Optimising Student Services (OSS Project)

Posted on May 14, 2015

Dear Colleagues


In my previous letter dated 23 May 2014, I introduced the Optimising Student Services (OSS) project and in a subsequent letter of 11 August I followed up with a progress report.


The purpose of this communique is to provide an update on the current status of the project as well as an overview of the recommended improvement actions and the envisaged impact of their implementation on those departments and divisions in the University who are primarily responsible for support services to undergraduate and postgraduate students.

I would like to remind you that the reason for this project was the need to align existing institutional processes and structures with the strategic goals, priorities and strategies articulated in UP 2025, and to address identified areas where such processes and structures do not optimally support our students as envisaged in our institutional mission and aspirations. The commitment and performance of the staff involved in providing these services to our students have never been in doubt.

The OSS project with its agreed outcomes aspires to support the University in achieving its vision of being a leading research intensive university in Africa and the associated strategic goals. In particular, it aims to ensure the support, focus and capacity necessary to strengthen the University’s international profile and visibility; to increase access, throughput and diversity; and to provide convenient and efficient administrative services.

Current status of the OSS project

A project report and recommendations were submitted to and accepted by the Executive on 21 October 2014. With the support of the Executive I discussed the implementation of the recommendations and the development of appropriate timeframes with the Project Leader (Prof CR de Beer) and other parties involved.

Following these discussions, an implementation framework and strategy based on the findings and recommendations of the Project Team were adopted.

Key aspects of the framework and strategy include:

Intermediate interventions 

These interventions consisted of relatively easy and quick changes with negligible structural and staff implications, but with significant strategic benefits. The interventions were implemented through adjusting the performance contracts of relevant line managers after consultation with the individuals, and the University has already benefitted greatly from the steps taken.

Revision and alignment of the current operating model

An analysis of the current operating model of the University used in delivering academic and related student services, resulted in the identification of a large number of process pain-points. A further assessment and classification of these pain-points indicated that a number of projects aimed at the revision and/or alignment of current operations and services with UP 2025 would have to be developed. These projects will be formalised and assigned to the line managers involved as soon as clarity has been reached on the appropriate service delivery model and its impact on organisational structures, business practices and protocols. The success of these initiatives is also dependent on the ability and capacity of the University to develop and implement system and process changes.

Fundamental changes to the service delivery model

The findings of the project report clearly indicated that fundamental changes to the current service delivery model would have to be made if the University wishes to enable and support critical aspects of UP 2025. The institutional capacities needed to realise our strategic objectives with regard to postgraduate students, internationalisation, strategic enrolment and institutional compliance in many instances require a regrouping and refocusing of functions and a fundamental revision of business practices and protocol, with unavoidable structural and human resource implications. It may also impact on the portfolio composition at the Executive level.

The Project Team has submitted high level conceptual proposals on possible changes to the service delivery model, which I have considered and will discuss with the Executive and other role players as soon as possible in order to provide institutional direction. I have also requested that Professor De Beer conduct an information session with the recognised unions to ensure proper flow of information to and consultation with organised labour.

After these sessions, all staff members affected by the outcomes of the OSS project will be engaged in discussions to finalise appropriate functional groupings, revise and redesign business practices and protocols, and to consider a resource containment/mobilisation strategy and a model for possible redeployments of staff. Consultation on all matters arising from these initiatives which fall within the scope of the Labour Relations Act and/or the respective Recognition and Procedural Agreements with recognised unions, will be conducted in the appropriate forums where the prescribed or agreed processes will be strictly followed. Should any misalignment and/or overprovision of human resources result from these initiatives, these will be addressed by means of natural attrition and redeployment and retraining of staff, and I wish to confirm that no retrenchment of staff will take place.

I wish to call on all staff members and stakeholders to support the processes and outcomes of the OSS project, since they are aimed at improving the effectiveness and efficiency of our services to our students, whose well-being is central to our academic enterprise.

Should you need more information or require clarity on any of the matters referred to above, please do not hesitate to contact Professor De Beer, the leader of the OSS project at [email protected].


Prof CM de la Rey
Vice-Chancellor and Principal


- Author Office of the Vice-Chancellor and Principal

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