The Council for Higher Education and Quality Council for Trades and Occupations briefed the Committee on their 2018/19 Annual Performance Plans.
Budget cuts and lack of resources featured as a common reason for both the Council on Higher Education and Quality Council for Trades and Occupations to operate under tight conditions in order to accomplish their organisation’s mandate.
The Chairperson said the issue of budget cuts should not solely hinder entities in achieving their targets. The availability of funding is reflective of the state of economy in the country. She said Members should keep their questions concise and straight to the point; there were other sittings which Members had to attend to
Members noted the that the Quality Council for Trade and Occupations always has an issue of lack of resources to execute the mandate and asked what it has done to improve the situation; asked what the role of the entity was in trying to assist on the certification backlog so that it is minimal; and asked about entity’s growth in personnel and when it expected to reach its ceiling, if ever; what decolonisation of the curriculum entailed; how the Council for Higher Education provides adequate advice to the Minister, how they cope with that scenario?
Members asked what the Council for Higher Education does to intervene on disadvantaged students from poor socio-economic background who are struggling with the medium of communication in Higher learning; if the qualifications of lecturers in Technical Vocational and Training Colleges will be reviewed and what can be done to review the quality of the qualification of the lecturers standing in front of the students; what Council for Higher Education meant by a public dialogue? Was CHE intending to involve the public and listen to the students about the kind of quality education they get and the challenges they face in their institutions?
Members asked about the reconstruction of National Accredited Technical Education Diploma qualifications, with regard to the involvement of private business when the reconstruction of the diploma qualification was done. Did Quality Council involve potential employers for these students when they qualify; and what investigating badging meant and what it involved.
Members sought clarity on the Council for Higher Education research budget and it reaching its goals; about the staff component with regard to gender and critical vacant posts, how many women in senior managerial positions and at which percentage is Council accommodating people living with disabilities?
The Chairperson said there were a lot of qualified graduates sitting at home; did the Quality Council for Trade and Occupations involve industry and businesses in ensuring that the qualified graduates were responding well to the requirements of the industry. She asked what the Council for Higher Education’s advice was on the pressure of enrolment at institutions, taking into consideration the over demand of accommodation and housing at universities
She asked the Council for Higher Education to explain whether decolonisation of the curriculum, curriculum reform and curriculum transformation was the same thing, if not to clarify. She asked what happens to the underperforming students using state money. Do we have a cut off? The shortfall on research was a worrying factor, what can be done to mitigate this so that institutions can conduct research and are able to guide the country on where to invest?
She commented that the Technical Vocational Educational and Training in the country’s system of education needs to be re looked and re arranged with an objective of improving the quality of the output.
The Chairperson said that due to the nature of the load of work in the NCOP it was difficult to engage year after year. However, she was happy that this year the Committee was in a position to engage as it closes the 5th Parliament session. The Committee would get to know about the challenges faced by the organisations and also more about what is involved in the entities’ Annual Performance Plans.
She would like to hear the challenges which the Quality Council for Trade and Occupations is facing. She asked the organisation to explain to what extent it was assisting the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges to ensure that it had proper accreditation of courses and the accreditations of workshops.
She looked forward to the presentations by the entities because answers to her questions will come and also lead to more questions as well.
Council of Higher Education Presentation
Mr Cassie Kruger, Member of Council: Council for Higher Education (CHE) said there were seven external factors in which the CHE operated in. There was ongoing pressure to increase enrolment to accommodate more students in higher education institutions. The demand for education far exceeds the capacity of the institutions. There were more radical changes in the world of work. The world of work was changing so fast such that it had put pressure on universities to undertake continuous curriculum transformation and those programmes needed to be relevant and carefully thought of, and this would then also place pressure on CHE.
The majority of students who came from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds were not adequately prepared for tertiary education and often not efficient in the medium of instruction, which was English in most universities. The pressure to decolonise the curriculum put pressure on universities which in turn put pressure on the CHE
The fifth external factor was the explosion of collective sharing online which in turn posed challenges in the traditional roles of universities. Another factor was the growing pressures on the time of the academic and administrative staff to complete a wide and growing array of administrative tasks in order to comply with relevant legislation, regulatory requirements, and quality assurance systems both inside the university and as well as from the CHE.
With regard to the internal factors closely affecting the organisation itself, the steady increase in annual accreditation and re-accreditation applications received had the effect of overloading the process as it was currently being designed. This then called for attention to streamline the programme accreditation process.
The second factor was the commitment to reintroduce institutional audits or reviews in order to fulfil the mandate of auditing the quality assurance mechanisms of higher education institutions as stipulated in the Higher Education Act. The intention to increase the number of national reviews of programmes, because national reviews had recorded significant success in both raising the profile of key quality assurance issues and leading to binding actions that had a significantly positive effect on quality in higher education
The fourth factor was the need to bring Directorates to work more closely with one another and move away from working in silos. There was need to introduce greater agility into the structure and functions of the CHE to enable greater responsiveness to the rapidly changing external environment
CHE had four strategic goals.
