Higher Education Amendment Bill [B36B-2015]: adoption
Higher Education, Science and Innovation
11 May 2016
Chairperson: Ms Y Phosa (ANC)
The Committee met for the consideration and adoption of the Higher Education Amendment Bill [B36-2015], with input from state law advisors, Parliament and the Department of Higher Education and Training. The Bill was adopted. The DA objected to clauses 1, 16, 25, 28, 37 and rejected the entire Bill on the basis that the Bill was replete with provisions that were expanding the powers of the Minister of Higher Education and further eroding the already severely weakened principle of university autonomy. Universities soon would be unable to fulfil their obligations towards the constitutional principle of academic freedom as the state intervenes relentlessly into their domain. The DA refused to adopt a Bill that could potentially harm the higher education sector. The EFF was in support of the Bill but objected to clause 37 amending section 65D.
The Committee Report on the Bill was adopted noting the objections of the DA and EFF.
The Chairperson noted that this was probably her last meeting as she had been redeployed as the Chairperson of Standing Committee on Appropriations. The Committee had received a total of 60 written submissions on the Higher Education Amendment Act in public hearings that were held over a two day period. There were 10 stakeholders that only submitted written submissions without making an oral presentation. The Committee had agreed on numerous clauses but there were also objections that were flagged by Members. All the objections would be noted and recorded in the Committee Report on the Bill to be tabled in the Announcements, Tablings and Committee Reports (ATC). The Bill is to be debated in the National Assembly on the preliminary date of 24 May 2016.
The Chairperson wanted to know whether the Memorandum on the Bill was debatable.
Mr Sisa Makabeni, State Law Advisor, responded that Members could comment on the Memorandum as its intention was to reflect those amendments that the Committee agreed upon.
The Chairperson explained that the Committee would allow the State Law Adviser to read out all the proposed amendments and then Members would debate on whether those drafted amendments were as agreed upon in the Committee.
The only concern that was raised during the read through of the proposed amendments was about Clause 3.
Prof B Bozzoli (DA) complained that the wording in the proposed amendment to clause 3(1) amending section 3 was not as agreed upon by the Committee. The agreement that was reached previously was that the word “goals” should be deleted and replaced by “policies”.
The Chairperson suggested that perhaps the Committee would need to go back to the minutes of that particular meeting to arrive at a conclusion on what was agreed in terms of clause 3(1). The decision that was reached was probably that the Committee should retain “goals” and then register the objection of DA.
Prof Bozzoli maintained that the current drafting of clause 3(1) was ungrammatical as it did not make sense to retain both “goals” and “policies” in one clause. The proposal was that clause 3(1) should be rephrased to read: “the determination of transformation policies for the public higher education system, including the setting of goals and oversight mechanism”.
Members agreed with the proposed amendment.
The Chairperson stated that the Committee would now adopt the Bill on a clause-by-clause basis.
Adoption of the Bill clause-by-clause
The Chairperson reiterated that the Committee Report on the Bill would note all the objections that had been forwarded by the opposition parties. It was unclear whether the Committee should note the individual Member that had objected to certain clauses or the party.
Ms Vuyokazi Ngcobozi, Parliamentary Legal Adviser, responded that the Committee should note the objection of the party rather than an individual Member.
Adv Eben Boshoff, Chief Director: Legal and Legislative Services, Department of Higher Education and Training, requested Members to note if the objection was on the original or the amended Bill.
The State Law Adviser said it was procedural that the B version of any Bill would include all the proposed amendments the Committee had agreed upon.
The Committee adopted all clauses. The Democratic Alliance objected to clauses 1, 16, 25, 28, 37.
Prof Bozzoli pointed out that clause 43 substituting the Long Title of the Bill should be rephrased to read as: “the determination of transformation policies for the public higher education system, including the setting of goals and oversight mechanism”. This was to correspond to the amendment that had been made in clause 3(1) amending section 3.
Members agreed to the proposed amendment.
The State Law Adviser requested that the legal team should be given an adequate time to deal with the technical changes to clauses 45 and 46. The year “2015” in both clauses was to be changed to “2016”.
Members agreed to these proposed amendments.
Mr Y Cassim (DA) indicated that the DA was objecting to the entire Higher Education Amendment Bill.
The Chairperson expressed shock that the DA was opposed to the entire Bill as this seemed to defeat the whole purpose of actively participating in the deliberations on the Bill.
Prof Bozzoli explained that some of the clauses that the party had objected to were so important that they rendered the whole Bill unacceptable. The DA believed that the current drafting of the Bill was likely to harm the higher education sector.
The Chairperson said that the Committee would firstly note that the DA had objected to some of the clauses before eventually rejecting the entire Bill. She wanted to make it clear that she was utterly disappointed that the DA had objected to the entire Bill.
Ms J Kilian (ANC) added that any party had a right to reject the entire Bill and this was something that the Committee needed to deal with. It would be good if the DA could also admit that the Bill was a very important mechanism in bringing about better accountability, administrative justice and other matters that would be advantageous to the higher education sector.
Mr Cassim wanted to make it clear that despite the DA’s rejection of the entire Bill, this did not mean the party did not contribute to the Bill in its overall intention of strengthening the effectiveness of the higher education sector. The Bill was indeed a step in the right direction in bringing about better accountability. However, the Bill is also replete with provisions expanding the powers of the Minister of Higher Education and further eroding the already severely weakened principle of university autonomy. Universities soon will be unable to fulfil their obligations towards the constitutional principle of academic freedom as the state intervenes relentlessly into their domain. The DA could not adopt a Bill that could potentially harm the higher education sector.
Adoption of the Committee Report on the Bill
The Chairperson noted that the Committee had adopted the Committee Report on the Bill and also noted the objection of the DA on the entire Bill and the EFF’s objection of clause 37 amending section 65D.
The Committee Secretary indicated that the meeting next week had been cancelled because of the plenary sitting on 18 May at 10:00 am.
The meeting was adjourned.
Phosa, Ms YN
Bozzoli, Prof B
Cassim, Mr Y
Kekana, Mr CD
Kilian, Ms JD
Mchunu, Ms S
Nkadimeng, Ms MF
Siwela, Mr EK
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