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CHE > Media and Publications > Che Newsletters > CHE Newsletter Volume 1 Issue, June 2015
June, 2015
Latest news
Recent events and happenings
Upcoming events and conferences

From the CEO's desk

The first period of this financial year has seen the CHE continuing its work in quality assurance in a variety of programmes, but it has also been marked by a number of new structures and events. The new Council, with Professor Themba Mosia continuing as Chair, has had two meetings and has duly appointed members to the relevant Council committees. We look forward to the application of their considerable expertise and wisdom in the oversight of the work of the CHE. We have also welcomed Professor John Mubangizi as the Chair of the HEQC, and we will rely not only on his leadership capacity, but also his legal skills in guiding the committee through its decision-making on quality assurance matters. Professor Martin Oosthuizen assumes the Chair of the Accreditation Committee, and we wish him well in steering the AC through the extensive and sometimes difficult work that it undertakes.

The quality promotion and assurance activities of the CHE have intensified of late. The recently established directorate for promoting quality and developing capacity has started its programme of activities with a rejuvenated quality assurance forum for both public and private providers. The Quality Enhancement Project (QEP) is advancing its collaborative activities with institutions and beginning to gain deeper traction within institutions as, led by their academic DVCs, they reflect on and undertake activities to improve quality in key areas related to teaching and learning. Much engagement is also taking place with those institutions that are busy implementing the recommendations arising from the institutional audit process.

The large-scale project of aligning all existing higher education qualifications with the HEQSF is almost complete, and we express our gratitude to all universities and private higher education providers who have cooperated so fully in achieving greater clarity, consistency and articulation possibilities in the offerings of the sector. The higher education institutions have also paid much attention to improving the quality of their programmes as they have sought to integrate and apply the principles and parameters of the HEQSF. The work that has been carried out almost behind the scenes in developing qualification standards is bearing fruit as the first five pilot standards ‘go live’, and we look forward to their integration in national reviews of programmes and qualifications. The work of the monitoring and evaluation directorate in this first period of the year has largely involved writing and editing reports on a number of large projects for forthcoming publication, and it has produced a further edition of VitalStats, with yet another in the pipeline. The work of the organisation has thus progressed steadily on the solid foundation laid by the previous CEO.


The CHE bids farewell to Mr. Ahmed Essop

Mr Ahmed Essop joined the Council on Higher Education in 2010 as the Chief Executive Officer. He leaves the CHE after spending five successful years with the organisation. Ahmed's work at the CHE was driven by his passion, understanding and in-depth knowledge of the education sector. As far as education policy is concerned, one would say Mr. Ahmed Essop was and still is a walking encyclopaedia. During his five year period with the CHE he displayed solid leadership rooted in good governance to bring about collaboration within the organisation and with the higher education sector. What set Ahmed apart as a leader was his sense of humour and his ability to relate with his colleagues at any level. The Council Chair, on behalf of the CHE Council, also extended appreciation to Mr. Ahmed Essop for his contribution to the organisation over the past 5 years. On behalf of the CHE staff, Dr Denyse Webbstock (Acting CEO) wishes Mr. Ahmed Essop all the best for his future endeavours and he will be missed.

Mr Ahmed Essop 

Appointment of New Council Members

The Minister of Higher Education and Training appointed the following members to the CHE Council in December 2014. The Council is chaired by Prof. Themba Mosia.
  • Prof S Motala
  • Prof Beverly Thaver
  • Prof S Ripinga
  • Mr Luzuko Buku
  • Prof Mala Singh
  • Dr Bandile Masuku
  • Dr Mvuyo Tom
  • Dr Pamela Maseko
  • Dr Kimberly Porteus
  • Ms Nombulelo Nxesi
  • Prof Andre Keet
  • Prof Christiaan de Beer
  • Mr Casper Kruger


The newly elected CHE Council

VITALSTATS – why the numbers matter...

VitalStats 2012 was released in February 2015 and included more detailed cohort data (also at postgraduate level) and financial information on the sector. As in previous editions, extensive data on student enrolments and completions (by field and institutional type) and academic staffing is provided. The VitalStats series has been well received in the sector and is highlighting issues which need further analysis and study.

One of the issues highlighted by the cohort data is the need for steps to ensure better student throughput. Figure 124 in VitalStats2012 shows that, despite interventions to provide students with more support, too many students are still not completing their qualifications.

One factor that influences success is funding and a new project of the Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate aims to better understand current financial support for students. The 20-year review of higher education (due for release later this year) has a chapter detailing financial pressures in the system.  
The data provided in VitalStats points to various other areas in higher education which need further analysis and research. We hope that individuals and research organisations will make use of the publication and take up these issues. If you would like a copy of the publication, please contact

Thumbs up for the newly integrated directorate of National Standards and Reviews

In January 2015, the Directorate of Standards Development and the National Reviews Directorate merged to form a new Directorate - National Standards and Reviews
The Directorate of National Reviews was established and was active well before the commencement of a Directorate of Standards Development in 2011. During the period of drafting of a Framework for Standards Development and the introduction of a pilot study, the separation of the two directorates made good sense. However, current conditions suggested that not only was the integration of the two units feasible, but also desirable.
Mrs. Olivia Mogatle was appointed as the Director – National Reviews and Standards on the 1st of January 2015.
Mrs Olivia Mogatle 

According to her, excellence is reflected in ever improving quality and the main aims of the Directorate include the following:

  • Closer integration of the allied functions: standards and national reviews;
  • Emphasis on a threshold standard developed by and agreed on in advance by academic experts in the field and associated bodies, including the HEIs offering relevant programmes;
  • Emphasis on the national status and quality of a qualification and the programmes leading to it;
  • Promotion and enhancement of graduate attributes in the reviewed programmes and qualifications; and
  • Greater emphasis on the developmental role of national reviews, including the identification and propagation of above-threshold practice.

The integrated Directorate of National Standards and Reviews is in a far better position to deal with the context of change in standards development and national reviews which will be driven by multiple interactions in various networks of stakeholders who hold a variety of interests and values.

Quality enhancement project (QEP)

Participants at the QEP Institutional Workshop from 16-18 March at the Protea Marine Hotel in Port Elizabeth.

The Quality Enhancement Project (QEP) is a five-year project designed to improve student success, which we define as, “enhanced student learning with a view to increasing the number of graduates with attributes that are personally, professionally and socially valuable”. It comprises two phases, each with several focus areas with which all institutions are asked to engage.  For Phase 1, which began in 2014, there are four focus areas: enhancing academics as teachers, enhancing student support and development, enhancing the learning environment and enhancing course and programme enrolment management. In September 2014 public universities submitted baseline information about how they are engaging with the four focus areas, what is successful and not successful and why or why not. A content analysis of successful and unsuccessful activities arising from these submissions has been carried out and will be published in May. In March there were two QEP institutional workshops.  Approximately half of the public HEIs per workshop were represented by four people, one per focus area, to hold in-depth discussions on promising practices and possible solutions to challenges related to improving student success, using the draft content analysis and representatives’ own institutional submissions as starting points.

A parallel process is being run for private HEIs, guided by a working group comprising members of the two private provider networks.  Voluntary on-line baseline submissions were received from nearly 70 institutions. A workshop on focus area 1 was held in October 2014 for participating private HEIs. More workshops are being planned for August 2015.

Summit on African Higher Education, Dakar, Senegal, March 10-12, 2015

The Summit in session

Neo Lekgotla laga Ramoupi in front of the Statues and plaque at the Maison des Esclaves (House of Slaves) Memorial, in Gorée Island, Dakar, Senegal

Dr Neo Lekgotla laga Ramoupi recently attended a three-day Summit on Higher Education in Africa in Senegal, which was the first continental gathering of the sector. The African Union Commission was one of the partners and its Chair, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma gave a keynote address at the opening of the Summit and attended the Summit.

The theme of the Summit was Revitalizing Higher Education for Africa's Future and it focused on the central role higher education should play in Africa's political, social and economic development. Its primary objective was to develop a common vision and an action plan to transform the African higher education sector in the next fifty years – An African Higher Education Agenda 2063.

The Summit provided a strategic platform for stakeholders to engage on policy issues and to share experiences and practical information to drive effective transformation of the African higher education sector. The draft declaration is available at: and comments can be sent to Dr. Omano Edigheji, the Director for the African Higher Education Program at TrustAfrica (

Quality assurance workshop

Participants at the QA Workshop in February in Johannesburg

The first CHE Quality Assurance Workshop brought together over 150 representatives from both public universities and private higher education providers in the form of a 1 ½ day workshop on 16-17 February 2015 in Boksburg. The workshop was focused around the general theme of Quality Assurance, Enhancement and Promotion in Higher Education and addressed various topical issues such as the changing quality assurance environment within the diverse South African higher education context.

