Nursing & Agricultural Colleges migration from provinces: DHET progress report

Higher Education, Science and Technology

09 September 2015
Chairperson: Ms YN Phosa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) noted that Schedule 4 of the South African Constitution states that all tertiary education should be a national competence; however, a number of public institutions offering formal higher education and training qualifications remain outside the Department’s responsibility posing a risk to institutions such as public agricultural and nursing colleges.

In March 2014, Cabinet approved the Mangaung resolution indicating that Agricultural Colleges should be transferred to the DHET. However, they are currently governed by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and its provincial counterparts. Cabinet has approved a Joint Technical Task Team (JTTT) to advise the Ministers of Higher Education and Training, and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on the implications of the incorporation of the Agricultural Colleges into the higher education sector under the governance of DHET. The scope of work of the JTTT has already been developed addressing all the necessary due diligence. One of the most important tasks is the establishment of a Steering Committee that will provide strategic leadership and management oversight of the JTTT. The purpose of this Committee will include functions such as: oversee the function shift of Agricultural Colleges, to engage with stakeholders to monitor project activities, coordination and alignment of strategic and operational initiatives and hold quarterly meetings.

On nursing colleges, DHET reported that the Ministerial Task Team on Nurse Education and Training recommended that Nursing Education and Training be regarded as a national competence accountable to the Director General of the Department of Health. As a result, an agreement between the National Department of Health (NDoH), DHET and the South African Nursing Council (SANC) was reached on 8 September 2014 in which they compromised to a collective collaboration at two levels: (1) at national level between the DHET and NDoH through the offices of the respective Deputy Directors General, and (2) at institutional level between individual universities and Nursing Colleges councils, based on formal Memoranda of Understanding; yet, the Provincial Departments of Health remain responsible for the provision and maintenance of the clinical training platforms. In addition, it was decided that the NDoH should conduct a capacity audit of all public nursing education institutions, to determine the state of readiness of Nursing Colleges to meeting quality assurance standards and conduct a mapping exercise by region of all Nursing Colleges to inform determination of collaboration with universities. Currently, the DHET is conducting a study on the migration of Nursing Colleges. Once completed, the DHET will inform the Ministers of Higher Education and Training, and Health on the implications of shifting Nursing Colleges to a national competence either under the mandate of the DHET or NDoH. After this there will be a meeting between the two Ministers to agree on a way forward.

Members asked questions about the function shift of both Agricultural and Nursing Colleges, the funding strategy, expansion of the DHET to address the new colleges and migration deadlines. DHET was unable to provide satisfactory responses about a detailed plan on the function shift, timeline and a funding strategy for the programme and was asked to submit these details promptly to the Committee.
 

Meeting report

Nursing & Agricultural Colleges migration from provincial to national competence: DHET report
Ms Engela van Staden, DHET Chief Director: Academic Planning and Management Support, presented the progress report on migration of agricultural and nursing colleges. DHET aims to enable the coherent and well-articulated offering of higher education, vocational education and skills development through a variety of post-school institutions. Schedule 4 of the South African Constitution states that all tertiary education should be a national competence; however, a number of public institutions offering formal higher education and training qualifications remain outside the Department’s responsibility posing a risk to institutions such as public agricultural and nursing colleges.

In March 2014, Cabinet approved the Mangaung Resolution indicating that Agricultural Colleges should be transferred to the DHET. Public Agricultural Colleges are of high strategic importance to the development of the state and the economy. There are 11 Agricultural Colleges located across seven provinces and the 12th college, Lowveld College of Agriculture (LCA) was incorporated into the University of Mpumalanga. These colleges offer a mix of higher education programmes like diplomas and degrees, some technical and vocational education and training as well as skills programmes. However, they are currently governed by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and its provincial counterparts. Cabinet has approved a Joint Technical Task Team (JTTT) to advise the Ministers of Higher Education and Training, and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on the implications of the incorporation of the Agricultural Colleges into the higher education sector under the governance of DHET. The scope of work of the JTTT has already been developed addressing all the necessary due diligence. One of the most important tasks is the establishment of a Steering Committee that will provide strategic leadership and management oversight of the JTTT. The purpose of this Committee will include functions such as: oversee the function shift of Agricultural Colleges, engage with stakeholders to monitor project activities, coordinate and align strategic and operational initiatives and hold quarterly meetings. The JTTT has been set up with expertise in academic planning, human resources, governance and policy as well as legal. It is foreseen that the first report on the academic model will be available at the end of March 2016 which will inform the possible governance, management and legal implications.

On Nursing Colleges, the current health context is that South Africa has a quadruple burden of disease compared to other countries. With its high prevalence of HIV, the nurse-based healthcare system requires nurses to have the competence and expertise to manage this burden of disease. Thus, nursing education aims to educate and cover the health needs of the country. The Minister of Health appointed a Ministerial Task Team on Nurse Education and Training with the purpose of refining the recommendations contained in the Nursing Compact and to address the education, training and practice issues of the nursing profession. There is a need for Nursing Colleges to be declared higher education institutions, in compliance with the provision of the Higher Education. A failure to do so would result in Nursing Schools being unable to continue offering nursing education and training.

