South African Association of Senior Student Affairs Professionals
The South African Association of Senior Student Affairs Professionals (SAASSAP) was formed in August 2000. At a Deans’ Forum workshop convened by the Centre for Higher Education and Transformation (CHET) in Port Elizabeth, a decision was taken to form an association for Student Affairs professionals. The Association was formed to represent the senior Student Affairs professionals of all universities in South Africa, including the erstwhile Technikons (now Universities of Technology). The Association’s first Annual Conference was hosted in 2001 in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
In 2008, under the auspices of the national executive committee (NEC), the Association undertook to reinvent itself in terms of its image, message, strategies and programmes. In the words of the NEC, admittedly this transformation fell short of what was envisaged but there were some definite improvements. A follow up process ensued at the 2012 annual general meeting (AGM) spearheaded by the then Research and Development Officer. One of the key recommendations included in the plan of action was the establishment of a South African Student Affairs Board and the development of a professional qualification for Student Affairs professionals. The Association finds itself in a similar position as it was in 2008, where it needs to reinvent itself so as to be relevant and impactful in the sphere of Student Affairs at institutions of higher learning.
SAASSAP is now emerging as a vibrant, dynamic and viable professional organization with a strong leadership team that is highly motivated and supportive of each other and of its membership. The team strives to increase and strengthen its membership base and participation, and to build a financially viable organization. The team is forging strong partnerships and collaborations with key stakeholders locally, continentally and internationally.
The Association will soon be boasting a happy and involved constituency that is agile and productive in the delivery of the SAASSAP mandate. SAASSAP is working on developing niche areas which include advocacy, research and publication, policy development and influence, and an efficient succession plan. The organization has positioned itself as a thought leader as far as the Student Affairs and Services sub-sector is concerned in South African and internationally.
Student access and success are focal areas of strategic importance. The conceptualisation of student success in higher education is viewed by SAASSAP as comprehensive and holistic, covering both the curricular and co-curricular development aspects, with a view to preparing students to be responsible, creative and active global citizens who are change agitators.
The vision of SASSAAP is to be a vibrant, context driven and world renowned, professional association for Student Affairs.
SAASSAP’s mission is to articulate, direct, and actualise holistic student growth, development and success in the South African Higher Education context by influencing policy and mobilising and leveraging stakeholders, resources, knowledge and innovation.
SAASSAP aims to ensure the professionalisation of Student Affairs in South Africa and to be the dynamic future facing platform that grows, evolve and involves the sub-sector in the complex and ever-changing landscape of Higher Education.
One of SASSAAP’s major goals is to provide strategic leadership amongst Student Affairs professionals, build capacity and share knowledge for the benefit of students in accordance with national imperatives and global trends.
THE STRATEGIC PLAN 2024
Our focus here is on influencing policy, bridging the policy-practice divide while simultaneously drawing on the lived practice of our members to ensure that we remain rooted in the practical realities and messiness of Student Affairs and Student Life.
This focus area will include developing SAASSAPs capacities at individual, group, member, NEC, and at a holistic organisational level. In order to do this, we require an appropriate organisational architecture that is responsive to a dynamic, changing context. The development and deployment of the organisational architecture will be supported by periodic organisational development interventions.
SAASSAP will take a creative approach to mobilising and leveraging resources, by drawing on overlapping constellations of stakeholders with common goals and interests. Resources will not always be money, but we shall draw extensively on in-kind resources including shared infrastructure, assets, knowledge, events, activities, flights, accommodation, venues with others, grants, subsidies, etc.
In the last decade, Student Governance has become a hotly contested terrain, and has become a proxy for posturing between national, provincial and local political parties, amongst other interest groups. As SAASSAP we are prepared to take up these cudgels to gently nudge the context by setting Frameworks, Strategic Dialogues, Constructive Engagements, Teach-ins, Educational Conferences, and Generative Relationships to deal with this problem of national proportions.
SAASSAP will endeavour through its various activities, focus areas, and the experience of its members, to identify the critical components that will facilitate holistic student wellbeing and success. These components include hard and soft components such as resources, infrastructure, technology, processes and procedures, organisational culture, attributes of student-facing staff, vertical and horizontal communication channels, amongst many others.
One of the paradoxes we face as Student Affairs practitioners is that in the academy, in our respective institutions, we are often considered as “practitioners” and not scholars or academics, given that other portfolios in the university deal with academic issues and subjects. SAASSAP endeavours to change this perspective, as we are unashamedly scholar-practitioners, professionals and scholars in our own right.
Student affairs itself is also comprised of multiple overlapping sets of perspectives, policies, practices, interest groups, actions and initiatives. SAASSAP will take a key role in mapping out the policy context, undertaking analyses and diagnosis towards influencing policy development and practice.
Given that we are a national body representing 26 universities, we have a critical role in furthering the objectives of our members in relation to Student Affairs, in ensuring that we have a voice at a national level across many fronts. This means that we have to develop our skills and competencies, and effective programmes both in advocacy and in lobbying.
Given the complexity of the terrain there are many stakeholders with multiple, overlapping roles and mandates, with both complementary and competing goals, perspectives, behaviours, objectives and actions. Given our new strategic orientation, SAASSAP is clear on our mandate, our directions and our strategic perspective. In achieving this we shall also become a nexus to be able to facilitate engagements across a wide diversity of stakeholders, yet with strategic focus and commitment.