Representatives, researchers and practitioners from various universities presented case studies and examples of good practices and made suggestions to address the need for a common understanding of quality assurance and for closer cooperation within the sector. Emphasising the importance of hosting quality assurance workshops, Dr Amani Saidi – Director of Quality Assurance and Promotion Coordination at the CHE said that “the quality assurance workshops serve as a platform for the CHE and its key stakeholders  to engage in current discourses and practices on quality assurance, enhancement and promotion in higher education. In so doing they contribute towards entrenchment and consolidation of a culture of quality in higher education. The networking opportunity that the workshops provide to quality managers and practitioners from different institutions and/or professional councils also cannot be over-emphasised”.

For more information and presentations:
The next Quality Assurance Workshops will take place in September 2015.

Launching the Siyaphumelela initiative

The inaugural Siyaphumelela conference, held in Johannesburg on 14 and 15 May 2015, highlighted the value and importance of good data analytics in the higher education sector. Topics of discussion included the use of data to analyse critical higher education issues such as student throughput and the effectiveness of student support systems. The CHE was represented by Professor Diane Grayson, Michael Gordon and Ntokozo Bhengu.

The conference was attended by higher education senior managers, particularly institutional researchers. Although not many students attended, an effort was made to include their views through social media. One of the big debates was around how universities should be creating opportunities for students to succeed and graduate in regulation-time and, therefore, the need for deliberate interventions by universities to support student success. A few speakers from American universities shared their experiences, which were surprisingly similar to ours, and explained how data analytics was being used to assist their students. 

The conference was useful in encouraging the use of data as the basis for decision making and in developing a common understanding of terminology. The important role data analysis can play in developing the sector was highlighted, and the Siyaphumelela initiative is sure to have a positive impact on those universities that are part of the project. To find out more about Siyaphumelela see:

CHE/HELTASA national teaching excellence awards

The Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa (HELTASA) in collaboration with the Council on Higher Education (CHE) issued its 2015 call for applications to universities in March 2015 to nominate candidates for the annual National Excellence in Teaching and Learning Awards for 2015. The aims of the awards are to show support at a national level for excellence in teaching and learning in higher education and to generate debate and public awareness about what constitutes teaching excellence. Lecturers and academic development professionals at all South African public higher education institutions are invited to apply for one of the following award categories: Leader in the field of learning and teaching; excellent teacher/ teaching team; and teacher/ teaching teams that are excelling in challenging contexts.

The due date for all applications is 30 June 2015. Shortlisted candidates will be informed of the outcome by 22 August 2015. The awards will be handed out at the HELTASA annual conference, which will take place from 18 to 20 November 2015 at North West University.

For more information:

Introducing Faculty Reviews at the University of Johannesburg

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) introduced faculty reviews in 2012. Faculty reviews are defined as benchmarking exercises to determine the national and international stature of the individual faculties with reference to the sustained excellence of their academic programmes, and their research output and leadership in accordance with the UJ Strategic Plan.  The following principles guided the process:

  1. Faculty reviews are developmental and forward-looking: faculties address the achievement of the objectives in their current situation, but also provide their strategies, plans, etc. for achieving UJ targets by 2025.
  2. The process is transparent and conducted in a spirit of honest self-reflection to improve and develop.  
  3. Faculties develop evidence-based faculty reports in which a self-reflection is presented in terms of the strategic objectives.
  4. An external panel of experts reviews the faculty reports and evidence to assess the national and international stature of the faculties.    

The external review panel consists of four eminent scholars or accomplished administrators (e.g. deans/ex-deans), i.e. two from SA universities and two from international universities. A fifth member (e.g. from an African university) may be included if well motivated by the faculty. One of these panel members will act as chairperson, while a report writer is provided by the Unit for Quality Promotion. The review process is steered by the Faculty Review Management Committee that reports to the Management Executive Committee. (For further information, contact the Unit for Quality Promotion, UJ.)

