The SARUA Team

Prof. Stephen Simukanga
Interim Executive Director

Stephen Simukanga is a Zambian and holds a PhD in Process Metallurgy from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, UK. He served the University of Zambia for 23 years as a lecturer/researcher in the School of Mines where he rose to the position of Professor in Metallurgy and Mineral Processing till 2007. He has served as visiting lecturer at the University of Cape Town and University of Zimbabwe. He served as coordinator of the Mineral Resources Unit of the United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa, located at the School of Mines of the University of Zambia from 2003 to 2007.

Stephen has held administrative positions of vice chancellor of the University of Zambia (2007–2015) and Director General of the Higher Education Authority in Zambia (2016–2023). He is a Fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining and a Chartered Engineer of the Engineering Council of the United Kingdom. He is also a Fellow of both the South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and the Engineering Institution of Zambia. He was conferred with a distinguished title of Fellow of the World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) in 2018.

He served on the Executive Council of the Engineering Institution of Zambia from 2000 to 2015. Stephen has been Chairperson of the UbuntuNet Alliance (2018–2023), a regional organisation that provides internet bandwidth to higher education institutions in the East and Southern Africa. He also served as chairperson of the Southern African Quality Assurance Network from July 2022 to December 2023.

Stephen sits on various Boards, both local and international, of which he chairs some.


Prof René Pellissier
SFA Lead: Knowledge Co-production

‘If you try to predict the future, know that you will be wrong. The trick is to be as least wrong as possible and be ready.’

René Pellissier is an international consultant, strategic and research specialist.

She heads SARUA’s Climate Change and Sustainable Development programme including the development of the transdisciplinary curriculum for the master’s programme in Climate Change and Sustainable Development for the SADC. She also heads the German Industrialisation Organisation’s Industrial Pharmacy Fellowship across the SADC. She has been involved in the design and development of several EU grants. In her other work, she heads the Cape Higher Education Leadership Academy, where she designs and facilitates leadership development programmes in Higher Education and presents the following workshops: Operational Excellence in Higher Education, Human-centric Leadership in Higher Education, Knowledge co-production and mode 3 thinking and Systems Thinking in Higher Education. Rene supervises doctoral students in Digital Transformation and Complexity and regularly offers research design and research methods workshops.

She works as strategist, researcher, and systems engineer in the international arena based on her extensive international experience across the globe at universities in the United States, the United Kingdom, France and across Africa and sees herself as an international traveller and transdisciplinary innovator. Her specialisations are technology and innovation and complex adaptive systems.

She is a futurist and consultant specializing in the world of future work based on the evolution of technology and the resultant societal changes and needs. She is Professor of Research and Innovation (SA) and Professor of Information Management (UK). René holds an MSc in Mathematical Statistics, an MBA and a PhD in Systems Engineering.

Bella Sattar

Bella Sattar
SFA Lead: Institutional Quality Management

Bella has been affiliated with the Southern African Regional Universities Association (SARUA) since 2020 and is SARUAs project leader for the strategic focus area on Institutional Quality Management. She retired from the Durban University of Technology at the end of 2018 after being at the institution for a total of 40 years. At the time of her retirement, she had been the Director of the Centre for Quality Promotion and Assurance (CQPA) for 16 years. She was an academic for 24 years having progressed through the ranks from lecturer to Head of Department of Medical Sciences prior to accepting her appointment as Director of the CQPA.

She was awarded a BSc degree by the University of Durban-Westville in 1976; a Diploma in Tertiary Education (cum laude) by the University of South Africa (UNISA); a National Higher Diploma in Medical Technology by the ML Sultan Technikon, and a MMedSc degree by the University of Natal in 1996.

Bella was appointed to the first Board of the Higher Education Quality Committee of the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and has been an active member on several committees, working groups, and reference groups of the CHE. She has represented SARUA on the HAQAA2 project and was a member of the Technical Working Group for the establishment of the Pan African Quality Assurance and Accreditation Agency. She is also one of the trainers in the TrainIQA programme for 2023/2024 which is offered through the University of Potsdam and supported by the DAAD.

Abri Hoffman

Abri Hoffman
SFA Lead: Digital Transformation

Gabriel Hoffman, MBA, CIA, is a seasoned technocrat specialising in the revitalisation of challenging projects through inventive problem-solving and robust risk management protocols. His career is marked by a track record of steering teams toward innovative solutions that transform stumbling blocks into stepping stones.

A voracious reader with a fervour for pedagogy, Gabriel extends his expertise beyond the corporate sphere by serving as a part-time lecturer. His academic contributions span a wide array of disciplines, including Risk Management, Project Management, Information Systems and Strategic Planning.

Driven by a dual passion for technology and education, Gabriel is actively engaged in research. His current focus explores the potential of artificial intelligence in tailoring educational experiences to individual student needs, thereby optimising learning outcomes. This research initiative aims to bridge the gap between technology and pedagogy, promising a future where education is as adaptive as it is inclusive.

Birgit Schreiber
Project Lead: SIR

Birgit Schreiber, PhD is a consulting expert for the international higher education sector. With a wealth of experience in leadership roles, Birgit focuses on enhancing student success, leadership development, digitalisation, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and gender equality within Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe.

She has collaborated with renowned organisations like USAf South Africa, DAAD and ERASMUS, lending her expertise to teaching, research, programme design and policy development. Birgit’s also an Extraordinary Professor at her alma mater, UWC, Cape Town, with a PhD in psychology and registration as a psychotherapist with the HPCSA.

