Siyaphumelela initiative aims to expand use of data-driven approaches to student success

Kresge Foundation (Featured on Kresge Foundation website)

A Kresge Education Program initiative aimed at increasing the use of evidence-based approaches to enhance student success expands grantmaking support to seven of South Africa’s 26 universities.

The grant support for Siyaphumelela (which means “we succeed” in isiXhosa) expands the initiative’s partner universities by welcoming the Universities of Cape Town, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. In addition, Durban University of Technology, Nelson Mandela University, University of the Free State and University of the Witwatersrand are also funded for the next three years.

Kresge funding will also support the creation of a wider learning network among South Africa’s universities to help strengthen their capacity in order to enhance student success programs through coaching, as well as regional, national and international learning opportunities.

The nationwide network is coordinated by Saide, a South African nonprofit committed to transforming education to increase equitable outcomes for all.  

Saide is deeply grateful for the opportunity, through the expanded Siyaphumelela initiative, to extend evidence-led student success interventions to the diverse range of South African universities,” said Jennifer Glennie, executive director of Saide. “Siyaphumelela thus becomes an important partner in the national imperative to enhance the contribution of the university sector to the development of our country.”

Each participating university will receive a three-year grant of $300,000. Saide has also been awarded $1.5 million to administer the Siyaphumelela learning network.

Since its inception, the Siyaphumelela initiative helped partner institutions foster a student success culture, identify data and tools to improve student success, strengthen institutional capacity, and develop practices for long-term student success.

With continued support from Kresge, the partner universities will serve as regional student success hubs and, joined by Saide, Achieving the Dream (ATD) and other U.S. partners, will share insights with other South African institutions about implementing student success strategies including campus-based holistic student support, student tracking, academic advising and ethical data use. 

After consulting South African university leaders about their highest priorities, Kresge launched Siyaphumelela in 2014, drawing on U.S. evidence-based student success networks such as Achieving the Dream and the University Innovation Alliance. Managed in partnership with Saide, Siyaphumelela has worked with the Department of Higher Education and Training, Universities South Africa, the Council of Higher Education, and participating institutions to improve South Africa’s capacity to shape and integrate data-driven reforms to improve postsecondary student success.

“Since 1994, South Africa has sought to open the doors of learning to all, but not all students have been able to succeed.  Siyaphumelela aims to ensure that all students can fulfill their university dreams,” said Bill Moses, managing director of Kresge’s Education Program. “We are delighted with the enthusiastic partnership of so many South African universities, policymakers, NGOs and students to continue and expand this work across the country.”  

Siyaphumelela has also gained support from South Africa’s Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), which in February 2020 agreed to fund student advising services at participating campuses and create a national student data system to track educational outcomes across institutions.

U.S. based ATD will partner with Siyaphumelela institutions to increase the cadre of trained South African data analytics professionals who are equipped to champion student success reforms on their campuses.

In addition to Kresge and DHET's support, Siyaphumelela’s innovative approach was also recently recognized as a global emerging technology trendsetter in the 2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report.

EDUCASE, a U.S. association of education technology professionals, examined innovations around the world and lauded Siyaphumelela’s strong alignment across multiple institutions, writing, “As our understanding improves of how learning analytics can be used to impact student success, our ability to discuss the implications of the results across institutional and national boundaries will mature as well.”

New Siyaphumelela Institutions

University of Cape Town (Cape Town) will develop of an institution-wide, integrated, data analytics system with faculty-specific dashboards to provide meaningful data for the development of interventions to support student success and improve the quality of teaching and learning.

University of the Western Cape (Cape Town) will strengthen its data analytics capacity, including enhancing the understanding of academic and support staff on the role of data analytics in driving student success. 

University of KwaZulu-Natal (Durban) will undertake a three-year research study on the impact of various institutional policy interventions on student access, progression and. 

Continuing Siyaphumelela Institutions

Durban University of Technology (Durban) will strengthen its data analytics capacity to foster an evidence-led culture of decision-making and planning.

Nelson Mandela University (Port Elizabeth) will enhance training for student success coaches and academic advisors, and develop an integrative student success monitoring, tracking, and evaluation system.

University of the Free State (Bloemfontein) will evaluate of the implementation of advising endeavors to determine the impact of these interventions on students’ development and success.

University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg) will research the prevalence and risk factors of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation among students and develop targeted interventions aimed at improving student quality of life.

The University of Pretoria will remain part of the network, but will self-fund its work.