Christmas Message from President and CEO of the College
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Greetings from St Augustine at this, the start of the season of Advent.
Our academic year has ended: the undergraduate students have written their final examinations and their scripts have been marked. Our hope is that those who have invested sufficiently in their studies have been richly rewarded. On many fronts, this has been a successful year for St Augustine.
Our student numbers, at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels continue to grow. From a low base in 2015 of no undergraduate students and 53 postgraduates, we now have 82 undergraduates, slightly over 100 postgraduates and 63 students registered for the Higher Certificate in Biblical Studies (HCBS).
Our undergraduate student body has been particularly active: a Student Representative Council has been formed and is positively contributing to a range of St Augustine’s priority projects, including fundraising and marketing. The SRC has also been responsible for the relaunch of a cafeteria, a much welcomed initiative. Further, a St Augustine Choir has been relaunched, which choir performed admirably at our 2018 Graduation Ceremony.
Our academic staff – most of whom are employed on a part-time basis – continue to shine. A number of academics have published chapters in scholarly books or academic articles in accredited local and international journals; many have (at their own expense) addressed conferences across South Africa and around the world (including, Namibia, Nigeria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Italy, and the United States). This year, St Augustine was represented at the triennial conference of the International Federation of Catholic Universities in Maynooth, Ireland. Further, in their personal capacities, a number of our staff have contributed to extra-curricular activities aimed at advancing the ‘common good’.
That we have ended 2018 intact has much to do with the important contribution of our administrative staff, the backbone of the institution.
At this stage, prospects for 2019 are promising. Thus far, we have received more applications for undergraduate study than has ordinarily been the case at this time of the year. (We have been marketing St Augustine’s academic offerings through personal contact, parish and school visits, print and electronic media, and radio.)
Further, we are in conversation with secondary school associations, religious congregations and other Christian denominations who are all contemplating the St Augustine option. Some of these conversations have already yielded positive results: in 2018, the South African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) endorsed our HCBS as an option for those pursuing training for the Catholic deaconate – more than two thirds of those currently registered are aspirant deacons; our Bachelor of Theology has been recognised by the Anglican diocese of Johannesburg as a potential route for those seeking entry into the Anglican ministry.
With regard to academic development, in 2019 we will reintroduce the BA Hons in Peace Studies and an MPhil module in BioEthics. Considerable effort is being expended on developing a Higher Certificate in Theology (while foreseen as an integral requirement for deacon training, this qualification, potentially, should attract much wider interest) and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education. Finally, we are in the process of converting a number of short courses into online offerings (aimed specifically at those in the teaching profession).
Revenue generated from student fees alone is – as with all universities – insufficient to guarantee financial security. This is particularly so in the case of St Augustine. A majority of our undergraduate students are from previously disadvantaged backgrounds and are unable personally to finance their studies. While we have successfully sourced sponsorship for a number of students, the majority have had to be ‘carried’ by St Augustine. In 2018 student fees will have contributed R 3 million of income.
Until income from student fees increases dramatically, our expenditure will continue to exceed our income (should we manage to secure 180 paying undergraduate students we will achieve financial security): vigilance is demanded.
We have been cutting costs wherever we are able. Not only has our debt been dramatically reduced (thanks, in part, to a generous decision of the SACBC’s to, convert its loan into a grant), but, our annual expenditure has been stabilised at about R 11.5 million (a figure that will not change significantly in 2019).
Further, we continue to rely on the generosity of our donors and benefactors. By the end of 2018, we will have secured R 7 million in donations! Apart from the significant generosity of a South African donor and that of a range of local individuals and organisations, we acknowledge the valued support that we regularly receive from the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart in Germany.
We have, in conjunction with Radio Veritas, launched a fund-raising initiative – Club 6000 – which, we hope, will yield positive results in the near future. Further, the SHINE programme (an IT and mentoring initiative developed by INSPIREhub, a North American company), which, apart from directly benefitting our students, will potentially result in a North American funding stream. Finally, conversations are on-going with a Zimbabwean organisation that aims to raise funds for bursaries for Zimbabwean students to study at St Augustine.
Should you wish to support St Augustine financially, please visit us here
We are greatly blessed! Thank you to all those who have contributed to the realisation of our ambition to produce graduates ‘who have learnt to think rigorously, so as to act rightly and to serve humanity better’ … graduates who will become ethical leaders for Africa!
May the miracle of Christmas fill your heart and home with joy now and throughout the coming year!