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Parliamentary Bulletin

17 October 1997

THE HIGHER EDUCATION BILL

Under the National Party, higher educational planning and decision making was based on political priorities, which saw the funding of universities, training colleges and technikons allocated in an unjust and inequitable manner

This resulted in institutions which furthered the aims of apartheid and served the constituency of the National Party, receiving the lion`s share of funding, while the "black" universities were underfunded and concentrated on fields of study that did not interfere with the "grand design" of apartheid.

The Higher Education Bill is designed to address the inequities of the past by establishing a single, co-ordinated and planned system of higher education.

The Bill creates conditions for equity by promoting equal access and opportunity for students from all sectors of the population and seeks to redress past discrimination and ensure representivity.

The Council on Higher Education

A key feature of the Bill is the creation of the Council on Higher Education which provides the basis for co-operative governance of higher education institutions.

Composition of the Higher Education Council

It will include representatives from all stakeholders, students, academics principals of each type of institutions, nominees of Nedlac, various concerned government departments, provincial education representatives and members of the public.

It will consist of equal numbers of men and women, with attention given to racial representivity. The Bill also requires that representation be given to people with special needs.

The Education Minister will have to consult the Council on all matters involving major elements of policy framework regarding Higher Education.

The council will advise on distributing subsidies, financial assistance to students and developing the higher education system.

Quality Control

A permanent subcommittee, the Higher Education Quality Committee will be responsible for developing and maintaining standards.

Governance of Higher Education Institutions

The Bill specifies the governance structures of tertiary institutions. As well as the traditional bodies, such as Senate, Council, and SRC, they must establish Institutional Forums The Institutional Forum will advise the Council of the institution on the implementation of the Higher Education Act, race and gender equity policies, selection of candidates for senior management positions, codes of conduct and the building of an institutional culture which promotes tolerance and respect for fundamental human rights.

Admissions Policy

The Bill respects the autonomy of Higher Education Institutions to set their own criteria for admissions, with the proviso that the admissions policy may not unfairly discriminate in any way, and which must also provide appropriate measures for the redress of past inequalities

Funding

As laid out in the Bill, the Minister must determine policy on the finding of tertiary institutions in a fair and transparent manner.

The allocation of funds must include appropriate measures for redressing past inequalities.

Public funding for tertiary institutions will be conditional on their councils providing a strategic plan and evaluating performance against the goals of the plan.

In order to improve the public accountability of higher institutions, a report on the overall governance, and an audited statement of income and expenditure, a balance sheet and a principal`s report must be submitted to the Minister annually.

Private Higher Education Institutions

The Bill provides for the registration of private higher education institutions. It provides a framework to ensure that such institutions have the necessary infrastructure and resources to provide quality education. They will be required to offer programmes accredited though procedures established by the South African Qualifications Authority, via the Higher Education Quality Committee.

Key Political Messages

  • South Africa will have, for the first time, a co-ordinated Higher Education Policy which will aim at providing quality higher education to all sectors of the population.
  • Imbalances of the past will be addressed, setting and maintaining standards of excellence
  • The Higher Education Quality Committee will ensure that there is uniformity between institutions so that all institutions provides qualifications that are of equal merit.
  • For the first time, higher education policy will be formulated as a result of consultation of all stakeholders, as represented on the Council for Higher Education.
  • The ANC recognises the critical importance of higher education in order to provide our nation and our economy with the skills to take our place as leaders in our region and the world.
  • The National Party Government spent vast amounts of money on building institutions that were inefficient, and which failed to provide our people with the necessary skills to be competitive in a global economy.
  • Through a co-ordinated and strategic approach to higher education, with the necessary legal and institutional framework in place, we can develop a higher education system that will compete with institutions the world over, while providing for the special needs of our country.

     
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