Conference will tackle higher education challenges head-on

11 September 2019

Pressing challenges facing South African Higher Education Institutions will be put in the spotlight when the Tshwane University of Teechnology’s (TUT) Office for Institutional Effectiveness and Technology in collaboration with the TUT Mbombela Campus hosts the 26th annual South African Association for Institutional Research (SAAIR) conference at the Mbombela Campus from 4 – 7 November. The theme of the conference is Institutional Research as the “X Factor” for efficiency and effectiveness in Higher Education Institutions.

“The higher education sector, locally and globally, faces challenges and opportunities such as massification, internationalisation, quality assurance, the fourth industrial revolution, demands for accountability and transparency, dwindling financial support, and increased stakeholder expectations in the era of more immediate and widely communicated activism, such as #FeesMustFall,” says Liile Lerato Lekena. She is a Quality Advisor at TUT’s Directorate: Quality Promotion (DQP) and Conference Chair. 

“Therefore, the sector needs superior planning, policy formation and decision-making capacity to respond to the challenges that will be discussed in-depth during the conference. Institutional Research (IR) as a profession in higher education produces evidence and insights to support planning, policy formation and decision-making,” Lekena adds. 

With reference to the theme of the conference, v says that Institutional Researchers have become the X-factor towards attaining institutional effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability. “The X-factor includes the core elements, skills and knowledge associated with IR, as well as the more elusive, intangible factors, which make certain Institutional Research Professionals (IRPs) major positive influencers and change agents. Your particular X-factor may relate to planning, marketing and recruitment, financial management, quality assurance, technology/artificial intelligence, student retention, academic staff development, as well as curriculum and pedagogy, in order to meet quality standards, or various combinations of these,” Lekena concludes. 

Keynote speakers at this year’s conference are Prof Sid Nair, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer: Tertiary Education Commission of Mauritius; TUT’s Dr Dhaya Naidoo, Executive Director and Chief Information Officer: Institutional Effectiveness and Technology; and Dr Christine Keller, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer: Association of Institutional Research (AIR). The conference will commence with three pre-conference workshops with the titles: The value, power and promise of data mining techniques; Combined assurance in higher education: Closing the quality loop; and Empowering institutional researchers for the fourth industrial revolution through artificial intelligence and machine learning training in the real world.

The conference also has an interesting line-up of sub-themes that include:  The IRPs as agents and objects of change for institutional transformation; Marketing, recruitment, and retention, the role of IRPs; Show me the money! What does IRs know about finance?; Analytics, modelling, prediction and forecasting, big data and artificial intelligence in the real world; and Not business as usual! (which will examine how Higher Education Practitioners can perform the core functions of Teaching and Learning, Curriculum Development, Institutional Research, Business Information, Management Information, Statutory Reporting, Quality, Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting more efficiently and innovatively. 

Dr Kenneth Netshiombo, Campus Rector of the Mbombela Campus, says he is looking forward to welcome SAAIR delegates to Mpumalanga, the Place of the rising sun. “Come, let us share the majestic splendour of the natural heritage of the Province.The Mbombela Campus is poised to make your experience an unforgettable one and favourable weather conditions have already been prepared for you,” he adds.

For online registration, please click on:

To learn more about the keynote speakers, please click on 

For more information, please contact the Conference Chair, Liile Lerato Lekena, 012 382 5430/, or the Acting Director: DQP, Emily Mabote, 012 382 4348/

For more information on the Tshwane University of Technology, please contact Willa de Ruyter, Corporate Affairs and Marketing.
Tel: +27 12 382 5352   Email: