Gauntlett: Bill limits academic freedom

2013-05-08 07:27
Jeremy Gauntlett (Kevin Petersen, Die Burger)

Jeremy Gauntlett (Kevin Petersen, Die Burger)

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Johannesburg - The higher education and training laws amendment bill is unconstitutional and limits academic freedom, advocate Jeremy Gauntlett said on Tuesday.

"Consequentially, these changes - by relative stealth - have diminished, in my view, academic freedom... and for this and other reasons are in fact unconstitutional," Gauntlett said.

"The emergency button on the train is made a weapon of first and last resort."

He said the amendment act had a "bizarre set of provisions" which contemplated the intervention by the minister when there were one or more vaguely defined incidents of inequity, unfairness or discrimination.

The bill, passed in December 2012, extends the minister of higher education and training's "power" to intervene in the management and the governance of institutions.

It authorises the minister to issue directives to a university council and place the institution under administration if he is concerned.

‘Amendment act vague’

Gauntlett was delivering a lecture on academic freedom at the University of Johannesburg on Tuesday evening.

He said a bill should always be looked at for what it could do when in the hands of a "bad person".

The current act had a system in place that if the minister had a concern over maladministration at an institution, he may send in an investigator, Gauntlett said.

"The power already exists. These are new powers. The amendment act is impermissibly vague.

"The amendment act unjustifiably, in my view, infringes the constitutional right to academic freedom. It also violates the right to a fair procedure."

The act encroached upon academic freedom in a manner that could not be justified, said Gauntlett.

Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, should repeal his amendment act.

Gauntlett said the act dealt sufficiently with maladministration and corruption but the minister, or those who advised him, "went a yard too far by beefing up the power".
Read more on:    jeremy gauntlett  |  judiciary

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