23 January 2013

South Africa: Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr B.e. Nzimande, Announcement of the Oversight Committee On the Transformation of South African Universities, Johannesburg

press release

I have great pleasure today in announcing the establishment of the Ministerial Oversight Committee on Transformation in the South African Public Universities. The background to this announcement dates back to the White Paper on Education which set the framework for the Transformation of Higher Education. The White Paper 3: A Framework for the Transformation of Higher Education (1997) seeks to guide programmes and processes aimed at transforming the post-apartheid education system. It requires that "all existing practices, institutions and values are viewed anew and re-thought in terms of their fitness for the new era".

In 2008, the then Minister of Education, Ms Naledi Pandor, appointed a Ministerial Committee on Transformation and Social Cohesion and Elimination of Discrimination in Public Higher Education. The Committee was headed by Prof Crain Soudien, and given the brief to "investigate discrimination in public higher education institutions, with a particular focus on racism, and to make appropriate recommendations to combat discrimination and promote social cohesion." The Committee had to report to the Minister on the following:

An overview of the state of anti-discrimination in higher education;

An indication of the most egregious forms of discrimination that are taking place within the system;

The nature and extent of racism and racial discrimination in public higher education, and in particular university residence, and other forms of discrimination based on gender, ethnicity and disability;

An insight into models of good, anti-discriminatory practices that were emerging within the system;

An agenda for the areas of higher education most urgently in need of anti-discriminatory work, and steps that have to be taken by institutions to combat discrimination, including an assessment of good practice as well as short comings of existing interventions;

An identification of the most critical areas for further investigation and research; and

The Committee was to advise the Minister and the key constituencies in higher education on policies, strategies and interventions needed to combat discrimination and to promote institutional culture for staff and students, which are based on the values and principles enshrined in the Constitution.

The Committee's report (the 'Soudien Report') concluded that the state of transformation in higher education was painfully slow. In particular, racism and sexism were pervasive, while the pace of redress was equally painfully slow. It noted serious disjuncture between policy and real-life experiences of both students and staff, particularly in learning, teaching, curriculum, languages, residence-life and governance. Based on its conclusion, the Committee recommended as one of the key interventions, that "The Minister should consider establishing a permanent Oversight Committee to monitor the transformation of higher education."

This Committee I present to you today ladies and gentlemen of the Media, is therefore based on that recommendation.

Purpose of the Oversight Committee

The purpose of the Oversight Committee is to monitor progress on transformation in public universities and to advise the Minister on:

policy to combat racism, sexism and other forms of unfair discrimination as elaborated on in the Soudien Report;

policy to promote social cohesion and an institutional environment where every student and staff member can live, study, work and flourish free of any constraints resulting from unfair discrimination;

The role of universities in promoting the development of a free, fair and non-discriminatory society beyond the world of academia.

There is acknowledgement and recognition in the Report that transformation is an imprecise concept, and that the understanding outlined here, focusing on the elimination of discrimination and promotion of social cohesion, is a rather restricted one. This is intentional as the full transformation of the university system cannot be tackled by this committee. Such transformation involves the improvement of the quality of teaching and learning; the elimination of weak administrative systems, especially at historically disadvantaged universities; the elimination of discriminatory practices based on gender, race, class and historical imbalances; the provision of adequate infrastructure so that all universities can adequately meet their fundamental mandates of teaching, learning, research and community engagement in the context of social cohesion; the expansion and improvement of research throughout the system; the expansion of access to university education to many more students; and so on. Transformation in this broader sense must perforce be the aim of the entire system of governance and management at the national and institutional levels, and is beyond the scope of this Oversight Committee. It is important to note that the word 'transformation' as used in this document therefore refers to the narrower meaning of the word.

Terms of reference and work streams

The Oversight Committee will:

Study and evaluate the transformation frameworks/charters and annual reports of all universities, including their transformation indicators and set targets. The Committee should use this exercise as a basis for the development of a transformation charter and benchmarks for the entire university sector;

Determine the effectiveness and efficiency of institutional transformation frameworks/charters, policies and strategies;

Produce an annual report on policies and practices impacting on transformation within universities, including both achievements and challenges;

Suggest a reporting mechanism by institutions on the set institutional and national transformation targets and benchmarks;

Identify best practices and challenges in the area of transformation policies and practices;

Bring to the attention of the Minister any major problem areas or incidences affecting universities' transformation;

Advise the Minister on policy and strategies for the promotion of transformation;

Advise the Minister on any other matters it may deem necessary, important and relevant for development and transformation of the sector

In undertaking its work, the committee may commission various research undertakings within the confines of its budget and will take into account other research findings undertaken by independent parties to assist its functioning.

Members

Committee members are persons with the relevant knowledge and expertise for this type of brief. They are appointed for a period of three years and may, individually, be re-appointed for additional terms at the discretion of the Minister. The appointment of the Committee is effective from the day of gazetting, which will take place soon after this announcement. The founding members of the Committee are as follows:

Prof. Malegapuru Makgoba (Chairperson)

Dr. Mvuyo Tom

Ms. Nazeema Mohamed

Ms. Zingiswa Losi

Prof. Andre Keet

Prof. Shirley Walters

Mr. Joe Mpisi

Given their expertise in this area, I have full confidence in this Team and their capability to carry out the competently and within the set time-frames.

Thank you.

Issued by: Department of Higher Education and Training

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