_: This session is intended to brief members of the Media on some developments within our University Education sector. The expansion of the post school system is a key priority and the development of the new universities is but one aspect that the Department of Higher Education and Training is leading within our infrastructure development programme.
One of the first challenges for the Post-School Education and Training system is to expand access to education and training over the next 20 years. We have said in our Green Paper that by 2030, we want to see university enrolments of 1 500 000, a projected participation rate of 23%, and 4 000 000 enrolments (approximately 60%) in Colleges or other post-school institutions such as the proposed Community Education and Training Centres.
New universities in Mpumalanga and Northern Cape
One of the ways in which the country will achieve these targets is through the planned construction of the two new universities which will be located in Mpumalanga and the other in the Northern Cape. Last month President Jacob Zuma announced to the nation the seats for both universities. In terms of the Higher Education Act, it is now my responsibility to confirm today government’s intention to establish the seat and main campus for the University in Mpumalanga at the Lowveld Agricultural College and, and the seat and main campus for the University in the Northern Cape, in the inner city of Kimberley.
Our most immediate priority now will be the acquisition of state-owned land upon which the universities will be established, the naming of the new universities, and the appointment of their interim councils. These activities are geared towards the formal promulgation of these new institutions; as well as the establishment of institutional leadership. Towards this end, the most urgent priority is the commencement of consultations with relevant stakeholders and affected parties.
A question has been asked, more particularly in the provinces where these universities are to be built, as to what influenced the decision on the actual location of the universities in those provinces. The decision on the main seats for each university was based on recommendations made by the project team the Department had appointed to undertake the preliminary work for this project. In addition, these recommendations followed after we had briefed the President and consulted the national and provincial leadership in government.
The project team visited and assessed a combined total of 18 sites in both provinces, against a set of objective selection criteria. The key focus was in establishing strong main campuses that will support a multi-campus expansion over time. Today, I am pleased to make the report on this initial planning phase towards the establishment of the universities available to you.
I am also pleased to bring to your attention the publication of a discussion document titled: “Development Framework for New Universities in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape”. This document sets out government’s evolving vision and thinking. It further outlines key principles, opportunities and challenges that have to be addressed by government in partnership with stakeholders. More importantly, this document constitutes an invitation for public comment. I therefore invite the higher education sector and all South Africans to contribute their thoughts on the development of the first new universities to be established in a democratic South Africa. This is quite a significant milestone in our development as a nation.
I also call upon the public to make suggestions on the names of both universities. Remember; these are national institutions, located for social and economic reasons within our developmental context, in specific provinces. They are not provincial Universities! The names proposed for each university should reflect some of the following attributes:
a) South Africa’s new democracy, inclusiveness, growth and opportunity;
b) Academic excellence;
c) Outstanding leadership;
d) Linkage to the province, South Africa and the continent of Africa;
e) Individuality of each province.
All proposals and comment should reach the Department not later than the 30th of September 2012. Contact details are provided in the discussion document. We remain committed to developing the new universities in the shortest possible time and to commence with some academic programmes in 2014. To this end, academic work groups are being set up to flesh out the potential academic focus of each institution and to work out partnerships to enable this outcome.
A project management team is taking the planning processes forward under guidance from a steering committee made up of academics, managers and administrators from existing universities, as well as representatives of the Premiers and the National Institutes of Higher Education in the two Provinces. Work on technical investigations to support the planning objectives in each province will commence soon. Details of these can be found on the New Universities website: www.newuniversities.ac.za. We see these institutions contributing positively to the much needed expansion of the post-school education and training system, together with the planned development of new further education and training (FET) colleges.
Disruptions at the Tshwane University of Technology
During this month another issue within the university education sector that has occupied a fair amount of media space is the disruptions which eventually led to the closure of the campuses of Tshwane University of Technology (TUT). The starting point here is that the department supports the democratic right of all South Africans, including the student community, to protest when a situation calls for that, but such action must be undertaken only when all other avenues of expressing unhappiness have been exhausted. The destruction of property at an institution of higher learning can never be the correct approach, is quite frankly unacceptable and I strongly condemn it.
