Higher Education Watch

In this new section, we aim to keep you up to date with developments in the sector.  Many AD practitioners are not aware of developments at a national level even though these might affect them and the work they are trying to do.

HELTASA recognizes this and, with this new section, aims to inform its members of developments in order to open up discussions about ways in which we can all draw on them to further our work.

This month, there are a couple of developments worth looking at.


Monitoring and Evaluation of University Capacity Development Grants

This year, universities have received a University Capacity Development Grant (UCDG) for the first time. The UCDG replaces the old Teaching Development Grant and Research Development Grant by bringing together funding for projects and activities that address student development, staff development and programme development.  The idea is that the UCDGs will provide the resources for the development our higher education sector so badly needs by ‘earmarking’ the funding provided and making it impossible for it to be diverted to other uses.

Universities submitted proposals for the use of UCDG funding at the end of 2017. One big change in the introduction of the UCDGs was the funding period. In the past, DHET funding has been for financial years which means that people working with grants had to fit all activities into the period from 1 March in one year to 28 February in the next. Managing activities spanning two academic years was not always easy. As a result of feedback, the DHET has now shifted to providing funding in relation to academic years. This means that funding now runs from January to December with reporting on the previous year called for early the next.

UCDGs are given to universities for three-year funding cycles. The current cycle is for 2018, 2019 & 2020.  Your university is thus approaching the end of the first year of funding.

Another big change in relation to the grants relates to monitoring and evaluation. For the cycle of funding running from January 2018 to December 202, the DHET has brought in Prof Johann Mouton of the University of Stellenbosch to assist with the development of capacity to monitor and evaluate the use of the grants.  Grant managers and others are now being trained to describe their projects and activities in ways which will allow outputs and outcomes to be measured and evaluated very carefully.

All this may mean that UCDG funded projects on which HELTASA members are currently working are adjusted to allow for monitoring and evaluation.  This is unlikely to result in big changes to the projects and activities. However, there will be changes and practitioners need to be aware of the indicators against which the success of the project will be measured. Identifying and understanding what exactly we are targeting and the indicators which will show that we are meeting those targets will allow for work to be more directed and focused.  

South African Academic Development has been subject to the vagaries of soft funding since it began in the 1980s.  The ability to show the impact of our work affects future funding and, often, the employment prospects of practitioners.  This work on monitoring and evaluation thus has potentially important implications for our current work and on prospects for the future.

Your university will be involved in the monitoring and evaluation workshops.  It is well worth speaking to those managing the UCDG at your institution to see how the projects and activities on which you are working may be re-described and, even more importantly, what indicators have been developed to measure impact.

One last thought on the UCDGs.  Do you know how much your university gets as a UCDG?  The Ministerial Statement published at the end of each year provides details.  If you want to know how much your university has been awarded for the three-year cycle 2018 – 2020, you can find it here

A table showing how much each university received as a UCDG can be found on page 21.  Ministerial Funding Statements make fascinating reading – don’t miss out!


National Qualifications Framework Amendment Bill

Do you know that an amendment to the National Qualifications Framework Act is now out for public comment? The closing date for public submission is 28th August.

Find more information here.

As practitioners in a field which is central to the development of the higher education sector, we need to be involved in commenting as new policies are introduced or existing policies are amended.