Prof De la Rey opens 2014 academic year

Posted on February 13, 2014

In her address Prof De la Rey said the University of Pretoria continues to attract talented young students, the cream of the previous year’s matriculants. This year, more than 42 000 applications were received from prospective first-year students, of which only 11 000 gained admission.

Prof De la Rey urged all staff to do their work in honour of Madiba’s Legacy in order to ensure that the University of Pretoria becomes a great institution that makes a significant contribution to the socioeconomic development of South Africa. She added that the University is committed to developing an environment where first-year students can learn, grow and develop into the leaders and citizens who will make South Africa a better place than it is today.

She said the ideal of making South Africa a better place is in line with the new policy framework published in a White Paper of the Department of Higher Education and Training, which has direct implications for the University.

The key objective of the new policy framework is to expand access to education and training by growing the number of enrolments at institutions of higher learning included in the framework. The framework also specifies that tertiary institutions should focus on expanding student numbers in areas of scarce skills and national need, such as teaching, engineering and the health sciences.

Prof De la Rey said that most of what is covered in the policy framework is in line with the objectives of the University as set out in its 2025 Strategic Plan. This includes a smart growth policy that will ensure that the University increases its output in terms of the country’s scarce skills needs, as well as the number of doctoral graduates.

The University of Pretoria is working towards improving its ranking on the World University Rankings System, particularly in relation to other BRICS countries. However, the University will not pursue ranking at the expense of undergraduate education by putting a cap on the number of undergraduate students. Its smart growth policy will ensure that the University grow in areas aligned with the scarce skills needs of South Africa.

Prof De la Rey said that the current economic climate holds serious constraints that might affect the objectives of the White Paper, such as the financial dilemma faced by students who can no longer be funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). The University is also affected by this turn of events because the government subsidy no longer keeps up with the inflation rate. Although the University will keep its fees affordable, it has appealed for additional funding.

‘Even though these are tough economic times, the University of Pretoria is committed to raise additional funds to assist students financially and also to ensure that we expand our facilities to accommodate more students. We must not disappoint those highly talented young people who will be seeking placement at the University of Pretoria in 2015 and even further along in the future. I believe that we all have the responsibility to ensure that we provide high level education that is equivalent to the best in the world,’ said Prof De la Rey.

Last year, the University of Pretoria, assisted by external donors, used its institutional funds to provide financial aid for more than 26 000 students, to the total amount of more than R800 million. ‘Even though the numbers may seem high, this was not enough. We need your support to address this challenge,’ she added.

A new initiative, the Tuks Scholarship Fund, offers staff members and external parties the opportunity to contribute towards the development of the future leaders of South Africa. ‘By supporting this fund, we would be creating an opportunity to pass on the torch of education [in order to] ensure that the future generations of South African leaders graduate from the University of Pretoria,’ Prof De la Rey said in conclusion.

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