MINUTES OF THE CONVOCATION AND OLD RHODIAN UNION ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING HELD IN GRAHAMSTOWN ON 27 AUGUST 2011 AT THE GAVIN RELLY POSTGRADUATE VILLAGE, RHODES UNIVERSITY
- 1. Present: Revd Dr S Gqubule, Dr S Badat, Professor RB Walker, Dr S Fourie, Mr JP Gillam, Mrs JE Gillam, Miss RB Mullins, Ms TC Mullins, Miss MS Hazell, Dr J Gambiza, Professor RA Lubke, Mrs G Wylie, Mrs E Rezelman, Mrs J Kelly, Rev LE Kelly, Ms MF Way-Jones, Ms FK Jaza, Mrs M Keeton, Professor G Keeton, Ms M Waring, Mrs AI Waugh, Mr Z Matiwana, Mr S Tshokwe, Miss S-J Bradfield, Ms C Godfrey, Mrs D van der Zee, Dr J Claughton, Mr R Embling, Mr G White, Professor R Midgley, Adv J Kayser, Professor G Antrobus, Professor P Terry, Professor E Baart, Ms G Thomas, Professor D Eve, Mrs J Eve, Adrienne Whisson, Mrs AW Macdonald, Professor I Macdonald, Mrs E Heard, Mr R Heard, Mrs K Mills, Mr WD Mills and Ms P Coetzee.
Apologies were received from Professor J Bishop, Matthew Charlesworth, Richard Laing, John Eller, Rosemary Calmeyer-Leach, Mary-Rose Dold, Leo Borman, Keith and Yvonne Dimbleby, Glen Craig, Meg and Don Williams, Rene Vroom, Hugh Eales, Royden Vice and Muriel Woods.
2. Notice of Meeting: Revd Dr Gqubule, President of Convocation, welcomed those present and declared the meeting open.
3. The Minutes of the Sixtieth Annual Meeting of Convocation held on 28 August 2010 were confirmed.
4. The Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of the Old Rhodian Union held on 28 August 2010 were confirmed.
5. Vice-Chancellor’s Report: The Vice-Chancellor reported as follows on recent and unfolding events:
The Vice-Chancellor paid tribute to Mrs Gqubule, who had passed away a year previously after a valiant battle with cancer. She was missed by all who had known her.
Dr Badat then reported on current enrolments and enrolment planning. The University planned to grow to 7600 students in 2013, with most growth at postgraduate level. It was hoped that students studying for Honours, Master’s and PhD degrees would account for 30% of total enrolments in 2013. Exciting academic programmes to retain and attract students from elsewhere were an important element of the postgraduate development strategy; examples of these were new Master’s programmes in Social Policy, Bioinformatics and Creative Writing. The Science Faculty currently contributed a disproportionate percentage of research and postgraduate outputs. The newly-established Research Focus Areas in Humanities, funded by the Mellon Foundation, would strengthen postgraduate growth in Humanities. The Four Focus Areas were: Southern African Literature in Focus, led by Professor Dirk Klopper; Visual and Performing Arts of Africa, led by Professor Ruth Simbao; Critical Sexual and Reproductive Health Studies, led by Professor Catriona Macleod; and Media and Citizenship, led by Professors Herman Wasserman and Anthea Garman. The Focus Areas would use a research model more commonly found in the Sciences, bringing together teams of scholars around a niche area of expertise. Besides the Four Focus Areas, the Mellon Foundation was also funding the Senior Scholars Programme; the WASA Research and Publications programme for women; and seed money for a possible programme in Jazz Heritage Studies. The University would also be funding two Research and Postgraduate Focus Areas in the Faculty of Commerce and it was hoped to begin a Focus Area in the Faculty of Law in the near future. There were also plans to begin a programme in Forensic Studies, by the Faculties of Science and Law, drawing on the R12 million pledged by the Board of Governors as seed funding for new postgraduate initiatives.
Leading a consortium of South African universities (including Fort Hare, UWC and Walter Sisulu), Rhodes University’s Faculty of Education had secured the largest single research grant made thus far within the South African Higher Education sector, from the European Union via the Department of Higher Education and Training, for research into Foundation Phase Education. The Institute for the Study of English in Africa (ISEA) was introducing programmes in Teacher Education and Early Childhood Education in the Northern Cape, funded by Sishen Iron Ore. Meanwhile, Professor Martin Hill of Entomology had secured a R9 million renewal research grant from Working for Water.
