The Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Faculty of Applied Sciences, Executive Dean Professor Suren Singh delivered the faculty’s inaugural State of the Faculty Address on Friday, 02 August 2019 at the Steve Biko Campus. His address reviewed the performance of the Faculty over a period of five years (2014 – 2018).
Prof Singh began his address by giving an in-depth analysis of the then state of affairs when he assumed his responsibility as the Executive Dean of the faculty back in 2014. He highlighted some of the faculty’s challenges which required his immediate attention including teaching and learning, staff qualifications, drop-out rate, graduation rate, research output, postgraduate enrollments and the Faculty’s sustainability.
“Sustainability was a huge thing because this faculty was operating at such a huge loss and nobody wanted to invest in it. We were called the house of negatives literally because almost every department was running at a loss. So we asked ourselves how do we get out of this? We had to come up with interventions for sustainability,” he said.
“We started the journey in 2014, essentially what we did five years ago, we went in as a team and we did a lot of strategic planning and team-building – and I was in the face of every department and every staff member. Eventually every department bought in to the principle of being performance driven. We met every year for the past five years, and we took the entire strategic plan and converted it into numbers. We revised it in terms of all the focus areas and reviewed it constantly every year. And our total revenue was over R400 million over the last five years, as of this year our net surplus is R46 million. In order to turn the situation around we needed to have the right team to execute this, but you have to push hard in order to have people operating as a team,” he added.
He applauded the growth in terms of the number of staff with PhDs within the faculty. “When we started five years ago 56% of staff had PhDs and if you look at the growth of that it’s 56% in the last five years. There is no faculty that comes close to this, so this is great,” said Prof Singh.
Prof Singh also touched on their extensive faculty awareness drive which has yielded tangible returns in the form of improved enrollment numbers. “When finance looks at you they look at enrollment numbers because that is your revenue. Right now we are looking at around 3000 in terms of enrollments. We have grown in leaps and bounds over the last five years,” he said.
Prof Singh said the drop in postgraduate enrollments and the increase in postgraduate drop-outs is worrisome for the faculty, and added that going forward they have introduced a tracking system which will assist them to curb this trend.
He also touched on some of the key interventions required in order to steer the faculty towards achieving its vision. “Are we driving a team mentality within the faculty especially in departments? Are we doing enough especially through my office, in terms staff transformation agenda? There is also the simple P transformation, which I call PhD versus Professor versus Productivity, how do we change that, how do we entrench performance in the faculty through all of this? Are we doing enough as Applied Sciences Faculty in terms of innovation across the faculty? Those are the key elements we need to assess and change,” he stressed.
Faculty of Applied Sciences, Deputy Dean Professor Tukayi Kudanga presented the Faculty’s Teaching and Learning Awards, which were awarded to a representative from each of the Faculty’s programmes. While Prof Singh presented the Faculty’s Research Awards which we awarded to three Professors which the faculty that were promoted.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, Professor Nomthandazo Gwele congratulated the Faculty of Applied Sciences for its remarkable improvement and growth. She also commended the faculty Executive Dean for his commendable leadership.
The Faculty of Applied Sciences is the first faculty within DUT to host the State of the Faculty Address – this follows the inaugural State of the University Address which was delivered by the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu earlier this year.
Pictured: Prof Suren Singh