Vice-Chancellors, philanthropists and business leaders from across South Africa are getting together to talk about how they can strengthen our universities and produce the graduates and research needed to drive the country’s development. It's the first time ever that such a group will gather in a structured forum to try and resolve some of the current challenges facing higher education. Recent research shows that only 13% of young people gain access to university, and less than half of those that enrol ever graduate. The graduation rates of black students remain substantially lower than those of their white counterparts, with only 10% gaining access to university and less than 5% succeeding in getting a degree.
The leadership retreat, hosted by Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement, will take place in Cape Town in early November and will be attended by the country’s Vice-Chancellors, leading business representatives and members of the Private Philanthropy Circle that has a combined annual grant-making spend of over R1 billion.
Inyathelo Executive Director Shelagh Gastrow says it is in everyone’s interests to ensure that our universities have sufficient resources. “Investment in higher education pays off. It not only benefits the individual in the form of improved job prospects and income; but it also has significant benefits for our society as a whole in the form of higher economic growth and employment rates, lower levels of corruption, as well as improvements in the general health and well-being of the population. Our universities need the support of private money if they are going to continue to function as the engines that fuel research, innovation and economic growth,” insists Gastrow.
Discussions at the retreat will be facilitated by the well-known social and political commentator Eusebius McKaiser and key speakers include the CEO of FirstRand Limited, Sizwe Nxasana, Vice Chancellor of Wits, Professor Adam Habib and Professor Jonathan Jansen, Vice Chancellor of the University of the Free State.
Inyathelo Programme Coordinator Riedwaan Baboo says the retreat is part of a multi-million rand programme funded by the US-based Kresge Foundation to bolster private fundraising in higher education and improve student access and graduation rates. “We are working with Kresge to help ensure the long-term financial sustainability of higher education institutions in South Africa. We believe university-level education is crucial to the health of our economy and our democracy but declining government support and increased competition over ever-shrinking traditional sources of income, is making it hard for them to thrive. We also need to do far more to strengthen pathways to and through universities, especially for students who are often unprepared for university study,” insists Baboo.