Rhodes University had one of the best pass rates at undergraduate level. Throughput and graduation rates for higher degrees at postgraduate level, however, left much to be desired. Poor postgraduate throughput was a broader national problem; serious attention was needed to understand the causes, improve postgraduate support and prevent wasting valuable talent and potential. South Africa needed to produce more PhDs if it was serious about being a big international player. The University of Sao Paolo in Brazil, for example, graduated an average of 8000 PhD degrees out of a total of 80 000 students.
Research continued to be one of the real strengths of Rhodes University and the University was becoming increasingly dependent on research funding, with R128 million currently raised through research grants alone.
The University had been fortunate to attract Di Hornby as Director of Community Engagement and wonderful developments were happening, including a long-term partnership with the community of Keiskammahoek, involving the Faculty of Education, the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science, among others. The success of the Keiskammahoek initiatives was based on serious commitment to partnership and development, from both the community and the University.
Concerning infrastructure, the Library Building project had eventually been completed for R73 million, R24 million below the projected budget cost of R97 million. Another successful project, built along ‘green’ principles, was the Environmental Education Centre. The University had also completed new residences and a new dining hall. As a result, the undergraduate accommodation backlog had been broken and there was sufficient accommodation for every first-year student to live in residence. A much-needed new building for the Life Sciences and a new building for Teacher Education were now the top-priority new infrastructure projects and an application was being prepared for the next round of state infrastructure funding.
The Vice-Chancellor congratulated Professor Nyokong on her latest awards and achievements. Professor Nyokong had been invited to sit on a global UNESCO Panel on Science, Technology and Innovation for Development. She had also been named the 2011 Distinguished Woman in Chemistry by the Pan African Chemistry Network of the Royal Society of the United Kingdom. The award would be made in November 2011 in Accra, Ghana, and was planned to coincide with the celebrations of the International Year of Chemistry and the centenary of Marie Curie’s Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
Professor Janice Limson was congratulated for being first runner-up in the category Distinguished Young Woman Researcher in the Life and Physical Sciences, in the 2011 DCT Women in Science Awards.
Students from the University had continued to make a strong showing in terms of prestigious international scholarships such as the Fulbright, Commonwealth and Rhodes scholarships to Oxford. Furthermore, Rhodes University students continued to dominate the Mandela/Rhodes scholarship awards and it was gratifying to note that almost all these recipients had chosen to pursue further studies at Rhodes University.
Rhodes University had a total budget of approximately R450 million, including a residence budget of approximately R120 million and R150 million in research and donor funds. University land covered 250 hectares and the University employed 1400 people. The University therefore had a significant and growing impact on its surroundings and Grahamstown was becoming over-reliant on Rhodes financially, in terms of municipal rates and taxes. It was thus in the interests of both town and gown to encourage the growth of other types of development in the region.
Financially, the University continued to operate a balanced budget, aiming for zero deficits and modest surpluses. Prudent financial management had resulted in a kitty of R20 million, built up during the last five years. This had been used to establish an Infrastructure Reserve Fund to address backlogs and supplement government and other funding for important projects when required. More attention was being paid to maintenance and five-year maintenance plans were being drawn up for various sectors. A special fund had been established for the maintenance of residences, following problems in Dingemans and Cullen Bowles Houses. Certain roads on campus required major work; this raised issues concerning municipal versus University responsibility.
Rhodes University was in a very healthy situation compared to neighbouring universities and was in the top category of South African universities according to all key indicators. It was also well-recognised among government and funding circles that Rhodes utilised its funding effectively. There was, however, no justification for complacency and many areas required attention, including the modernisation of administrative systems and processes. Pursuing a postgraduate and research trajectory, without compromising the quality of undergraduate education, would require careful shifting of priorities. Faculty responses to the Vice-Chancellor’s document on postgraduate development were being collated. A graduate centre and a Chair in Postgraduate Studies were two of the possible initiatives under consideration.
In summing up his last five years as Vice-Chancellor, Dr Badat referred to an ongoing two-pronged strategy of transformation and modernisation. The University was being re-made, quietly, with many changes that might seem imperceptible individually, but contributed towards profound and substantive shifts in institutional culture. Simultaneously, systems were being updated and streamlined and backlogs tackled to enable the University to function even more efficiently. There were exciting plans and possibilities for the next five years ahead.
Finally, the Vice-Chancellor thanked those present for their support and thanked Revd Gqubule for presiding over Convocation for many years.
Revd Dr Gqubule thanked the Vice-Chancellor for an excellent and thorough report.
7. Report of the President of the Old Rhodian Union:
Professor Walker reported as follows on the business of the OR committee over the preceding year:
The Old Rhodian Union was founded in 1911 by Professor Cullen Bowles and Sir George Cory to form a link between past and present students and staff of Rhodes University. The ORU centenary celebrations had begun the previous evening with a cocktail function and an excellent music evening. Professor Walker invited all present to participate in the remaining events and to help make the centenary Founders’ weekend a memorable one.
