The Durban University of Technology (DUT) held its Siyaphumelela 2.0 launch via MS Teams last Friday, 11 September 2020. The aim of the event was to showcase more on the university’s plan to support the undergraduate success over the next three years, as DUT is the recipient of the Kresge Foundation Grant towards improving student success.
Opening the live webinar was Director Institutional Planning: Nicky Muller, who indicated that she had assisted the project leader (Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning at DUT, Professor Nokuthula Sibiya), in driving the project from 2016 to 2019.
“This event launches the second phase of this project. A first for DUT is that this event is also a milestone in that it is the first live webinar to be streamed via MS Teams, thus showing the university’s technological capabilities and capacities,” she said proudly.
Muller added that DUT is one of the five higher education institutions and the only University of Technology (UoT) to have participated in the Kresge Foundation funded Siyaphumelela project that is focused on student success.
“We saw a 10% increase in the retention of the first-time entrance undergraduate students. This moved from 78% in 2016 to 88% in 2019. We also saw a 4% improvement in the success rate of first-time entrants in undergraduate students and this moved from 83% in 2016 to 88% in 2019. We also saw an improved cohort throughput rate in a minimum time for our three-year graduate programmes that shifted from 33 % to 37% in 2019. Other than the success rates we also attended to the data landscape of the university and in this instance we seeing the roll-out of AutoScholar which is DUT’s student tracking system for identifying at risk students. We saw the implementation of the university’s data warehouse which is built on the PowerHEDA platform. We hosted the first DUT Data Day and showcased evidence-based decision-making projects at the university, as well as the emergence of the university’s new framework,” she stressed.
Muller said that there is still much work to be done but the launch provided an opportunity for the plans for the university to be shared with the DUT community.
Officially launching the Siyaphumelela 2.0 project was DUT’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Thandwa Mthembu, who revealed that DUT has over the past four years been a beneficiary of the Kresge Foundation’s grant to five South African universities; to focus on the use of analytical data and analytics to improve student success.
He said that these focuses included decreasing success gaps and focus areas along race and gender as well as improving performance of gateway models.
“DUT’s specific aims were to improve the data landscape at the university and we have already heard the brief introduction of some of our achievements. Recently, the Kresge Foundation has decided to continue its support of the student success project, the only one of its kind that it funds outside of the USA. Our successful involvement in the past project not only garnered our sub-bonus grant of 100 000 US dollars but also led to a successful submission into the next phase known as Siyaphumelela 2.0, another 100 000 US dollars per year for the next three years.
Suffice to say, this is a project that is strategically embedded within our project Envision 2030. Importantly, this project seems to break down operational silos and assist us deliberately to work across all our operational silos with a mantra that students’ success is everybody’s responsibility.
As the project sponsor, I am happy to delegate to our Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning at DUT, Professor Nokuthula Sibiya, who will lead the core team that has strategic and operational oversight of the various project components,” he said.
Prof Mthembu also named the other team members who are the Director Institutional Planning: Nicky Muller, CELT Director: Professor Thengani Ngwenya, Dean of Students: Dr Maditsane Nkonoane, Siyaphumelela Institutional Researcher DUT Institutional Planning: Dr Koo Parker, Siyaphumelela Data and Training Officer: Planning-Ashton Maherry and Director of ITSS: Mr Eldridge van der Westhuizen. He said the continued support from the Kresge Foundation is an expression of confidence in DUT’s values and principles embellished in the institutions Envision 2030.
“Since this partnership began, we put sound systems and processes in place to ensure that resources received are used transparently and honestly for what they are meant, in an accountable manner too. The launch of Siyaphumelela 2.0 coincides with what I believe is the culture of great performance taking route at DUT,” he said.
Prof Mthembu thanked all those who made the launch possible, and especially expressed gratitude to the Kresge Foundation for its continued support in transformational engagement, not only for DUT but the entire higher education sector.
Managing Director for The Kresge Foundation’s Education Programme, Bill Moses, gave an overview of the foundation which supports postsecondary access and success for low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students.
He stressed that together with DUT he hopes to see expanded use of evidence-based outcomes and data analytics to support student success.
“We initially joined DUT to support the Siyaphumelela project because of the previous leadership Prof Ahmed Bawa. We now see Prof Mthembu expand and build on DUT’s commitment, and over the years we have been excited with DUT’s data collection and data analytic capacity. DUT has developed a strong partnership with the non-profit organisation promoting student success, achieving their dream to develop a South African model for holistic student success. DUT has identified several critical services in an intentional, innovative way. Building this comprehensive approach has helped to make DUT one of the student success leaders. DUT was elected to serve in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) region for its long record of leadership. We will also provide technical network to all Siyaphumelela network institutions,” he said.
Prof Sibiya gave an overview of the project, explaining more on the student success challenges, the different levels preparedness of students to become adaptive graduates and creating a lived values data culture.
Dr Nkonoane spoke on the project called Sikusekele (We got you), with a vision to integrate and transform student support systems and services to holistically enable student success.
Prof Ngwenya gave an outline of tackling preparedness of students from an inadequate secondary school system to become adaptive graduates.
Prof Makhondo spoke on exploring ways of empowering learners by developing their individual strength and enabling learners to participate critically, effectively and freely in the process of learning.
Chitanand looked at the lived values approach with the focus on the African philosophical approach of Ubuntu.
Maherry spoke more on the evidence-based institutional cultural change, and Dr Parker highlighted more on the DUT Data days which takes place from 2 to 6 November 2020.
Muller closed the webinar, giving thanks to everyone who contributed to making the launch a success. She thanked all the speakers and the Kresge Foundation for their work and contribution on its focus for improving student success in higher education in South Africa and the obvious benefits it has for DUT.
Pictured: Siyaphumelela 2.0 team member, Ashton Maherry.