crime in Southern Africa activity annual programme statement (APS) No. 04

Concept papers are sought for implementating activities, for a multi-faceted programme that aims to reduce poaching and illegal trade in wildlife

The demon of cronyism in the public service must be crushed

When employees do not give their best, it is the organisation that suffers the most. In the case of government this directly affects citizens

Fake trafficking news targets migrants

Exaggerated reports on social media of human trafficking syndicates snatching people in broad daylight legitimate xenophobia while deflecting from the real problems in society

It’s not a ‘second wave’: Covid resurges because safety measures are relaxed or ignored

A simple model shows how complacency in South Africa will cause the number of infections to go on an upward trend again
Advertising

Subscribers only

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

ANC’s rogue deployees revealed

Despite 6 300 ANC cadres working in government, the party’s integrity committee has done little to deal with its accused members

More top stories

Fake trafficking news targets migrants

Exaggerated reports on social media of human trafficking syndicates snatching people in broad daylight legitimate xenophobia while deflecting from the real problems in society

It’s not a ‘second wave’: Covid resurges because safety measures...

A simple model shows how complacency in South Africa will cause the number of infections to go on an upward trend again

Unisa shortlists two candidates for the vice-chancellor job

The outgoing vice-chancellor’s term has been extended to April to allow for a smooth hand-over

How US foreign policy under Donald Trump has affected Africa

Lesotho has been used as a microcosm in this article to reflect how the foreign policy has affected Africa
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday