Higher Education Amendment Bill [B36-2015]: briefing

Higher Education, Science and Technology

27 January 2016
Chairperson: Ms Y Phosa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

In its first meeting of 2016, the Portfolio Committee was briefed by the Department of Higher Education and Training on the Higher Education Amendment Bill. The Department held that the Bill did not represent a major policy shift from the original Higher Education Act of 1997. Rather, the Bill seeks to clarify issues that have arisen, ensure that the Act is coherent and user friendly, and improve the system of classification for and accountability of higher education institutions. Though the Minister does have slightly expanded powers, the Department argued that these powers are necessary and now actually less vague. Members were concerned about the expanded powers for Minister, the system of independent assessors, and the prevention of fraudulent qualifications. Members also wanted to know about the consultation of stakeholders, representation of students on various representative bodies, and efforts to meet transformation goals. 

Meeting report

Introductory Remarks
The Chairperson welcomed Members to the Committee’s first meeting of the year. She announced that the purpose of today’s meeting is to hear a presentation from the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) on the Higher Education Amendment Bill that seeks to amend the Higher Education Act of 1997. The Bill was tabled on 13 November 2015 and the duty of the committee now is to facilitate public participation in the Bill and make quality inputs on the Bill so as to avoid controversy. She encouraged Members to have constructive engagement on the Bill.

Higher Education Amendment Bill: briefing
Director General Gwebs Qonde (DHET) introduced Prof Chris de Beer, who was a member of the task team that has worked on these amendments. He called on Dr Parker to give introductory remarks before Adv Boshoff gives the presentation on the Bill.

Dr Diane Parker, DHET Deputy Director General: University Education, said the Higher Education Amendment Bill process started in 2012 with a controversial amendment. [Stakeholders had felt that the 2012 amendment to the Act as contained in the Higher Education Amendment Laws was not properly consulted, the wording was clumsy and gave the Minister too much power over universities and national institutes of Higher Education]. Discussions with both universities and the University Chairs Council followed. These bodies suggested that there needed to be a review of the legislation. A task team was set up in 2014 and spent a year reviewing the Act with reference to the 2014 White Paper on Post-Education and Training. The task team wanted to ensure that the new amendments cohered properly and did not include outdated aspects like technikons. The task team had three members from the University of South Africa (Unisa), three members of the University Chairs Council, and members from the Council on Higher Education (CHE). It went through an in depth consultative stakeholder engagement process including private education institutions and students. This Bill does not create major policy changes, but rather cleans the Act up and ensures coherence.

Adv Eben Boshoff: Chief Director Legal Services (DHET) noted the Bill seeks to amend the Higher Education Act of 1997 to align that Act with the priorities of government and programmes as announced in the President’s State of the Nation Address and the National Development Plan. The Higher Education Act is being amended to:
- provide for the substitution of the long title
- amend the arrangement of the act
- provide for the insertion of new definitions
- provide for policy frameworks on the determination of transformation goals for the public higher education system and oversight mechanisms
- provide for policy frameworks on the development of articulation and recognition of prior learning frameworks
- provide for the conversion of public higher education institutions into a different public institutional type
- provide for a restructuring of provisions related to ministerial directives
- provide for indemnification of an Independent Assessor
- provide for the indemnification of and termination of the term of office of an Administrator
- provide for different categories of registration of private higher education institutions and associated rights
- provide for the withdrawal and revocation of qualifications by public higher education institutions
- provide for transitional arrangements.

The Bill extends the power of the Minister to determine policy applicable to higher education institutions, in particular transformation goals and the recognition of prior learning. Amendments provide the Minister with the authority to change the type and scope of a higher education institution in accordance with policy.

The Bill aims to account for new institutional types and removes mention of a technikon as a type. It provides for three types of institution: university, university college, and higher education college. University colleges are introduced as a mechanism to enable the developmental growth of new universities under the supervision of another identified university. Higher education colleges have a more limited range in anticipation of the incorporation of agricultural colleges into higher education.

Clause 9 allows for the institutional forum to provide advice to the Council. The Council must provide reasons if the advice of the institutional forum is not accepted. In the allocation of funds, the Bill now clarifies the procedural processes for the Minister’s power to withhold allocations due to specific conditions. This section also clarifies the record-keeping of external audits. Ministerial directives are clustered into a new Chapter with the focus on the balance between institutional powers, functions and public accountability. The Bill hopes to achieve a logical approach to the implementation of the directives, based in administrative justice and to provide guidance to independent assessors. The process and powers of intervention as well as the issue of indemnity is now more flexible and progressive. Administrators appointed by the Minister have their roles and powers better clarified. Issues of indemnification and termination for administrators are also addressed. The goal is for institutions to still be functional after the term of an administrator comes to an end.

As a result of Section 29 of the Constitution, there are requirements for higher educational institutions to meet certain criteria to qualify as a university. Amendments remove the requirement that a private higher education institution must be registered as a company. However, a person that performs any of the functions to provide higher education must be registered as a private higher education institution under the Act. If a private higher education institution provides a full array of educational services, the amendments allow for certain cases to be called universities. The new framework makes space for foreign institutions to issue degrees in South Africa. Private higher education institutions are given six months to prepare financial statements, which is more time than the previous three months.

Clause 36 provides for instances of fraudulent qualifications. The integrity of qualifications must be protected; the withdrawal and revocation of qualifications is now better in line with the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA).

The implications of the amendments are negligible to Departmental organisational structures. Policy frameworks, however, will need to be adjusted. It is important to note that the proposed amendments to the Higher Education Act 1997 constitute adjustments to existing provisions, which are already contained in the system. The amendments ensure that the Bill is coherent, better organised and user friendly.

Discussion
Mr E Siwela (ANC) asked about the withdrawal of qualifications contained in Clause 36. What if that error is identified after two years; will that person keep the qualification? If the qualification was acquired fraudulently, surely that qualification should be able to be revoked at any time.

Mr Y Cassim (DA) said that he noted that certain structural amendments have been emphasized, and the Bill also increased ministerial powers. Why has there not been any mention of the role of oversight of Parliament over these institutions? How can Parliament’s role be expanded and better defined? In Clause 8 amending Section 27, he said that 27(5B) does not provide for the potential for subjectivity and the potential for people being guilty of impropriety or fraud from within a Council? In 27(7C) when we look at the participation of members of Council and qualify participation of Council, it creates issues with conflict of interest. Students will have an automatic conflict of interest with matters such as university fees, which might exclude students who have a crucial interest in these discussions. He requested the rationale for the Clause 18 amendment of Section 44. As for Clause 20, it does not seem to be limited to employees; was thought given to allowing representatives of students as well as trade unions? The Memorandum of Objects in this Bill speaks about the financial implications for the State; what about the financial implications for the institutions?

Dr B Bozzoli (DA) asked to see all public submissions submitted to the Department on the Bill and noted that there was no specific mention of these submissions in the presentation. She felt that the Committee needs to assess for itself how well public opinion has been taken into account. What calls were made for public submissions? Those public submissions are separate from the parliamentary public hearings to come. When were these calls made? How many were received? What is the formal procedure for comments from the Council on Higher Education (CHE)? Does the CHE have a special standing in the system? Having CHE on the task team is not the same as a formal response. Similarly, was there a formal response from Unisa or were its views merely expressed in the task team?

It seems that, actually, the amendments do create a major policy change. The Minister’s powers expand in at least five areas. The power seems to shift significantly from institutions to the State. What is intended by the University Colleges? Are they meant to become Universities? Why is the word ‘transformation’ not included in the definitions? It seems to be a very vague term. The ANC has one meaning for that word, while other people have different meanings. What is the difference between a University College and a Higher Education College? Allowing the Minister to have authority over language policy is an expansion of ministerial powers. Can administrators be appointed in private institutions? I do not believe that the Basic Education Minister has any power over private schools.

Mr M Mbatha (EFF) commented about what he feels should be captured in the Bill. On foreign institutions, we need to be more aware, due to the growing internationalisation of education, what South Africa is accepting with these foreign institutions. Do we need to regulate such institutions due to, for instance, their historical cultures and what they bring into the country. Should we check to see if institutions have had problems in their country of origin? We should seek to force them in the requirements to contribute to the public good. They should have the same requirements as public institutions, for instance the demand for local language. In the interest of the public good, there should be an upfront payment against potential liquidation, which perhaps could be handled by the Reserve Bank or whatever entity is appropriate. These institutions in some countries go broke and leave citizens destitute by disappearing with their money. Foreign institutions should also aspire to spread all that is good about South Africa in curriculum; as much as the curriculum should be international, it should also intend to serve the South African good and the South African economy. This means that the value of what they present must benefit local people.

The 1997 Act did not push universities to create the capacity for their own internal audit. Universities need to be forced to create this capacity. Good governance should be institutionalised. Many universities have hired external audit firms that only deal with certain issues on an irregular basis. There should be a University Ombudsperson to give a voice to universities and a window into university culture. The drafting on the independent assessor needs to be more exact. The representation of the Student Representative Council (SRC) needs to expanded; perhaps they could have four seats instead of two. The majority of universities have grown significantly and two is no longer enough. The Council tends to wage a war on students; I believe it is because of the weakening voice of students.

Ms J Kilian (ANC) asked to be reminded of the different types of institutions. It is complex to prepare for this meeting when cross-referencing the Act and the Amendment Bill. If we look at the role of the Department over private institutions, as per the Constitution in Section 29(3)(c), is it not incumbent on the Department to ensure that the qualifications given by private institutions should be under scrutiny as well as public institutions? Would it be constitutional to do so? This is about South Africa and our perception abroad. If there is a panel of independent assessors and an impropriety is found, why is it necessary for there to be a power to override these findings? Is that not intervening excessively? If we expand the role of the Executive to accept responsibility and accountability for higher education, we must ensure that those powers are curtailed. The Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA) is written in throughout the Bill, which is good. I would like to signal the powers of the independent assessor as an issue. As for Mr Cassim’s call for mention in the Bill of parliamentary oversight, I would say that Parliament derives its power directly from the Constitution and thus nothing can stop us from keeping the Executive accountable.

Mr C Kekana (ANC) pointed to the Act’s reference to types of institutions. Can we have more clarity on these new types? Only 40% of South Africans go to university. More people in our society are trained in technical and vocational skills. Is the Act able to regulate that type of training? This training is very important. Out of 750 universities, most teach vocational skills. Is this reality captured in the Act? As for ministerial powers, the fact is that when things go wrong with education, the first entity to take flak is the governing party. Therefore, the government must assume responsibility whether we like it or not. Legislation should respect academic freedom, but the oversight role should be played more by government.

The Chairperson called for a response from the Department.

Mr Qonde thanked the Members for their questions and found their questions encouraging. We need to work out what will work better for the system in its reconfigured form. As a parent, what would you like your child to come out of any of our institutions looking like? In that context, you would ideally as a parent be able to derive satisfaction from the system. We have to apply our minds to find what will work better for generations to come. The DG emphasised that Council has an important role. How do we strengthen Council to do its work better? What will be the proper checks and balances across the system? We all know what these institutions should be able to produce, both individually and collectively. He asked Prof de Beer to start the responses as he has experience from the task team. Adv Boshoff and Dr Parker would follow.

Prof Chris de Beer from the University of Pretoria started with the two-year withdrawal limit on degrees incorrectly awarded due to material error rather than fraud. The text in question is in reference specifically to an institution’s administrative error, so the two-year limit wants to not punish an individual for something that was the institution’s fault. Fraud on the part of an individual can be addressed at any time with no time limit. When an independent assessor makes a finding against an individual, according to the Act, if an adverse finding is given then that individual can never serve on the Council. We have found this to be overly harsh in certain situations, such as against students who participated in a protest during which something was broken. That young student should not be forever banned from university council. The procedure has been since improved for independent assessors, and now the individual can put forward their case again in the future. The task team deliberated over how the individual should appeal, and decided that it should be an administrative rather than legal process due to the burden of legal fees. The Minister can decide on the seriousness of the contravention; I think that this is a better response to a very difficult situation.

In response to the question about types of institutions, on page 29 of the White Paper it states that the Department will not tamper with the three traditional types of universities, that are traditional, comprehensive, and technical universities. But the paragraph provides for a differentiation between undergraduate only universities and those with a broader spectrum. Especially with University Colleges, we have learned that there are quality and capacity issues.

Adv Boshoff noted that questions about consultation had been raised. This Bill addresses very specific concerns about the legislation and does not create major policy shifts. This is the reason a task team was established: to have focused discussion instead of broad submissions with little engagement. We have received criticism for the public submission process in the past; with the task team, we have taken minutes and have made concrete progress. We did not want an open-ended review, but rather a clarification of the Act.

Adv Boshoff  said that the Council on Higher Education (CHE) has a specific role to review policy amendments, not legislative amendments. The CHE was involved in the task team, but there has been no need to seek legal advice from them. Legislation comes from Parliament, thus this Committee will need assistance rather than the Minister. This Committee can hold public hearings.

Adv Boshoff  commented that Prof de Beer touched upon the two-year time frame which is only for a very specific situation where an institution has made a mistake. In many cases, a qualification holder may continue unknowingly with, for example, an honours degree in error but then earn it justly. The two-year time frame allows for this. On whether technical colleges are being morphed into universities. This legislation does not address Further Education and Training; those institutional types are different to universities. The term 'college' used to be vague. These amendments attempt to create a specific niche for a framework for higher education institutions awarding qualifications. The legislation also has the goal to address fraudulent qualifications in all instances; we do not want a piecemeal system. Fraud is a very specific charge; oftentimes, alleged fraud was actually an innocent mistake of the university and this issue is very complicated. If the approach is too wide, implementation is impossible.

Dr Parker said that all qualifications from any institution must be approved and regulated by the Council, including foreign institutions. As for curriculum, that is part of the CHE accreditation process. The system in 1997 called for merging institutions and not creating new ones. Now, that thinking is not helpful. Institutions need to grow and develop over time, and new categories like University Colleges are necessary.

Mr Qonde said that we have to dispel the notion that building an institution is like instant coffee; it is not an easy thing. The system must be grounded properly in order to allow for institutions to grow and develop.

Prof de Beer addressed the question about conflict of interest. He said that such conflicts are rife; the Act is not trying to prevent such conflicts. The Act deals with interests over and above such unavoidable occurrences. As for increasing the number of students on Council, we must remember that for every additional internal member, two additional external members must be appointed. The culture of the Council hampers the voice of students rather than the number of students present. The Minister can only directly appoint an independent assessor under specific circumstances prescribed in the Act where there is clear financial irregularity. This is not a carte blanche power; instances are specifically listed in the Act. In the representation before an independent assessor, I think it may have been an oversight not to say that a student could be represented in some way due to prohibitive cost of legal services. As far as the CHE is concerned, as a member of CHE, he could state that the CHE will respond to the amendments during public hearings. The CHE discussed this Bill twice and decided not to respond until the public hearings. UNISA participated in the process through their legal committee. Their proposals came directly from the board; they signed off 85% of what is here. We had a long and intense debate on drafting and how this legislation should not impact universities. I do not believe that the Minister’s powers have been expanded. In fact, the Minister must now do more than previously required to act in terms of the Act. PAJA is strongly woven into this Bill. As for private institutions, they participated actively in the task team process through documentation and attending meetings. They were willing to subscribe to the fundamental aspects of the Act. We believe that registration prescripts should govern over private institutions. We cannot tell private institutions how their governance should be set up; prescripts are a much better way to interact with private institutions.

Mr Qonde said that internal interest groups most commonly paralyse higher education institutions. We need to look at this matter cautiously and without idealisation because it creates large costs and impacts education. We need to research this.

Mr Cassim asked again whether or not the task team fully considered the expansion and definition of parliamentary oversight. The DG says that we must think about the function of and the environment for these institutions; surely we want an environment of accountability. We can strengthen and define the checks and balances. As for the financial implications on institutions, there would be situations in which institutions will have to add something at a cost to them. Has this been considered? As for adverse findings by an independent assessor being appealed, surely there could be a better way for recourse than merely allowing the Minister to decide. This opens the door for implicated and politically connected members to potentially be handled unjustly. There should be a more accountable manner that is not open to ministerial abuse. When it comes to conflict of interest, he appreciated the answer but he would prefer that this was said explicitly rather than implied. As a former student on a university council, he knew how certain legislation can be used to stymie and intimidate student participation. We need to better define what is an acceptable conflict of interest to avoid inconsistent use of that legislation.

Mr Mbatha noted that the original Act aimed to both transform universities and ground themselves in accountability. One had hoped that universities would transform and democratise internally. More recently, however, it is a struggle to find any such lessons in university culture. This is why he raised having a university ombudsperson earlier. The majority of university senates are composed mostly of traditional, conservative individuals. Over the past 18 years, the war to make universities progressive culturally has been difficult. What are the new generational ideas around institutional autonomy?

Ms S Mchunu (ANC) said that the amendment Bill is long overdue if we want to see higher education transformed. Does the Bill clarify who becomes responsible, in a situation where a university is not transforming? It seems as though it would be the government. We have situations where universities are not complying; we need to clarify this issue.

Prof De Beer replied that, for example when the Minister appoints an assessor, the Minister must gazette his appointment of independent assessors. The oversight is built into the Bill indirectly. Annual reports from the CHE are public if he is not mistaken. In the statute of a university, there should be a full exposition on how the Council should function. Councils should also have a code of conduct and a charter. If the Council is not functioning properly, it will be the Achilles' heel of the University.

As for institutional forums and ombudsmen, there are a number of issues. The Act only refers to the statute of the university, and there is no rule requiring that statute to explicitly define how institutional forums should function. Sometimes, the constitution of the forum is in the statute, which is problematic if that constitution conflicts or is otherwise problematic. We are trying to compel Council to receive and consider advice from forums. If the Council does not take the advisory body’s advice, the Council must now provide a reason. Institutional forums have all stakeholders sitting around the table, so they are an important advisory body, but this opportunity could be used more effectively. Regulations on hiring senior staff should be advised by the institutional forum and are not always at the current time. This Bill aims to make absolutely clear when the Minister can interfere with institutional autonomy. The Council can make counter-proposals to the Minister on how to solve issues, but the Minister needs the power to ensure that the Council does follow up and solve the issue. Placing universities under administration is not always the best solution. However, in situations of corruption or mismanagement, the Minister must act in the interest of the public.

It is fair comment that we need to understand transformation better; we should consider whether a definition is necessary. What is here is that the Minister can now set transformation targets for the sector as well as a framework for recognising prior learning. The Minister, however, cannot set enrollment numbers for every program at every university. These matters are instead discussed along with broader matters between the Minister and institutions; institutions are being held to these goals with subsidy allocations. There should not be a separate process for this; the approach should be systematic else we have frustration occurring as we have seen in the past couple of months.

