The University of the Witwatersrand's Council comprises academic and non-academic persons appointed under the Statute of the University of the Witwatersrand, the majority of whom are non-executive. Sixty percent of the members of the Council are persons who are not employed by, or students of, Wits University. The role of chairperson of the Council is separated from the role of the Wits University Chief Executive Officer, the Vice-Chancellor and Principal. Matters especially reserved to the Council for decision-making are set out in the Statute of Wits University, by custom and under the Higher Education Act, Act 101 of 1997 (the Act), as amended.
The Council is responsible for the ongoing strategic direction of Wits University, approval of major developments and the receipt of regular reports from Executive Officers on the day-to-day operations of its business.
Effective governance in terms of the Act
The Act seeks to establish governing councils that are modelled on the pricinple of 'co-operative governance' as articulated by the National Commission on Higher Education (NHCE). Co-operative governance acknowledges the existence of competing and complementary interests in regard to university governance, and seeks to be inclusive of those interests in regard to university ... governance, and seeks to be inclusive of those interests. Accordingly, the Act specifies the council shall consist of members drawn from within the institution (namely staff, students, workers and management) in addition to members drawn from outside the institution, who must constitute sixty percent majority. However, the governing council is not a constituency-based body: council members appointed or elected by specified constituencies within the university ... community have no representative status.1
Institutional governance as defined in the Higher Education White Paper #3 and the Act
Councils are the highest decision-making bodies of public institutions. They are responsible for the good order and governance of institutions and for their mission, financial policy, performance, quality and reputation. To sustain public confidence, councils should include a majority of at least 60 per cent of members external to the institution. Councils ought not to be involved in the day-to-day management of institutions as that is the responsibility of their executive management, led by the vice-chancellor, who in turn is accountable to the council.
The transformation of councils through a participative democratic process involving all relevant and recognised stakeholders is a critical first step in creating strategies for the transformation of institutions. Transformed councils that enjoy the support and respect of all stakeholders will then be able to play an effective role in establishing the necessary policies and structures for the transformation of institutions.