UKZN hosted the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business during a Town and Gown breakfast held at the Victoria Country Club as part of its drive to build relationships and initiate conversations with the private sector.

In his keynote address, Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Albert van Jaarsveld spoke about UKZN’s Strategic Plan 2017-2021 which outlines the institutional culture, goals and enablers identified to assist the University realise its full potential and to inspire greatness in everyone it engages with.

Van Jaarsveld said UKZN’s core purpose was to be people-centred and an institution of choice for staff and students, all driven by the value system of Respect, Excellence, Accountability, Client Orientation, Honesty and Trust (REACHt), with zero tolerance for corruption.

Responding, Chief Executive Office of the Chamber Ms Melanie Veness said Pietermaritzburg was an incredible place to live in and raise a family and UKZN was a very important part of the community.

‘The Chamber welcomes the initiative to draw the University closer to the people of Pietermaritzburg, in particular the Chamber.

‘Thank you for the investment you make and thank you for all the people who contribute positively to Pietermaritzburg and believe in our city,’ said Veness.

A question and answer session was held with concerns raised including the recent national Fees Must Fall disruptions, clarity about the accreditation of the Graduate School of Business (GSB), transformation, research funding and the appointment of a Pietermaritzburg campus principal or manager.

In his response, van Jaarsveld highlighted the challenges facing higher education as a sector and those pertinent to UKZN.

Regarding the Fees Must Fall disruptions, he said the decrease in government funding left the universities with no option but to increase fees while also having to increase staff salaries. This had resulted in numbers of young folk, including current students, being unable to access higher education.

Van Jaarsveld urged the audience to start viewing education as an investment rather than a cost.

He said UKZN’s goal was to further increase its complement of African women academics and professors.

Van Jaarsveld added that plans were underway to move the GSB to the north of Durban and reminded everyone that the School was ranked third in South Africa!