University leaders celebrate US$22,4 million capacity building programme

Local and international leaders in Higher Education are marking the completion of a 13-year, US$22,4 million capacity-building programme that has boosted the sustainability of many South African universities and contributed to new university infrastructure, staff, student and research funding, and bursaries.

The programme has been funded by American philanthropic foundation The Kresge Foundation, and coordinated by local non-profit trust Inyathelo ‒ The South African Institute for Advancement. This is the only international programme to have been supported by Kresge, which has US$3.8 billion in assets.

Kresge has made grants totalling at least $17,9million since December 2005 to December 2018 to support the development of advancement in South Africa, says Bill Moses, managing director of The Kresge Foundation's Education Programme. Kresge also buttressed the core advancement work with an additional $4,5 million in grants for capital projects during this initiative, bringing the total to over $22,4 million.

Some 65 higher education leaders are now meeting in Cape Town (21-23 January) to reflect on the programme and discuss the next stage of university sustainability and transformation. The programme has to date impacted on a third of South African higher education institutions.

Moses said at the retreat dinner (Cape Town, 21 January): “We wanted to test if South African universities could raise funds strategically, ethically and effectively to maintain the margin of excellence and to support research, bursaries and capital needs as the sector expanded dramatically.

“We simply could not be happier with the outcomes of the dozen years we have supported this work, which is an unusually long commitment by a foundation to a sector and project.”

Successes related to the programme include Wits University receiving a R100million individual gift in 2014, and a vigorous University of the Western Cape fund-raising campaign that culminated in a R550 million Life Sciences complex opened in 2011.

The keynote speech at the dinner was delivered by Dr Dianne Parker, Deputy Director-General: University Education. Dr Parker spoke on behalf of Minister of Education and Training, Naledi Pandor, who supported the Kresge-Inyathelo programme at its inception, “Government recognises that it is working with multiple partners and their contribution is very much valued. It is particularly rewarding when these partnerships stand the test of time. I want to express our real appreciation to Kresge and to Inyathelo in terms of the work that’s been done,” said Dr Parker.

“Partnerships that build the capacity of our universities to raise funds are very important. In 2016 funds available to universities stood at around R70billion. Of that 39,2% came from government, 32,3% from student fees, and 28,4% was third stream income – often from government, as well as from various other donors. In this last area, we need universities to grow their ability and capacity to attract funding.

“We have to find a way forward in terms of building on this solid foundation that can be extended to all our universities and ensure that we develop a really professional base of advancement skills.”

Inyathelo Executive Director Nazeema Mohamed said: “Higher education institutions are operating in a time of austerity, uncertainty and change. But thanks to the long-term support of the Kresge Foundation, universities are far better equipped to weather the storm. Education transforms lives and underpins democracy.”