Higher education bill enables institutional autonomy discussions

Cape Town: President Jacob Zuma says the proposed Higher Education Amendment Bill will make it possible for discussions around institutional autonomy to take place.

The President said this when he fielded oral questions from Members of Parliament (MPs) at the National Assembly on Thursday.

He said the recent protests by students, who marched to demand a 0% increase on university tuition fees for 2016, brought the matter of institutional autonomy back into the spotlight.

“Government recently introduced a Higher Education Amendment Bill in Parliament, which addresses the issue of institutional autonomy.

“In the meeting I held with university stakeholders on the 23rd of October 2015 at the Union Buildings, we all committed to ongoing discussions on institutional autonomy and other related matters of transformation,” he said.

The bill was introduced at a time students from across several universities nationwide marched to protest a 10.5% fee increase.

Following numerous engagements between Higher Education and Training Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, university Vice Chancellors and student representatives, the President later announced that fees would be increased by 0% following a meeting with affected parties at the Union Buildings, last month.

Addressing MPs on Thursday, the President said as he recently announced, he was also establishing a commission to look at higher education transformation, funding, living conditions and related matters.

“We need to get the balance right between autonomy and governing accountability, while still promoting academic freedom which is enshrined in the Constitution,” he said.

President Zuma said government invests public resources to ensure that institutions contribute to national development goals and this has to be met by a degree of accountability to the South African public.

“While accountability mechanisms exist already enabling oversight by the Department of Higher Education and Training, it is clear that such mechanisms need to be streamlined and improved.

“The objectives of the Higher Education Amendment Bill include the following: to ensure alignment and consistency with the administrative law provisions of the Constitution; to address matters pertaining to institutional autonomy, public accountability, and cooperative governance; to create mechanisms for expansion and differentiation of higher education institutions through institutional types, and to clarify the rights of private higher education institutions in compliance with section 29 of the Constitution,” said the President.

The Department of Higher Education and Training is also currently in consultation with the sector, developing sets of indicators on financial health, governance, performance and transformation.

“The goal is to use these indicators to align the autonomy and diversification of universities with accountability and executive management of these institutions,” the President said.


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