The University of Venda was honoured by the visit of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Research Foundation (NRF), Dr Molapo Qhobela on Friday, 03 June 2016. “My brief tour around campus made my jaws dropped because the campus is like a construction site”. Dr Qhobela advised Univen to write a book or journal about its developments for the past ten years to ensure that those who will come after will be able to see how Univen looked like before. “It is not every day that we write about the successes of an institution that has in many ways transformed from what it was. It is valuable to find ways of reflecting on that because there will be many people who will come after us who will not always appreciate what it takes to build. It is very easy to destroy but to build is very hard”, said Dr Qhobela. He talked about Univen’s research units which was in a single digit during the mid-90s and appreciated where Univen is in terms of research units which is at 0.71 per capita. In addition, Dr Qhobela praised Univen for being efficient and effective like a magic as other institutions can learn a lot from its experiences.
The reason for the NRF CEO’s visit was to spend time with the leadership of the University and to find out what is it that we can do together for this institution to be supported in as best as we can for us to realize the trajectory which the Department of Higher Education and Training has chosen. Dr Qhobela indicated that there are many ways in which we can support each other, at one level there are things that NRF as a small organization can do to support this University in particular and in a different way from how NRF supports other institutions. He further pointed out that there are things that can be done which include leveraging on the support that is not necessarily coming from NRF but from other third parties. The NRF alone cannot always provide resources but working together with other stakeholders, for example if a project that needs to be done is identified and both stakeholders do not have the resources to do it, the University and NRF for example can put together its brains to approach a person who can support the project, this can be done.
There are things that can be done to advocate for the things that support the knowledge enterprise. The CEO went on to highlight the most important and key ingredients of success which include the quality of leadership that is not only from the top but at all levels. “We struggle when we do not have quality leadership but we succeed when we have quality leadership and it is important to recognize that”, added Qhobela.
The Vice Chancellor and Principal, Prof Peter Mbati acknowledged and appreciated the NRF CEO’s visit to UNIVEN. In his presentation, he briefly shared the University’s background in which in the past 10 years, it has experienced significant growth in all the critical indicators indicative of a vibrant young historically disadvantaged Institution. Prof Mbati alluded to the fact that UNIVEN has demonstrated that good leadership, adequate resource allocation and a dedicated focus on the academic core project are critical ingredients in repositioning a rural based institution. So far, Univen is a quality driven and financially sustainable institution with its staff, students or any other internal structure geared towards the academic core project.
He informed the audience about the institutional Transformation Charter which was launched recently which is different from those of other universities because Univen is focusing on quality education. According to Mbati, Univen has a good story to tell about each directorate and schools for example in the school of humanities, it is doing exceptionally well in the promotion, teaching and learning of African Languages. He commended the Department of Higher Education and Training for injecting millions of rands towards Univen infrastructure development which has contributed to immense improvement in the quality of teaching and learning at Univen.
The quality of student life has been our turnaround strategy. He further spoke about the Library which is an excellent learning environment for students. “Univen has excellent researchers. If we can get support and funding we are ready to produce quality research work. We need role players like NRF to grow quality, teaching and learning”, added Mbati.
The Vice Chancellor pleaded with the CEO of NRF to walk the true transformation path with UNIVEN and other Historical Black Universities (HBUs), and at the very least ensure an equitable share of resources (research funding, allocation of research chairs, bursaries for post graduate students
It was revealed that the University of Venda has improved in the total number of NRF rated researchers up to twenty three (23) in this current academic year. Univen would like to see the postgraduate students getting all the support they need by creating the environment that promotes growth and sustained research. The University also expressed its gratitude for being awarded two Research Chairs by the NRF, and that it supports the NRF Strategic support. However, the institution asked NRF to give clarity on how funding is distributed and how institutions play a role in meeting these strategic plans.
The first part of the meeting the CEO of NRF had, was an opportunity to meet with the Executive and Senior Management.
Later during the day, Dr Qhobela met with the NRF Rated Researchers, senior researchers who are not rated, emerging researchers and representatives of postgraduate students.
During discussions in the meeting with researchers and students, it was agreed that there should be a strategic plan to attract students to continue furthering their studies rather than to opt for job
opportunities. Dr Qhobela concluded by encouraging the University to pay attention to the quality of graduates it produces and what they do after completing their studies. It is the quality of research that matters to the NRF not the quantity. Researchers were advised to submit their outputs in quality journals and that their work should be peer reviewed.
Issued by: Department of Communications and Marketing
University of Venda
Tel: 015 962 8525
Date: 07 June 2016