The ORU had not changed its focus much and continued to try and ensure that contact was made and sustained with graduates of Rhodes University, assisting the Alumni Affairs Office in this regard. During the Arts Festival a function had been held at Alumni House. The Old Rhodian book collection continued to grow as increasing numbers of works published by Old Rhodians were received. The books were located in Alumni House and numbered over 100 at present, covering a wide range of genres. The ORU renewed and maintained contact with alumni through reunion events, which also served to grow the pool of potential donors. The most recent reunion had been held in London.
Once again the main project in the preceding year had involved awarding bursaries to the children of Old Rhodians. In 2011, approximately R124 000 had been allocated to support 15 students (55% of the applicants). While it had been hoped to increase the number of bursaries awarded, the economic situation did not permit this. The value of each bursary was maintained at 2010 levels. Professor Walker was pleased to note that it was expected to be possible to support between six and eight additional students in 2012.
It had been particularly pleasing to receive letters from recipients of bursaries in which they expressed their appreciation for support without which some may not have been able to attend this institution. One of the recipients, Chwayitisa Futshane, had written:
I have been a recipient of the Old Rhodian Bursary for the last four years that I have been studying for a Bachelor of Journalism and Media Studies degree. The monetary value of these awards has increased over the years and has contributed a great deal to the overall cost of my fees. I cannot express enough how much these bursaries have helped my family, by lifting some of the financial strain of my education. I am very grateful that I was given this opportunity and I trust others will continue to benefit from these bursaries.
Professor Walker thanked the members of the bursary sub-committee and the staff of the Financial Aid Office, in particular Luyanda Bheyile, for assistance once again in preparing documentation for the bursaries.
The ORU was represented on the University Naming Committee. Once again, it had also been involved in the selection of recipients of the OR Awards. This year the Emerging Old Rhodian Awards would be launched to honour alumni under 40 for their achievements and flying the Rhodes flag high. As was customary, the 2011 Old Rhodian Awards would be presented at a ceremony during the luncheon following the meeting. The colours used to decorate the dining room departed with tradition, however, as red, white and green had replaced the usual purple and white. This choice was in keeping with the centenary celebrations, as red and white on a green background had been the RU colours from 1909 to 1913, the founding period of the ORU. In 1913 the colours were changed to dark amethyst and white, with the amethyst later changed to purple as “dark colours fade in the African sun”. By 1928 sports teams wore the classic purple and white blazer. Those members attending the Ball that evening would be exposed to the now-familiar scene of purple and white décor.
During the past year the ORU and the Alumni Office had assisted the SRC with their celebration of 101 years of student leadership at the University. The relationship between the ORU and the SRC had been further cemented by co-opting a member of the SRC onto the ORU committee. It was hoped that this relationship would be continued in the future.
Professor Walker reported that the Rhodes University UK Trust and the Darling Trust would jointly host a Pieter Dirk Uys performance in the UK later in the year. Funds raised would be shared between the two trusts; the UK Trust would establish a Derek Jacobs Scholarship Fund with its portion of the proceeds, adding to the financial support offered to students of the University.
The ORU’s efforts to raise funds with MySchool.com were gathering momentum. The monthly amount received was in the region of R600 at present and continuing to grow. Professor Walker urged all those present to acquire and use MySchool cards and thus assist in this important fundraising initiative. The champion of MySchool at Rhodes was Sharon Tweddle, to whom was owed many thanks for her hard work and support.
There had been a few changes in the Alumni Office and Professor Walker welcomed the new Manager of Alumni Relations and Fundraising, Qondakele Sompondo, and looked forward to working closely with him in the future. In closing, Professor Walker thanked the ORU committee for their hard work and the Alumni Office for their services in arranging the AGM and Founders’ Day events. Particular thanks were given to Sharon Tweddle, Terryl McCarthy, Annelise Pienaar and Molly Matlotlo for taking charge of alumni affairs and assisting with meetings, the Ball and many other initiatives.
Professor Walker was thanked for his comprehensive report.
8. Financial Statement of the Old Rhodian Union: The Honorary Treasurer, John Gillam, tabled a report on the financial situation for year ended 31 December 2010.
9. Election of Office Bearers:
The following officers bearers were elected for the period 2011/12: Professor RB Walker (President), Dr J Gambiza (Vice-President), Ms P Coetzee (Honorary Secretary), Mr JP Gillam (Honorary Treasurer), Mrs L Rautenbach, Mr D Munene, Ms F Chaiba, Dr D Parker and Professor R Kaschula. It was agreed that additional members would be co-opted as necessary.
THE MEETING ENDED AT 12H00