Institutional Transformation Plan delivers a new dispensation and approach to community service

In January 2017, the newly appointed Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen, introduced an Institutional Transformation Plan (ITP), which is a participatory planning process of rethinking every aspect of the university. This included the relooking and rethinking of teaching and learning, research, and community engagement. As a result of this process, a new strategic plan was also compiled.

The ITP was driven by inclusive work streams – staff, students, and other relevant role players facilitated and coordinated the work done in all streams. The work of the work streams has been informed by the understanding that universities are complex organisations which require the management of people, processes, physical resources, and finances in such a way that they can deliver on their specific purpose. In some cases, work streams were sufficiently complex that they had to be split later on. In other cases, it transpired that the work streams were working on activities that were related and could ultimately be merged. In the end, ten work streams were chosen. These can be grouped into three broad areas, namely the core university functions, university culture, and structural and operational issues that underpin the existence of the university.

Figure 1: The ten work streams
Core Functions  1 Teaching and Learning
 2 Research, Internationalisation, and Innovation
 3 Engaged Scholarship
University Culture 4 Student Experience
 5 Staff Experience and Composition
 6 Names, Symbols, and Spaces
 7 Universal Access
Structural Issues 8 Financial Framework (Size and Shape)
 9 Governance, Systems, Policy, and Administration 
 10 Multi-campus Model

According to the UFS Strategic Plan 2018-2022, the university supports development and social justice through engaged scholarship. This is further articulated through the Integrated Transformation Plan (ITP) 2018-2022, which envisions engaged scholarship as a core function among teaching-learning and research, innovation, and internationalisation.

Mission of Higher Education Institutions

National policy directives inform our engaged scholarship strategy. The following policies inform our understanding and approach to engaged scholarship:

  • The White Paper (1997) reaffirms the purpose of higher education concerning social responsibility and articulated one of the system-level goals at national level:
    - “To promote and develop social responsibility and awareness among students of the role of higher education in social and economic development through community service programmed [sic]” (1997: 10).
    - “To demonstrate social responsibility of institutions and their commitment to the common good by making available expertise and infrastructure for community service programmed [sic]” (1997: 11).

  • The White Paper on Post-School Education and Training, 2013:
    - The post-school education and training system is a centrally crucial institutional mechanism established by society and must be responsive to its needs.

The engaged scholarship strategy takes into account the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Sustainable Development Goals 2030, African Union (AU) Agenda 2063, National Development Plan 2030, and National Education Plan, which emphasises the centrality of social justice as a crucial catalyst for the transformation of higher education.

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