Higher education legislation outdated - Dept

2016-08-17 21:02
The University of Cape Town's upper campus. (iStock)

The University of Cape Town's upper campus. (iStock)

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Cape Town - Legislation regulating higher education is outdated and needs to be amended, the higher education department said on Wednesday.

“There’s been a lot of criticism against the current legislation,” the department’s chief director for legislative services Eben Boshoff said.

He was presenting a draft bill to Parliament’s select committee on education and recreation, which would amend the Higher Education Act of 1997 in 14 key areas.

These included incorporating transformation goals, inserting new definitions and changing existing ones, such as “technikons”, and making provision for new institutions, such as higher education colleges.

The new bill would extend the higher education minister’s power to determine policy, in particular relating to transformation goals.

It would recognise only three types of institutions - universities, university colleges, and higher education colleges.

University colleges are growing institutions partnering with more established universities. Higher education colleges are limited in terms of scope, and include agricultural colleges.

Language policy, autonomy, transformation

Committee chair Lynette Zwane asked how the new bill would affect language policies at various institutions.

Boshoff said the minister only had the power to make language policy in the broad sense.

“The individual institution’s language policies will remain with the specific institution, but it will be subject to policy determined by the Languages Act.”

Another MP asked about accountability measures, as the bill would give far-reaching powers to the minister.

Boshoff said the minister could only make decisions after receiving advice from the Council on Higher Education (CHE), and would have to give reasons if he or she wanted to deviate from it.

The minister’s only real decision-making avenue was to initiate independent investigations.

Another question related to how the bill would address transformation. Boshoff said the bill only dealt with these issues by giving all those affected a framework within which to work.

He said transformation was a complex issue and it would need the CHE’s input.

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