Promotion of Undergraduate Research at UCT

The University of Cape Town has recently introduced the promotion of an annual Good Practice Theme as part of its quality assurance initiatives within the institution.  The university’s Quality Assurance Committee was in support of the proposal to use the concept of themes to address areas of strategic importance to the institution that are considered in need of strengthening.  It is hoped that by focusing on a different theme each year, we can identify and share examples of good practice within the University in a manner that will enhance services and practices in the University as a whole.  In 2013 the pilot theme, the “Undergraduate Research Experience”, was launched.  Faculty Deans were requested to identify examples of good practice in their faculties using criteria approved by the Quality Assurance Committee.  These were incorporated into the Annual Teaching and Learning Report and showcase on a Good Practice website, launched at a symposium early in 2014.  Of the six portraits of practice, three cases were identified and presented collaboratively by academics and students.  A summary of one of the cases follows. 

Undergraduate Research in Economics
Associate Professor Beatrice Conradie, in the School of Economics, motivated that incorporating research into her third-year course was one way of equipping students to work either as researchers or business analysts, but also believes that research-based teaching has the potential to deliver far broader range of desirable graduate attributes than job readiness alone.  In her course on Resource Economics, students are paired with co-authors of their choice.  Co-authors draw on their own experiences and networks as they formulate research questions within the fields of environmental and resource economics.  A/Prof Conradie works closely with students, guiding them carefully along the path of research.  Consultation is supplemented by taught research and writing input, and scaffolded by the university’s library Writing Centre.  It is felt that the main innovation of this approach, is that students are engaging in research at undergraduate level at all and on a number of occasions has led to publication.  

One student had this to say about the course, “[this] is the first economics course of seven I have taken at UCT which explores the application of a range of economic theory in real life scenarios in both the local and international context.  Establishing this link between theory and practice has been incredibly challenging, and has vastly improved my understanding of the mechanics of economics.”

After the presentations, staff and students were invited to participate in a discussion on ways of embedding the theme within existing structures and practices in the institution.   A task team consisting of representatives from the Library, the Research Office, the Centre for Higher Education Development, the Institutional Planning Department and faculties, chaired by the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, was mandated to draw up a plan for implementing the ideas.
A number of initiatives have been embedded into mainstreamed activities at UCT.  The Library has undertaken to organise exhibitions on undergraduate research, the Research Office has offered to create awareness of the value of undergraduate research in its newsletters and an e-journal is being set up as a mechanism to promote excellent research undertaken by undergraduate students. 

UCT staff and students participating in a discussion on ways of embedding the theme within existing structures and practices.

The e-journal will be launched early in April 2015.  The theme for 2015 will focus on promotion of the tutorial system with an emphasis on training and development of tutors. For more on this and other good practice stories on Undergraduate Research, please visit

University of Johannesburg quality conference 2015

The Unit for Quality Promotion (UQP) at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) is hosting a quality conference from 10 – 12 June 2015. Keeping in line with the CHE second round of institutional reviews, the theme is Quality Enhancement of Learning.

The conference takes the format of presentations, an interactive workshop and case studies. Keynote speakers include: Prof Vidar Gynnild from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology who will present on quality enhancement of learning. He will also facilitate the workshop; Prof Diane Grayson from the Council on Higher Education who is presenting feedback on the South African Quality Enhancement Project, and Dr Caroline Selepe from the Tshwane University of Technology who will deal with the 21st century student and the ways in which this new generation learns.
More information and registration for the conference can be accessed via the UQP website.

For queries please contact Ms Dragana Weistra on

9th Annual UKZN teaching & learning conference

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) hosts the 9th Annual UKZN Teaching & Learning Conference on 21-23 September 2015 at the Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani Conference Centre in Durban, South Africa. This international gathering of academics and researchers showcases innovations, generates debate, theorises policy and practice, and explores opportunities and challenges associated with teaching and learning in Higher Education. The conference also serves as a platform for disseminating higher education and institutional research findings. In 2015, the conference theme, “Re-Imagining Higher Education Policy Implementation: Can Policy Learn from Practice? Complexities, Challenges and Possibilities,” aims to steer the teaching & learning discourse beyond conventional conception of policy towards reimagining possibilities for policy implementation derived from delegates practical experiences.

For more information on the conference, abstract submissions and conference registration, please visit


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