With over 90 publications covering topics such as social justice, student affairs, engagement, higher education leadership, gender studies, and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Birgit is a leading voice in the field. She’s the founding editor and editorial executive of the Journal for Student Affairs in Africa (JSAA), sits on the board of the Journal of College Student Development (JCSD) and serves as a column editor for the Journal of College and Character (JCC).

Currently, Birgit holds the prestigious position of President at the International Association of Student Affairs and Services, following her roles as Africa Chair and Vice President. Her contributions haven’t gone unnoticed, with accolades like the Noam Chomsky Award for International Research and the NASPA Award for International Practice.

Birgit’s influence extends globally, with memberships at the Africa Centre, Albert Ludwig University Freiburg, Germany, and as a research associate at Pretoria University. She’s also the German director for the STAR Scholars Network and serves on various boards, including SANRC Johannesburg and CASHEF Pretoria.

Prof Martin Oosthuizen

Martin Oosthuizen
Strategic Advisor

Martin was appointed as the Executive Director of the Southern African Regional Universities’ Association (SARUA) at that start of 2018. He served concurrently as Chief Executive Officer of the Cape Higher Education Consortium (CHEC) from 2017-2022. Before that, he served as Deputy Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning at NorthWest University from June 2011 to June 2017. Previously he served as the Senior Director of the Centre for Planning and Institutional Development at the Nelson Mandela (Metropolitan) University from 2005 to 2011, and as Director of Quality Management at the former university of Port Elizabeth from 1999 to 2004. He held various appointments in the field of Theology and Biblical Studies between 1982 and 1998 at the Universities of Fort Hare, South Africa and Port Elizabeth. His final appointment was as Professor in the Department of Biblical and Religion Studies at the University of Port Elizabeth from November 1996 to December 1998.

Martin holds a Doctorate in Theology from the University of South Africa, and the following qualifications from Stellenbosch University: Bachelor of Theology, Master of Theology, Bachelor of Arts Hons in Semitic Languages and a Bachelor of Arts in Law.

Martin has been extensively involved in national and institutional projects relating to standards setting, quality assurance and qualifications design in the South African higher education sector. He was the convener of the CHE task team for the development of the first CHE Framework for Institutional Audits, was contracted by the CHE to develop the revised HEQF in 2011, and in 2019 and 2020 served as CHE external expert in the development of the CHE Integrated Quality Assurance Framework. He was a member of the CHE’s Higher Education Quality Committee from 2012 to 2018 and chaired its Accreditation Committee from 2015-2018. He has served as an international reviewer: for the Scottish Quality Assurance Agency and the Oman Academic Accreditation Authority.


Sarah-Jane Coetzee
Communications Consultant

Proficient in all aspects of marketing and communication, Sarah has spent the past 20 years providing creative and effective solutions mainly in the financial services industry. She is practised in strategy and tactics and specialises in corporate communication. Energetic and meticulous, Sarah has managed change projects for some large organisations and led marketing teams with a dedicated focus on delivery and results.

With a master’s degree in intercultural communication, Sarah brings a depth of knowledge and skill that address SARUA’s marketing and communication needs. Sarah is also a professional editor and is a full member of the Professional Editors’ Guild.

person placeholder

Phiwokuhle Kgatla
Co-ordinator: Administration & Stakeholder Relations

Phiwo serves as the primary administrative contact for SARUA, playing a crucial role in facilitating communication between SARUA and its stakeholders. In her capacity, she offers essential administrative support to the leaders of the four strategic focus areas and the Executive Director. Phiwo is responsible for managing SARUA events, overseeing the SARUA stakeholder database, and coordinating membership activities and project management.

With over a decade of experience in communication, event planning, and project management, Phiwo brings a wealth of expertise to her role. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Science from the University of Zululand, an Event Management Certificate from City Varsity School of Business & Technology, as well as a Postgraduate Diploma and BPhil Honours in Marketing from the IMM Graduate School of Marketing.

Walter Claassen

Walter Claassen
SARUA Associate

Following an academic career in Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Stellen­bosch University, Walter moved into senior management as Director of Research and subsequently as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (1993-2007), responsible for a wide range of support divisions and new initiatives. During this period, he also initiated and guided the development of the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies (STIAS), until its opening in 2007.

Since 2009, he was involved in the Department of Information Systems of the University of the Western Cape and in the Western Cape CoLab for eInclusion and Social Innovation. During the period 2013-2026 he was also involved in the Research Network for e-Skills in the national e-Skills Institute. From 2016 to 2019, he was Chairperson of the Board of NEMISA, a state-owned entity for national digital skills development. Since 2020, he is Strategic Focus Area Lead: Digital Transformation of Higher Education, in SARUA.

Evance Kalula

Evance Kalula
SARUA Associate

Evance Kalula is Chairperson of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA). He is the first African to serve in the position in the ILO’s history. He is Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Cape Town and Honorary Professor at the University of Rwanda. He holds several degrees in law, including a PhD. He was educated at the University of Zambia School of Law; King’s College, London; Balliol College, Oxford (where he was a Rhodes scholar); and the University of Warwick School of Law. He is a fellow of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), member of Council of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), fellow of the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS). He is also a visiting lecturer in law at the University of Mulungushi, serves as ad hoc executive policy advisor at the University of Lusaka (UNILUS), as well as an associate of the Southern African Regional Universities Association, (SARUA). He previously served as Chair of the University of Lusaka Council (UNILUS); Chair of the then South African Employment Conditions Commission (EEC); member of the ILO Commission of Inquiry on Freedom of Association in Zimbabwe; member of the Ministerial Advisory Panel of the former South African Department of Economic Development (EDD). He is a past President of the International Labour and Employment Relations Association (ILERA).

The strength of our network lies in its diversity.

Be part of SARUA