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University leaders celebrate success of 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.”

Programme implementation

The first phase of the KIAI programme was implemented between 2006 and 2010. It enabled the University of the Witwatersrand, University of the Western Cape, University of Pretoria, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trust to increase their private fundraising revenue threefold.

A second group signed agreements in December 2012 for a five-year intervention, the Kresge-Inyathelo Advancement Initiative. This cohort comprised the Durban University of Technology (DUT), Tshwane University of Technology, University of Johannesburg and the University of the Free State.

Kresge allocated each university an initial grant of $160 000. For the next five years, it awarded an annual performance-based bonus grant when particular milestones were achieved. The programme was underpinned by Advancement staff training and development, undertaken by Inyathelo, which included mentoring, leadership retreats, workshops and conferences.

Better-known in America, Advancement covers elements such as governance, leadership, relationship-building and financial management. It encourages organisations to work in a holistic, integrated way to attract resources for long-term sustainability.

Programme benefits

Several universities now have Advancement offices with well-trained staff, extensive alumni databases, and platforms for philanthropists, companies and alumni to support bursaries and flagship projects. Many students who would otherwise not have enjoyed higher education have been able to attend university. World-class research has been undertaken and student facilities improved.

Inyathelo has also partnered with the Rhodes University Business School to develop an Advancement training course for university and non-profit organisation staff. To date around 95 people have participated. There is also a comprehensive Annual Survey of Philanthropy in Higher Education (ASPIHE).

Moses said that while Kresge’s direct support of Advancement training and skills had been completed, the Foundation remained supportive of South African higher education. Ms Mohamed said delegates to the leadership retreat would discuss how to ensure continued sustainability and transformation.

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