Adv Boshoff replied on the financial implications. The specific language in question deals with an individual’s trade and occupational qualifications. There are no new financial implications as a result of this language. Declaring a conflict of interest is not the end of the world; it intends to provide decision makers with all the necessary information. Not all conflicts of interest, such as a student having an interest in fees, will skew or unduly influence the decision maker because the decision maker knows these interests are there. The goal is to expose conflicts of interest that are dishonest and/or unknown to the decision maker.

Dr Parker added that the system allows for a process for financing any requests from the Minister. It would never be that it is demanded that an institution something where there is a huge financial implication that is not taken into account. We are looking into teaching and research development grants, though this does not require mention in this Act. This Act, after review, is not seen to have major financial implications. We debated Mr Cassim's issue with the review of adverse findings at length, and decided that the Minister is the Executive in terms of Higher Education and that therefore the decision falls to the Minister. Parliament could challenge the Minister if actions were alleged to be unjust. We should not write something into the Act assuming that the Minister will be untrustworthy; that oversight falls to Parliament.

The Chairperson thanked the Department for its observations. She called for closing remarks from the DG.

Mr Qonde said that the Department is delighted by developments thus far and it looks forward to full engagement with the wise members. He wished them fruitful deliberations going forward.

The Chairperson said that, as the process unfolds, engagement will be more vigorous. This is necessary so that the end product can be sustainable. We had to engage here today to take the DHET forward. Clarity was provided where it was sought. The objectives of the Bill were clearly explained. The sequence of events will now be the advertisement of the hearing on the Bill in national and provincial newspapers to allow for citizens to make written submissions. Oral submissions to the Committee will follow during public hearings. The Department will be part of the public hearings. There will then be a meeting to hear responses from the DHET, followed by a meeting to consider the Bill clause by clause. The Committee will finally meet to review all issues and eventually submit a report; a vigorous debate in the House will follow. After the debate, the Speaker will refer the Bill to the NCOP; if the Bill is passed, it will be tabled to the President who can choose to assent to the Bill and complete the lawmaking process. Stakeholders must engage actively and within time limits. Quality preparation and input is necessary to propel the work of the Department to greater heights. Thanks to Members for their relevant interventions, thanks to Mr Qonde and Prof de Beer and the Department for the briefing.

Committee Programme
The Committee considered its draft schedule.

 

The Chairperson announced that the oversight visit, due to scheduling conflicts, has been postponed indefinitely.

Mr Cassim asked about the logistics of this trip.

The Chairperson explained that the Committee cannot be in Parliament for its meetings and in KZN and the Eastern Cape all in one week, so the trip has been postponed.

Mr Cassim asked to when the oversight trip would be postponed. He hoped that it would happen as soon as possible.

The Chairperson noted that the Committee agreed with this.

Mr Mbatha asked for interaction with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to happen sooner than 10 February. By the 10th, most universities will be operational. This presentation should rather be held next Wednesday on 3 February.

Mr Cassim agreed with the proposal, but the NSFAS and the Department must be properly prepared.

Ms Kilian said that NSFAS will be better prepared a week later and that members will not all be able to attend next Wednesday. She said that the meeting should not be moved.

The Chairperson noted that a vote of members supported Ms Kilian’s counter proposal to not change the agenda.

Mr Mbatha thought that Ms Kilian's explanation was not sufficient to justify skipping the important work of the Committee.

The Chairperson noted Mr Mbatha’s concern but held the Committee’s consensus.

Ms Kilian asked if the Committee could appeal for a better venue for the public hearings on the 17 February.

Dr Bozzoli pointed out that the State of the Nation (SONA) conflicts with these public hearings and that it will be very difficult for the public to get into Parliament during the heightened security of SONA.

The Chairperson clarified that the SONA debate takes place over three days.

Mr Cassim agreed that he hopes not to miss any sittings of the House. He proposed having a public hearing at a higher education institution. He thought that this would broaden access to the process.

