UP receives 20th-anniversary award from Siyaphumelela student-success network

Posted on March 05, 2024

The University of Pretoria (UP) was recently presented with an award from the global student-success programme Achieving the Dream (ATD), a “non-profit leader in championing evidence-based institutional improvement”. UP was honoured for being part of ATD's efforts to enhance student-success work being done, and for promoting equity and student-centred development.

ATD operates in South Africa in collaboration with Siyaphumelela, a network of South African institutions dedicated to promoting student achievement. Siyaphumelela offers institutions comprehensive, customised help on all facets of their operations, from intentional initiatives targeted at offering students holistic support, to core capacities like leadership, data and equity.

“UP strongly emphasises academic success, recognising the importance of high-quality teaching and learning opportunities. The university is committed to offering an educational experience that encourages deep engagement with the subject matter, cultivating essential skills for the modern workforce, such as adaptability, ethical reasoning, critical thinking, and intercultural competence”, said Professor Loretta Feris, Vice-Principal: Academic at UP.

Siyaphumelela's funding is provided by the US-based Kresge Foundation. The money received by UP provided seed funding for projects that were targeted towards UP students’ success. One notable collaborative project that benefited from this association was a skills-improvement programme run for UP’s Faculty Student Advisors. The rollout and development of academic advising at UP and in South Africa’s higher education sector in general has made a positive impact. Funding from the Department of Higher Education and Training has also formalised the initiative into a professional service offered by universities.

Prof Feris believes several key strategies contributed to UP's success in earning this prestigious accolade. .Creating a data-informed culture at UP by forming a data analytics committee contributed to the dissemination and discussion of student success data at the executive and faculty management levels. This led to numerous sub-projects, including the High Impact Module project, the formation of the Differential Pass Rate Committee, and a project to evaluate programmes’ credit loads.

Prof Feris added that UP has actively implemented initiatives and programmes to foster a student-centred transformation, incorporating global perspectives into its educational ethos. “These efforts manifest in a comprehensive approach that prioritises academic excellence, community engagement, and inclusivity, ensuring students succeed academically and prepare for a globally interconnected world.”

- Author Yolanda Rakobela

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