TUT was in a dire situation in August 2011 when I placed it under Administration. That action was not taken lightly and the gains made over the last year are clear. The current disruptions, while appearing to grow out of some genuine student concerns, appear to want to disrupt these gains and to pull the university back into a situation where individual greed and gain was more important than the core business for which it exists. When reports reached the Ministry that teaching and learning at the Pretoria West campus of the TUT was disrupted, I requested the Deputy Minister (DM) to lead the department’s intervention in the situation.
The DM has indeed visited all three campuses and met with stakeholders. Some of the grievances have been addressed, and progress made (see Annexure A). We therefore urge students to return to the institution and resume the academic programme on Monday while all these other processes to resolve their grievances are underway. The department will soon be announcing comprehensive plans with regards to issues around accommodation and infrastructure development at institutions of higher learning.
The management of the university together with the Administrator have the support of the department to ensure that TUT maintains its focus on its core business, which is teaching, learning and research, and that it provides support for its students and their well-being by dealing with the genuine issues brought to its attention during this time. We urge for an urgent resolution to the problems.
Central University of Technology
With regards to the Central University of Technology, I have noted with concern the judgment issued by Judge JP Daffue earlier this month in the matter between CUT and the Department. I am concerned about the severe implications of the judgment on the higher education sector, where it could possibly be interpreted that institutions of higher learning are beyond accountability to government.
On 20 June 2012, I appointed Professor Stanley Ridge as Administrator for the Central University of Technology (CUT). Professor Ridge was appointed following the Report of the Independent Assessor which identified issues that seriously undermined good governance and management as required by the Higher Education Act. The Act provides for the option to appoint an Administrator to resolve issues that seriously undermine the effective governing of a public higher education institution.
Whenever allegations of victimisation, abuse of power, maladministration or financial maladministration that would affect the functioning of a higher education institution in the country are made, I as the Minister responsible for Higher Education and Training cannot ignore them. I am expected to intervene; hence I took the decision to first appoint an Independent Assessor to assess the situation at CUT.
The decision to implement the recommendations of the Independent Assessor was taken after considering all the relevant facts stated in the Report and consulting the Council of CUT. That decision remains to be in the best interests of the University and the public higher education sector as a whole.
The appointment of an Administrator was an opportunity to initiate processes to restore good governance and create systems to address the administrative, governance and management challenges facing the institution. If the allegations contained in the report of Independent Assessor are unfounded and there is no wrongdoing on the side of the Vice-Chancellor, then this process would have absolved and vindicated any individuals who may have been implicated. It is important to note that while Judge Daffue did not rule in the Department’s favour on the matter, he also did not set the Report of the Independent Assessor aside.
The Report contained serious allegations of victimisation, abuse of power, maladministration and other allegations which were found to be substantive. Linked to these allegations also is the perceived inappropriate relationship between the Vice-Chancellor and the Chairperson of Council. Council and Management, in discharging their mandate, should ensure that the state of our Higher Education Institutions is not compromised. I strongly believe that the action of the Vice Chancellor and Chairperson of Council were totally unacceptable and cannot be condoned when they forcibly prevented Professor Ridge from performing his duties as Administrator. For these and other reasons I will not go into, the Department is taking this matter on review and will announce a course of action in this regard in due course
Apply Now! Campaign
The Department, in collaboration with the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, Universities and the Department of Basic Education, has embarked on a massive Apply Now! Campaign, which is targeted at Grade 12 learners. The aim is to ensure that learners leaving the schooling system make appropriate career choices and apply in good time for admission into post-school education and training institutions, including FET Colleges and Universities.
One leg of the Apply Now! Campaign is the KHETHA radio programme which is broadcast in 10 South African languages on various SABC radio stations to advise learners from Grade 9 to Grade 12 on various aspects of decision-making in post-school education and training. The campaign uses a range of multi-media platforms, including social media like MiXit and Facebook, as well as community radio, television and the print media. We have an Apply Now booklet here today which we largely distribute through direct face-to-face mediation with the learners themselves, especially during Career Guidance events. In addition a call centre is operating to provide advice to students on their choices.
Through this campaign we want to help as many learners as possible, especially those from disadvantaged communities, to reduce the late applications that have often led to problems for our students and our institutions of higher learning at the beginning of each academic year. Linked to this Campaign is a system we are developing to better manage the applications system. The National Information and Applications System will be fully functional for the 2014 student intake into our higher education and training institutions. Only the first phase of the system will be operative for the 2013 intake, and this will be a Clearing House for applications.