NMMU gets R17 million grant to develop senior varsity administrators

OCTOBER 2, 2015

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) has put up its hand in developing solutions in building much-needed capacity and competencies among professional management support staff in the Higher Education sector.

Buoyed by a R17 million teaching development grant from the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), the Port Elizabeth university will lead the process when it comes to transforming the role of capacity development among senior professional, administrative, management and support staff within the sector.

Initially, a DBA (Higher Education Management) will be offered by University of Bath in the United Kingdom, followed by the prototype development and offering of a Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education (Management) from 2019 spearheaded by NMMU with the assistance of a steering committee drawn from collaborating South African universities. 

The initial development grant will be followed by a further R17m in support of what is expected to mirror DHET’s successful implementation of plans to grow the next generation of academics, via the nGAP programme.

“The new programme aims to provide opportunities for senior professional, administrative and management staff to enhance their management, leadership, governance and technical abilities to offer the expertise needed for effective, transformed, modern universities in a dynamic national and global context,” says NMMU Dean of Teaching and Learning Prof Cheryl Foxcroft.

The University of Bath already offers an internationally recognised Doctorate in Business Administration (Higher Education Management) that uses a blended mode of delivery, using contact and online learning, as well as a research thesis. Rather than develop a programme from scratch, the DHET and NMMU opted to learn from its British colleagues and give candidates from all the South African universities the opportunity to benefit from leaders in the field.

It is envisaged that two cohorts of students from all South Africa’s universities and the DHET will benefit from the Collaborative Teaching Development grant funding, with the first group starting their DBA studies in 2016. Candidates must hold a management position, meet the DBA admission requirements and will be subject to selection.

“The first students will come to NMMU in January for lectures by University of Bath staff. Thereafter, participants will travel to Bath during the first two years of the programme for further face-to-face contact sessions,” said Prof Foxcroft, who developed the grant proposal that resulted in NMMU being awarded the funding from the DHET to take responsibility for the overall management of the project.

Prof Foxcroft said there was a “dire need” to enhance both capacity and competencies for current higher education managers “to lay the foundation for developing the next generation of professional and administrative leaders in higher education”.

She said globalisation processes, the many changes within the South African higher education system, the high turn-over of experienced senior university leaders and the need to transform the staff complement to better reflect the demographics of the country were among the many reasons for investing in such a capacity development programme.

NMMU is actively involved in a number of transformation processes, and the development of a postgraduate qualification in higher education management will be another move by the University to make a difference within the sector.

Prof Foxcroft explained that the proposed diploma would be developed in conjunction with existing expertise among the participating universities to shape a qualification that can be offered via face-to-face, blended and fully online formats.

“We are hopeful that our first students will act as catalysts in their institutions to enhance management efficiency and effectiveness. Their expertise can also contribute to the development of a South African DBA in Higher Education management in the future.”