The Durban University of Technology (DUT) plans to roll-out major upscaling projects of the University’s infrastructure and human capital.
This was revealed by the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu when he delivered his maiden State of the University Address at DUT’s Fred Crookes Sports Centre, Steve Biko Campus in Durban on Wednesday, 27 February 2019.
In his comprehensive and assured address to staff, students and University stakeholders, Prof Mthembu said DUT management and Council are committed to upscaling the University’s infrastructure and transform the look and feel of DUT beyond current imagination. “Historically allocation to capital expenditure, maintenance and broader infrastructure at DUT had been embarrassingly unsustainable. For example, in 2017 our allocation to these was a paltry R76.5 million, a paltry amount for a University our size,” he said.
“As of 2019, allocation to these – that is capital expenditure, maintenance and broader infrastructure has increased by 320% to about R246 million. In addition to this large increased allocation, a total of R420 million has been allocated over the next three years to new buildings as part of DHET’s Infrastructure and Efficiency Grant. The construction of two new buildings in both Pietermaritzburg and Durban will start in April 2019. In addition to this amount, there is about R125 million from the 2015, 2016 to 2017/18 DHET Infrastructure and Efficiency Grant that will also be implemented increasing the total amount for infrastructure over the next years to about R545 million. At Council’s insistence in June 2018 for us to leverage our balance sheet, management is preparing proposals for more infrastructure development, thus over the next three years DUT is likely to see over R1 Billion of infrastructure development and upscaling,” added Prof Mthembu.
He highlighted that in order for the University to achieve all its expansive plans, it has adopted a Strategic Financial Management approach as opposed to the Operational Financial Management outlook. “Strategic Financial Management as opposed to Operational Financial Management has improved greatly since 2017. In 2017 with Council’s approval, we introduced several financial ratios that assist us in assessing the prudence and equity of our allocations to various strategic line items like salaries, capital expenditure, maintenance and broader infrastructure. In addition, the Council also approved six financial sustainability principles that form the bases for allocations to salary expenditure which at almost 70% in 2016 and 2017 had become unsustainable. As of the 2018 and 2019 budget and plans to increase our block grant by government, we have been able to reduce the unsustainable 70% salary allocation to just 62% of our block grant and tuition fees, which constitutes our operational income,” explained Prof Mthembu.
Prof Mthembu also outlined the plan to address the historic challenge of staff to student ratio at DUT. “Between 2009 and 2017, DUT was only able to establish 20 academic posts, increasing this component by 3,5% over a nine-year period. Meanwhile, during the same period 2009 and 2017 head count student numbers had increased by a whopping 24%. Between just 2018 and 2019, we have been able to increase the number of academic staff by 82 posts, which is a 14% increase over a two-year period, compared to the 3.5% over the previous nine-year period. By 2025 we plan to reduce our staff to student ratio substantially to one staff member to 25 students. As some of our students especially within Management Sciences have ratios of one is to 50,” he said.
He also touched on the recent unfortunate incidents that befell the University in the past couple of weeks. “Council at its next meeting in about three weeks’ time, will consider further steps that should be taken in order to understand much deeper all issues related to that fateful day. Such further steps will help the University to devise efficient strategies on how best to handle protests on our campuses,” he said.
Pictured: DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu delivering his maiden State of the University Address.