Review, reflect, move onward

Annette Willemse -- Mon, 06/22/2015 - 08:58

Review, reflect, move onward

The staff of the Vaal Triangle Campus of the North-West University (NWU Vaal) recently came together to reflect on the achievements and challenges of the first six months of the academic year. 

During the rector’s mid-year staff get-together – held at the Quest Conference Estate in Vanderbijlpark, Prof Thanyani Mariba shared some of the highlights of the year thus far and by doing so, thanked all staff members for their contributions towards these achievements. “As a campus we dubbed 2015 as a year of impact - and believe me, we have made our impact felt!” he said. In his address, the rector focused on the campus’s five strategic imperatives for the year, namely: equity of access equals equity of success; research; relevance; community engagement; and student experience.

Academic and support staff attended the event Prof Thanyani Mariba

Herewith some of the successes that were highlighted:

Extended degree programmes

The introduction of a series of extended degree programmes - within the Faculty of Economic Sciences and Information Technology, in 2010 are proving to contribute “significantly” towards the growth in student numbers. According to the rector, these programmes not only increase access to higher education but also offers a viable solution to South Africa’s so-called scarce skills shortages. The extended degree programmes are offered in Accounting Sciences, Economic Sciences and Information Technology. When the programmes were first introduced a total of 248 students were enrolled and in 2015 this number has increased to 1 241.

Academic support

The rector also lauded the Academic Development and Support Department (ADS) for the important role it plays in supporting students in their academic endevours. The department recently piloted a tutoring programme in which tutors assist students individually or in groups during lecture time or out of class. When a lecturer identifies a problem area with regard to a specific module, a tutor will address the matter in a structured session. These sessions can be compulsory for an entire class, a small group of pre-identified students or individual students. Peer mentoring is also currently implemented within the first year student fraternity.

International collaborations

The OPTENTIA research focus area is currently offering a cooperative degree together with the Katolieke Universiteit Leuven whilst memorandums of understanding were also formalized between the research focus area and the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the Oxford Institute of Ageing.  In terms of expertise, OPTENTIA will be appointing two extra-ordinary professors, namely Prof Bruce Thyer and Prof Andries Baart.

The UPSET research focus area – within the School of Languages recently hosted a group of students from the Potsdam University in Germany to discuss multilingualism while a student from Utrect University – Floor Kolsteeg, is currently completing her internship in intercultural communication with Prof Susan Coetzee-van Rooy. In August, a deligation from Chemnitz University in Germany will be visiting UPSET to offer advanced training in statistics for linguistics.


The Department of Arts and Culture has sponsored a three year project between the MUST (Multilingual Speech Technology) research focus area and the Parliamentary Reporting Unit. The Reporting Unit creates manual transcriptions of all debates in the National Assembly, the National Council of Provinces and extended public committee sittings. The project entails the development of a web-based platform that will enable users to easily and quickly transform speech in the South African language to text. Ultimately the platform will improve the accuracy and efficiency of the transcription process. MUST is situated within the Faculty of Economic Sciences and Information Technology.

Two researchers from the School of Educational Sciences – Prof Mary Grosser and Dr Magda Kloppers were recently invited by Umalusi (Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training) to take part in a discussion to establish a holistic framework that will develop and improve standards for Consumer Studies, Hospitality Studies and Tourism.

The way forward

In closing, Prof Thanyani Mariba had the following to say: “Going forward, remind yourself of all the things you have done so far – achievements, projects, personal growth, and ups and downs you had to endure. Now step back and view these achievements as individual bricks that is being used to build a better you; a better profession; a better researchers; a better support staff member… and ultimately a better university.”