On Friday, 07 June 2019, the University of Venda (UNIVEN) Management met with the management of the University of Mpumalanga (UMP) to discuss possible areas of collaboration, particularly in Research, Innovation and Technology Transfer; Student Governance, and Agriculture. This meeting took place at the Univen Council Chambers. UNIVEN team was led by the Vice-Chancellor and Principal: Dr Bernard Nthambeleni, and other members were the Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic: Professor Jan Crafford, the University Registrar: Professor Edward Nesamvuni, Director Research and Innovation: Senior Professor Georges-Ivo Ekosse, Dean School of Agriculture: Professor Jude Odhiambo, and Director Student Affairs: Lufuno Tshikhudo. The UMP delegation was led by its Vice-Chancellor: Professor Thoko Mayekiso, and other members were Director of Research Management: Professor Phindile Lukhele-Olorunju, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Sciences: Professor Moses Mbewe, and Director of Student Affairs: Dr Paul Maminza. 

During his Opening and welcome message, UNIVEN Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Nthambeleni presented an overview of the University in terms of proximities, and its vision and mission. He took them through the University’s Schools, departments and various structures that form this institution. Dr Nthambeleni further presented UNIVEN’s Enrolment figures, academic divisions, directorates, and units of the University. He said the University has an enrolment of 3 660 first time entering students and is seated at a total of 16 651 students. 

While taking them through an overview of UNIVEN, Dr Nthambeleni presented its success rate and the per capita research output from 2013 to 2016. Among other things, Dr Nthambeleni presented the Institutional distribution of NRF Rated Researchers in RSA Universities in 2017. He said UNIVEN was awarded two NRF South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) Chairs and told the delegation from Mpumalanga that this is not an easy task because it comes after very tough work as it is awarded to the deserving individuals. 

He presented the University’s income and expenditure for the year 2016. Dr Nthambeleni said UNIVEN is not well funded when compared to other historically disadvantaged universities. He presented infrastructural development and said the University has received several funds to better the lives of students during the previous years. “However, despite these investments on infrastructural development by government over the past ten years the University is still in dire need of more infrastructure. Upon the completion of current new student residences, the University will accommodate 26 % of its student population of 16 651.” 

He presented new buildings that are still under construction and those that have been completed. He told them that UNIVEN is one of the universities with a huge number of students living with disabilities. “Over the past six years, UNIVEN installed 20 standby generators between 200 and 630 KVA and there are water reservoirs that can last for up to 36 hours in terms of water supply.” He also presented the current infrastructural projects which have now been completed while others are at an advanced stage. 

When talking about the available broadband at UNIVEN, Dr Nthambeleni told the delegation from UMP that in terms of broadband UNIVEN is sifted quite well. “UNIVEN has a tablet handout project that is funded by the university and students. Ensuring a safe and secure campus, he said the University is in the process of implementing the Integrated Security Masterplan. In terms of protection services, it has the state-of-the-art control room where almost all corners of the University are under surveillance.” Dr Nthambeleni said UNIVEN and UMP should be offering solutions to the farms around them due to their geographical locations. These institutions should take advantage of these farms around them. 

Director: Research and Innovation, Senior Professor Ekosse presented Postgraduate supervision, collaborative research and postgraduate performance, and technology transfer at UNIVEN. He said in terms of masters and doctoral research, UNIVEN is doing well. He continued to present research publications outputs of South African universities. 

He said UNIVEN has not done badly as a University because the research output is good as compared to most South African historically disadvantaged public universities. In enhancing research at UNIVEN, Senior Professor Ekosse said there are more than 62 adjunct professors who assist with research, postgraduate supervision, and journal publications. He presented the research and innovation events and training workshops and programmes that are conducted through the Directorate of Research and Innovation, and UNIVEN’s current research niche areas. 

We run international research conferences. We have developed good partnerships such as the one with Walter Sisulu University (WSU) in South Africa and Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) in Kenya and told the visitors that this is a very successful partnership. Senior Professor Ekosse continued to say that in order to fit in well, a university needs to be part of the 4th industrial revolution. He said researchers at UNIVEN have recently generated several patents. “Research collaborations are very important and boost universities. It can either be with other institutions of higher learning, communities, companies or government.” He also spoke about NRF Rated Researchers that UNIVEN currently has and told them that there is a need to utilize the tools of the trade which will bring improvement in the postgraduate programmes, and research and publications. 

Professor Thoko Mayekiso, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Mpumalanga said in terms of the presentations made by both Dr Nthambeleni and Senior Prof Ekosse, UNIVEN and UMP can do quite well if they could consider collaborating on many areas of mutual interest because they are both comprehensive universities. She expressed that; Work Intergraded Learning is what is needed in order to produce employable graduates. 

Professor Mayekiso gave an overview of the University of Mpumalanga which started in 2014 but officially launched in October 2015. She presented UMP’s vision 2022 and told the attendees of the meeting that UMP strives to be an African University by leading in creating opportunities for sustainable development through innovation. She presented the Missions and values where she said UMP is committed to excellence, integrity, diversity, collaboration, adaptability, relevance and inspiration values. She continued to say that UMP strives to offer quality educational and training opportunities that foster the holistic development of students through teaching and learning, research and scholarship, and engagement, in collaboration with strategic partners. 

“The University of Mpumalanga is committed to offer its students a life changing experience through high quality curricula and Co-curricular programmes.” She presented their graduates attributes which are: respectful, responsive and responsible. “We want our students to be innovative and entrepreneurial, to be sound and discipline, confident and effective in communication. We want them to be ethically and socially aware change agents.” 

