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The Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) five-day virtual Data Day (D3) which discussed the importance of data, data infrastructure and inspiring change makers for a better society, concluded last Friday, 6 November 2020. 

Data presentations and discussions presented were all aligned to the four perspectives of DUT’s strategic plan, namely Stewardship, Systems and Processes, Sustainability and Society. 

On the final day of the online event a panel discussion was held by DUT senior executives on their evidence-led management practices. The panel included Professor Nokuthula Sibiya: Deputy-Vice Chancellor of Teaching and Learning, Deputy Vice -Chancellor: People and Operations, Dr Isaac Machi, DUT’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement, Professor Sibusiso Moyo, Ms Nthanyiseni Dhumazi (Chief Financial Officer), Dr Joe Molete, (Director of the Midlands Campuses) and Dr Thiru Pillay, (Registrar). 

The panelists shared their ideas and activities on data and how it can be used to inform decision-making and progress both at DUT and in society at large. The theme of the discussion pertained around ‘Using Data to Transform DUT’ which was facilitated by Nicky Muller, the Director of Institutional Planning. 

Questions posed to the panellists were on data compiling, data infrastructure, the purpose of data in alignment to the university’s strategic planhow data is being used to inform and improve planning, processes and policies within one’s division and how each division is making data-informed decisions in the interests of overall organisational effectiveness, as well as the strategic objectives articulated in Envision 2030.   

Prof Moyo spoke on her research portfolio which has 15 units under her helm. She focused on the roles of certain units, especially with regards to student data. “It’s important that this data is correct because remember when we report annually we have this data audited and when we report, that is the information the department refers to in order to give DUT the allocation of the block grant,” she said. She also spoke on another research unit under her portfolio which is the Knowledge Information Management cluster which includes ITSS. 

“As you know data integrity has become a very important issue so one of the things that they are responsible for is making sure that our platforms is used for information, runs efficiently and we don’t have errors and we also have governance as to who will be able to access the data,” she said.

Prof Moyo also spoke of plans that are in place to improve the digital systems and to further digitise systems and make DUT even more digitally efficient. 

Dr Pillay spoke on the broad areas that fall under the registrar’s ambit. The first being academic administration and all the departments that reside under it, such as timetabling, student administration, student data, student services such as the residences, financial aid, to name a few. He also stressed that the office of the registrar has a very nuance role when it comes to data. 

Dr Molete explained further that he and his team are looking for a platform that will allow multiple teams to login, have different accesses and be cloud based. 

Ms Dhumazi emphasised the reliance of using the data on hand from the university for the usage by the finance department. 

“From Finance we used data from all sources from within the university, like Dr Pillay was talking about student data, and that is what data we use in our processes as well,” she said. 

Dr Machi gave more insight into his division which is people operations, which covers real estate, transport, logistics, human resources and legal risks, to name a few. “The issue of planning is very critical and for that reason data plays a very crucial role when it is used as a tool in terms of when deliverables are achieved in all areas that I have mentioned,” he said.                                                                                      

Prof Sibiya spoke on the academic executive management (AEM), its aims and that it meets monthly to deliberate on data-related information. 

“As you are aware as per expectation of the Envision 2030, divisions must not work in silos, in fact the new strategy enforces us to work as a team, so in order for us to be aligned to the university’s strategy plan, the collaboration with other divisions is vital to compile several data,” she said.

Also, questions on student progress monitoring was also discussed where it was indicated that there should be constant communication with students on their student journey, on their progress and feedback loops. 

Pictured: Panellists in discussion on the last day of the Data Day event.  

Waheeda Peters 

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