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30 November 2018
Dr Randall Carolissen - Paying it forward in a class of his own
As a student, Dr Randall Carolissen was state funded for his undergraduate degree. Now, almost four decades later, he is tasked with running the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NASFAS) - a modern state fund for students.

The UWC alumnus was appointed as NASFAS Administrator early in the year for a period of one year, to take over its governance, management and administration. Prior to his appointment, the entity faced a number of challenges.

Dr Carolissen’s primarily function, he says, is to deliver on the institution’s mandate of effectively distributing funds to institutions and poor and marginalised students. “However, I intend to invest also in the success of our students, and to keep institutions accountable for the welfare of our students,” he says. “The empowerment of poor students is absolutely necessary for building an inclusive and equitable society and to achieve the much needed growth.”

Dr Carolissen, who is originally from Ravensmead, reveals that his generation of students were state funded by way of a teachers bursary from the then Department of Coloured Affairs.

But the company that employed him after he graduated with a BSc from UWC bought him out of his student bursary, he says. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, where he worked as a researcher, funded his master’s degree, and the Ravensmead Ratepayers Association also contributed.

“For all of this I am extremely grateful, and it makes my contribution to my country much more meaningful,” he adds.

He also obtained his PhD in nano-physics at UWC, before completing a research fellowship at the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania, and a postdoctoral research post at the University of Ghent. Dr Carolissen also obtained an MBA (cum laude) specialising in international finance at the University of Stellenbosch and an M.Com in international tax at the University of the North-West.

Dr Carolissen says UWC instilled in him a spirit of activism and provided a rich learning environment beyond the classroom. He assumed several leadership positions advancing the causes of the poor and marginalised. Together with his spouse, Nadia, and friends, they established a formal settlement for 300 homeless families in Kalkfontein in Kuilsrivier in the early 1990s.

This led to the formation of the Kuilsrivier Residents Association (KRA), of which he was the founding chairperson. In addition to many noteworthy community-building programmes, KRA raised funds internationally to build a childcare facility in 1992. It has prepared more than 100 underprivileged children for school each year, whilst also providing food and shelter. Together with his alumni from Ravensmead High School and Florida High School, they founded the RUCET bursary fund in 2014, which disbursed close to 20 bursaries over the next three-year period.

“The leadership role played by UWC alumni is testimony to the remarkable education we received,” he says. “We were able to integrate political science and resistance theology into our daily debates, even though we were science students. Understanding the quest for social justice and the critical role we had to play post-apartheid were important propellants for academic success”.

Dr Carolissen has served in various leadership positions for a number of organisations. He is the head of the Tax, Customs and Excise Institute (TCEI) at the South African Revenue Services, and carries overall responsibility for research and economic modelling. TCEI works closely with the National Treasury in the development of the national fiscal framework, and disseminates tax and trade statistics for overall policy formulation in government.

Dr Carolissen has accumulated many prestigious international awards and has established himself as a leading fiscal authority within South Africa, and a thought leader in the higher education sector.

Picture courtesy Moneyweb