She presented their niche areas which are on Agriculture, Hospitality and Tourism, Information Communications Technology, and Education where she said their enrolment in 2014 was 189 students and this year, they are seated at 3400 students. “The qualifications that are offered by UMP include diplomas, bachelor degrees, advanced diplomas, honours and masters degrees. Prof Mayekiso presented the list of international partnerships that the University has. She said they also have African partnerships and South African partnerships. 

Professor Moses Mbewe, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Sciences at UMP presented the possible areas of collaboration in Agriculture. He presented the schools that are found in the Faculty of Agriculture which are: School of Agricultural Sciences, Biology and Environmental Sciences, Chemical and Physical Sciences and Computing and Mathematics Sciences which offers diploma in ICT. He further presented all programmes or qualifications that are offered by UMP. “These are the areas that we need possible collaboration with Univen, ” he said. He continued to say that they have 8 Agricultural programmes offered at UMP. He said UMP has partnerships with various game farms that take students for Work Integrated Learning. “There are number of areas that we can sit down and talk about possible partnerships looking at the qualifications that both universities have.” 

“There are areas under computing and mathematical Sciences in which the UMP is working with the Provincial Department of Agriculture where students are taught how to use technology in agriculture. I think there are many areas in which we can collaborate. Our students have not yet experienced problems in terms of employment. They are being absorbed by these organisations where they do their Work Integrated Learning.” 

Professor Phindile Lukhele-Olorunju: Director of Research Management from University of Mpumalanga said they need to show students and staff members the importance of doing research. She said most of UMP’s staff members are studying towards postgraduate qualifications. “We are trying to make our academics to be well qualified, academic staff need to have Doctoral qualifications. In terms of research we have policies that supports this idea.” 

“We encourage our staff to develop themselves. We have good collaboration from international bodies. Currently UMP has 14 NGAP Lecturers in various programmes who are all doing PhDs.” She indicated that under development studies, UMP have agreements which allow researchers to work together. “We have links that ensure that we grow as a University. We want to have strategic partners such as Univen. We have 5 postdoctoral employees and majority of them are funded by UMP. A lot of people are interested in working with us that is why UMP is not struggling in terms of attracting employees.” She mentioned that UMP has 5 NRF Rated Researchers. “Your (Univen)’s research output is very interesting and encouraging including the research chairs that the University currently has.” 

It was indicated that indicated that UMP owns a hotel that also assists the University to generate income. 

UMP Director of Student Affairs, Dr Paul Maminza, said as a University, they also ensure that there is quality of student life in their campuses. He continued to mention that; within Student Affairs they strive for quality of student excellence. “Our aim is to have a functional student leadership, we need SRC that strives for contribution towards developing the university.” He further expressed that; the management of their University have monthly meetings with SRC to discuss some of the possible contributions that will ensure that their University is driven in the right direction. “We provide opportunities for the SRC to go out to other countries to learn how other students from various countries behave. It should not be about protesting all the time, they need to know other ways of bringing positive change for all students, they need to contribute in the growth of the university. When they are away, they learn how other students do much of work with little resources that they have.” 

He explained that their students are encouraged to participate in sport and their soccer team is being promoted to the SAB league because it has topped the league that it was participating in. Dr Maminza told Univen management that the National Lottery awarded 27 Million to improve their sporting facilities and their University is about to launch an 8-track field of athletics which was constructed with the money donated by the National Lottery. “The funding from lottery was for all sporting activities that are found at the UMP.” 

When talking about the issue of student accommodation he said UMP currently has 611 beds on campus. In August they will be adding another 217 beds to the number that they already have. “Accommodation residences in Siyabuswa Campus have computer labs where students can study at any time of the day.” 

Mr Lufuno Tshikhudo, Director Student affairs said that the Student Affairs plays a very big role in the University. He continued to mention that historically disadvantaged Universities are struggling with the growth in terms of intake due to limited space of both classes and accommodation, not excluding offices for staff members. “There are lot of areas where we can engage in terms of sports collaboration. In terms of student leadership, we need to collaborate so that SRC members can learn a lot from each other.” He said in terms of gender UNIVEN has put in the policy that it should be 50/50 of gender balance. 

Mr Tshikhudo touched the matter of student tablet projects because students come from different backgrounds hence the University and SRC decided to contribute certain amount to help students from poor background as well and all first entering students get these tablets. “In terms of accommodation, Mr Tshikhudo told the visitors from UMP that the University has a policy when allocating rooms that are found on campus. He said students who are performing well academically are allocated rooms before the average students.” We are hoping that by next year we will be able to accommodate more than 10 000 students on campus which is more than 50% of the University’s enrolment.” 

In discussing the closure and way forward, Dr Nthambeleni said that Universities owe it to themselves that there is need to produce future leaders. “We need to do our level best in making sure that we produce the best. We need to collaborate in order to learn from each other. He supported the presentation of UMP of making sure that they expose their SRC members to the environment of other international universities. This assists them in coming up with fresh minds and approaches towards challenges.” Even on research he said there is need to collaborate especially on the supervision of postgraduate students. A document will be exchanged before the day of signing an MoU which will lead to the development of MOAs. 

The Vice-Chancellor of Mpumalanga University said they are ready to sign the MoU. “What is left now is that we draft it and UNIVEN delegation visits UMP where this MoU will be signed.” 

Issued by: 

Department of Communications & Marketing 

University of Venda 

Tel: (015) 962 8525 

Date: 13 June 2019 

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