Mr Mbatha supported Mr Cassim's proposal. There are five or six potential universities here in Cape Town that may have a better venue. This could be a courtesy call to them.

Ms Mchunu said that the hearings should end before the SONA debates and that this proposal to go to a university is too short notice, though it is a good idea, perhaps for next time.

Ms Kilian was concerned that the SONA debate would chip away at the time to consider legislation, which is an extremely important function of Parliament. As for a new venue, time constraints and co-ordination are too difficult to overcome for now.

Dr Bozzoli expressed concern that the Department did not call for written submissions at the draft Bill stage. Is there time at this stage? Was the Department’s procedure legal? There is also limited time now to prepare oral submissions; it does not seem procedurally correct.

Mr Kekana asked that the Chair cast her eyes around to all members and make eye contact with any member who raises a hand. When the Chair does not see us, it makes it seem as though we are not participating. Secondly, he did not think they can make the decision on a venue now. They need time to caucus to consider all the arguments. They could break now for a short caucus. The principle is good, but we need to consider practicalities.

Mr Cassim found it in bad taste for the ANC Whip to call for a caucus. In the past, the Chair has rightfully admonished members for calling for a caucus. Next, if there is a will, there is a way. In the spirit of public participation, Parliament could take the lead and do this. This should be a principled decision, not a political one.

The Committee Secretary said that the advert for hearings on the Bill would go out this weekend. There is a period of two weeks for submissions before the public hearings. During that week there will be a debate in the House; so the only available day would be Friday.

Mr Mbatha pointed out that, if published this weekend, the public will barely have fourteen days. He suggested using the Friday 19 February. This is the most important process this Committee will undergo during this term. Giving the public more days is a show of the Committee’s dedication to this Bill. There will be much participation if we do this. The venue, no matter where it is, must be open and accessible and respectful for both members and the public.

The Chairperson noted that the venue issue is not about respect but rather availability. She called for the Committee to rise above party lines on the issue of education.

Mr Kekana agreed that politicising this matter is not helpful.

The Chairperson noted that the venue must be wheelchair accessible.

Mr Cassim asked if there is a decision on whether Friday 19 February should be used for public hearings, perhaps at a university.

Ms Kilian held that there is not enough time to organise a trip outside Parliament. However, the Committee can meet on the Friday at an appropriate and accessible venue in Parliament.

Mr Cassim pointed out that the Friday will not conflict with SONA. Perhaps the Secretary can check and see if a trip is possible.

Mr Kekana said that the Committee has heard on many occasions the voices of students. He did not understand Mr Cassim's desperation to go to a university. Students can come to Parliament and we can avoid the issues that will arise from trying to plan an outside event like this. If we go to an institution, other institutions will complain that we did not go to them.

Mr Siwela proposed that the Secretary should research what is and is not possible for better venues.

The Chairperson noted agreement from Members that the Secretary will further research the matter.

Mr Mbatha observed that, if the Committee does not go on oversight before the end of March, it would have been over a year without oversight in the Eastern Cape and KZN. He proposed that that oversight should happen this financial year.

The Chairperson agreed that this should be a priority.

The Committee approved its programme for the first term.

Committee Minutes
The Committee approved the minutes of the 21 and 28 October, 28 October, 3 and 18 November committee meetings. Also considered and approved were the minutes of the Standing Committee on Appropriations of 4 November.

Committee Announcements
The Chairperson noted the importance of the Higher Education Amendment Bill and its principal Act, the Higher Education Act of 1997.

Mr Mbatha asked to be provided a copy of the Act. He asked the Secretary to email members the advert for the hearings on the Bill.

The Chairperson agreed. The advert should be distributed as widely as possible, including provincial newspapers and public higher education institutions. The Committee’s Media Liaison Officer will also assist in this. The Secretary will send all members the advert.

The Chairperson announced that the Committee has been invited to a joint meeting with Science and Technology tomorrow in order to exchange information with a Norwegian parliamentary delegation.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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