Posted on February 19, 2013

During her address, Prof De la Rey encouraged the creation of a better learning community within the institution in order to address the issues affecting students. She said that all University personnel play a significant role in creating a learning community.

She called on unity between the two main aspects of the institution – academic and support personnel – to enable the University of Pretoria to become a learning community which meets the needs of the students in terms of their academic performance and achievements. She highlighted the need for an endeavour to bridge the divide between these two facets, so that the importance of everyone’s role in our learning community is recognised.

‘What we need to do this year is to bridge this gap by making an effort to connect with one another. We really need to speak and listen to one another from various parts of the University – not just work together – but talk to one another and try to connect. Not monologues – but to create opportunities for us to engage with one another and talk,’ said Prof De la Rey.

Prof De la Rey asked the deans and directors to arrange and facilitate a platform where she can talk to and engage with all staff members from their respective areas, with an emphasis on performance in 2012 and priorities for 2013. ‘The focus of the University must be strongly on dialogue, and not monologue, and making sure that we are more inclusive and recognise the important role played by each and every staff member,’ she added.

This year will see the release of the new ‘UP Journey for Change and Success’ framework, which encourages a better learning community at the University. ‘We should recognise that each of us can learn from one another, and we should be able to expand our horizons and ways of thinking. We must also recognise that our diversity, in terms of academic discipline, language, gender, race, ethnicity and religion, is an asset, because by engaging in dialogue with one another we are enabling our own learning and our success,” Prof De la Rey said.

Prof De la Rey mentioned how the journey – which will lead the University of Pretoria toward its objective and goals – begins with individuals. She called on all members to make the University better, and to start today by contributing to improving communities and the state of the nation.

Prof De la Rey also encouraged members of the University of Pretoria to take a stand against some of the social ills experienced in this country, especially regarding the high incidence of gender violence.

Prof De la Rey outlined last year’s performance and the challenges facing the University in 2013. She reminded the audience of the vision of the new strategic plan of the University of Pretoria (UP 2025) developed last year, which remains unchanged. The vision is to be a leading research]intensive university in Africa, to be recognised internationally for its quality, relevance and impact, and for developing people, creating knowledge and making a difference locally and globally.

She mentioned significant achievements and improvements in every area of the University, and attributed these successes to the contributions made by the University’s personnel.

Prof De la Rey said the University saw an increase in research output last year, both in publications and graduation of senior students. This has resulted in the University of Pretoria attaining the number one position in a number of publications produced by universities in South Africa, as recognised by the Department of Higher Education and Training. Last year also saw an undergraduate pass rate improvement of 83,4%.

With regard to student admissions, Prof De la Rey said the focus should not be exclusively about the number of students, but also of the quality of students the University attracts. She said 44% of young talented school leavers of 2012 who gained six or more distinctions from across the country applied at the University of Pretoria.

This also means that planned work for 2013 should be intensified to meet the University’s objectives of being the university of choice for the most talented young South Africans, and also the preferred choice for the most talented staff in the country and internationally.

Prof De la Rey said that efforts to create an enabling environment for both personnel and students will continue to be implemented. One of these initiatives will include the roll-out of the Wi-Fi service across the University, as well as to continue giving support to young academic staff members in their research endeavours.

The University of Pretoria will further benefit from the new infrastructure programme from the Department of Higher Education and Training. With the aid of the programme, construction work will commence at the Hatfield, Onderstepoort, and Prinshof Campuses.

Prof De la Rey also addressed one of the biggest challenges facing the institution, namely the decline of the government subsidy. She highlighted the fact that the subsidy remains steady, which does not reflect rising costs. She encouraged members to find ways of assisting the University in becoming more efficient and productive, and at the same time getting involved in initiatives which will increase income for the University, such as raising the research income by finding more donor funding for scholarships and bursaries for students.

Regarding future plans, Prof De la Rey indicated that the University of Pretoria has been tasked by the Department of Higher Education and Training to submit enrolment projections for the next five years. She anticipates growth in certain areas of the University in the next five years, with growth projected at 1,7% at undergraduate level, while a high level of growth is expected amongst postgraduates – helping the University achieve its most important goal of becoming a leading research-intensive University.

Prof De la Rey emphasised that particular growth areas at the University will determine how the institution meets its objectives as enshrined in its vision, for instance in science and engineering, medical and veterinary science and education.

With the envisaged growth projections, the University of Pretoria will increase its current contact students rate of 46 000 to 63 000 by the year 2019. Prof De la Rey said that growth at the University is inevitable and necessary due to the need for skilled workers nationally, coupled with the rising ambitions of the majority of young South Africans who are aiming for a university education. ‘We must grow, but do so responsibly so as not to diminish the quality of our education,’ she concluded.

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