The Ministerial Task Team on Nurse Education and Training recommended that Nursing Education and Training be regarded as a national competence accountable to the Director General of the Department of Health. Although, the overall mandate of training and education is with the Minister of Higher Education and Training. As a result, an agreement between the National Department of Health (NDoH), DHET and the South African Nursing Council (SANC) was reached on 8 September 2014 in which they compromised to a collective collaboration at two levels: (1) at national level between the DHET and NDoH through the offices of the respective Deputy Directors General, and (2) at institutional level between individual universities and Nursing Colleges councils, based on formal Memoranda of Understanding; yet, the Provincial Departments of Health remain responsible for the provision and maintenance of the clinical training platforms. In addition, it was decided that the NDoH should conduct a capacity audit of all public nursing education institutions, to determine the state of readiness of Nursing Colleges to meeting quality assurance standards and conduct a mapping exercise by region of all Nursing Colleges to inform determination of collaboration with universities. Currently, the DHET is conducting a study on the migration of Nursing Colleges. Once completed, the DHET will inform the Ministers of Higher Education and Training, and Health on the implications of shifting Nursing Colleges to a national competence either under the mandate of the DHET or NDoH. After this there will be a meeting between the two Ministers to agree on a way forward.

Discussion
Ms B Bozzoli (DA) commented on the ability of the DHET to take over the colleges and asked for the strategy/plan in order to conquer both sectors, considering the lack of funding and staffing that the Department has. What guarantees does the Department have to ensure the hiring of new staff to manage a new set of colleges? What are the lessons learned from the previous migration of nursing colleges? What advice is the Department getting on the content of courses in these colleges – as the idea is to bring these colleges back to standard, because at the moment they seem to be struggling, particularly Nursing Colleges. Is the DHET getting international advice on the structure of the services?

Ms M Nkadimeng (ANC) commented that the function shift to the DHET will have implications in terms of the NSFAS needs – What will be the impact in these colleges? Is there a plan to expand Agricultural Colleges? She asked DHET to expand on the function shift of the Nursing Colleges.

Mr M Mbatha (EFF) referred to Agricultural Colleges and said what are the expectations, plans and strategy to make these colleges part of the higher education system? How easy is that work considering there are just a few colleges of this nature? Is the DHET going to be able to create a Nursing and Agricultural college system for their own purposes? Will they be given identity and requirements to grow this sector independently from the university system? What is the strategy to develop both Agricultural and Nursing Colleges in an attractive way for students? Where is the directing strategy for both colleges? To the DHET, he said that there is a need to rebuild the system very fast and politically one has to create a stimulus to attract more people to the Agricultural and Nursing disciplines. It is important not to grow these colleges in isolation. On the contrary, there has to be public awareness of these colleges in order to build a solid structure and a promising future for them.

Ms J Kilian (ANC) commented on the necessity of the DHET to develop and present a clear function shift for both Agricultural and Nursing Colleges. The Committee is certainly expecting much more detail at the next meeting as there are many points that are missing in the report.

Mr C Msimang (IFP) said to DHET that if there is going to be a change in the structure of these colleges, let that change lead to the best possible results. He asked if the migration of the colleges is a continuation in the  experimentation on the educational system. ?

Mr E Siwela (ANC) referred to the funding situation of the DHET. What is the strategy to follow in order to expand the funds from government to the DHET? When is the DHET going to be ready to present the function shift of both Agricultural and Nursing Colleges? What is the strategy to go overcome the challenges around Nursing Colleges?

Ms S Mchunu (ANC) asked how both Agricultural and Nursing Colleges are going to be integrated into the new system? When will these colleges be migrating? Is there a specific timeframe? Has DHET asked the National Treasury for funding?

Mr C Kekana (ANC) commented that in the past, Nursing Colleges worked very well on the premises of hospitals. What is the DHET plan to move these colleges to a more practical arena? What is the current funding strategy?

The Chairperson said if there was a timeline for migration for both colleges? What is her assessment regarding an environment policy?

Ms van Staden replied that both Agricultural and Nursing Colleges are higher education institutions, and so far the Department has established partnerships with three universities in order to support the work in these colleges. It is in the DHET's best interest to keep the identity of the colleges. She assured the Committee that the migration programme is not an experiment, and that the DHET has enough competence to do proper planning to ensure the success of this. In regards to international advice, the DHET is getting international recommendations from a university as it is difficult to identify a suitable person to give such advice. For the funding, proper research, built on fact, has been established to look for alternative solutions. The DHET is involved with National Treasury to make sure they note the needs of the Department, but it is up to them to give support or not. However, it is important to highlight the fact that the DHET will aim for the quality and the employability of those graduates, that is why the support and partnership with universities is vital. As an example, currently there is an internship programme through clinics for the Nursing Colleges to ensure the exposure of the students to the practical arena. In terms of expanding the Agricultural Colleges, there will need to be research in order to establish the actual needs of the country; but so far, there are no plans for expansion.

More specific to Nursing Colleges and funds for higher education, only a legal decision has been made, thus the administrative, financial and management part is handled by provincial heads of Departments; which is quite problematic in terms of the development of the programme, the design, financing of education and capacity development of nursing educators. Therefore, the DHET is waiting for a national policy to address all financing, offering consistent quality across the country and across providers. Right now, there are no health arrangements with providers to provinces. The reason is that it is hard to keep control in terms of who is training in what. Now, within the Agricultural sector, and the assessment of the environmental policy, there’s no thing as legislation that covers Agricultural Colleges, they are governed by a standard document. The aim for Agriculture is to shift these colleges to higher education to develop centres of excellence.

The Chairperson thanked the DHET for the progress report and asked for a prompt clarification in terms of the function shift of both Agricultural and Nursing Colleges, an estimated time frame for the migration of the colleges as well as a clear strategy for the funding of the programme.

The meeting was adjourned.

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