- A quality assurer with its goal statement being a credible, efficient quality assurer in higher education, with processes developed and implemented to inform, assure, enhance, and promote quality in High Education Institutions.
- CHE as a centre for information, policy analysis and advice. The goal’s statement is that CHE is a recognised centre for information, policy analysis, and advice on higher education that informs and influences the public dialogue for the transformation of the higher education system.
- CHE as a quality council. CHE was a well-established quality council that promoted the goals of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) in the context of the Post School Education Training sector.
- CHE strives to be an effective, sustainable and dynamic organisation with systems, processes and capacity/resources that enable it to discharge its mission and legal mandate optimally.
Lack of funding is a threat to the stability of the organisation and CHE was finding it hard to retain staff especially when it had to compete with universities for these staff.
Prof Narend Baijnath, Chief Executive Officer: Council of Higher Education said the structure of each programme had numerous components. It consisted of the purpose of that particular programme, then the elements of that particular programme which were its sub programmes, and then the strategic objectives of the programme and lastly the deliverables and outputs of the programme.
The bulk of CHE was programme 2. Programme 2 entailed qualifications management and programme review. The purpose of this programme was to advance the realisation of the goals of the NQF within the context of the post-school education and training sector.
Because the volume of applications had more than doubled whereas the staffing had remained the same, it had become impossible to maintain the same time frames. This was a direct consequence of not having adequate resources to deal with the increase in volume.
The CHE was mindful of it being a recognised centre for information and advice on higher education that informs and influences the public dialogue for the transformation of the higher education system.
Mr Thulaganyo Mothusi, Chief Financial Officer: Council of Higher Education said if everything was well, National Treasury should be approving the requested budget because that is the budget they would be looking for to run its departmental activities.
The budget allocation was based on the number of employees per programme and salary scales of each employee. The budget covers 51 funded employees from various programmes and takes 68% of the total baseline budget allocation.
CHE owns the building where its offices are situated, therefore owning a building means fixed costs like cleaning and maintenance costs associated with it and that contributes to the allocation of the funding.
CHE received additional funding of R 12.5 million which was approved late in the year in December, and CHE was never in a position to finish the funds within 2 months. CHE then had a cash surplus because this was the cash available in its bank account as unused.
CHE needs to write a letter to National Treasury to request an approval to utilise the surplus, and if the approval is granted before June then this means that CHE can be in a position to allocate funds to achieve whatever objective it had planned for the 2017/2018 financial year.
Ms Peliwe Lolwana, Council Chairperson: Quality Council for Trades and Occupations, said the QCTO was a newer quality council in the environment of education. QCTO saw itself as contributing towards a skilled and capable workforce in the country and wants to achieve the establishment and maintenance of an organisation that is sustainable and capable of doing the work that it was set out to do.
QCTO is underpinned by 3 programmes
Programme 1: administration
- This programme is set to enable QCTO performance through strategic leadership and reliable delivery of management support services.
Programme 2: occupational qualifications.
This programme was to ensure that occupational qualifications registered on the Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework (OQSF) were available and Skills Development Providers (SDPs) that offer occupational qualifications were accredited within a reasonable period and ensure credibility of providers.
Programme 3: quality assurance
This programme is set to establish and maintain standards for the quality assurance of assessments and certification for occupational qualifications on the OQSF.
Mr Vijayen Naidoo, Chief Executive Officer: Quality Council for Trades and Occupations, said QCTO developed its own qualifications and the processes were led by the industry and its social partners. He said Involvement of the industry is done so that the qualifications it develops are those that are acceptable in the industry and also meet industry requirements, so that the carriers of the qualifications are guaranteed employability.
The Council had reconstructed the Business Studies programme into what is known as occupational qualifications and it was currently busy with the reconstruction of the Engineering qualifications.
QCTO also contributed towards the education and industry partnerships in terms of prioritising what qualifications it needed to develop. The organisation is also involved in the simplification of the NQF.
The Council was currently quality assuring two systems moving towards a national system.
He was happy to report that all of the backlogs no longer exist except for what may pop up in the pipe line. QCTO prides itself that it has a turnaround time of certification of less than 5 days while the policy indicated that this ought to be done in 21 days.
The Council was responsible for accrediting the providers as well as the assessment centres. It approved assessment partners, which were industry partners who would assist in standards being maintained.
QCTO was trying to move from a decentralised system to a centralised system quality assurance to ensure that there were similar standards across all its providers.
- Competent people in priority trades and outcomes: Contribute to the creation of a skilled and capable workforce in priority trades and occupations for employment opportunities that are available in the labour market.
- Create a sustainable organisation: management systems developed, implemented and maintained by March 2020.
The current funding provisions consisted of the SETA Levy Grant, allocation from Fiscus and the charges for services it rendered.
On Human Resources, QCTO had implemented a new organogram based on the cluster model and that would help it in delivery and also reduce on third party dependency.
Mr Innocent Gumbochuma, Director of Finance: Quality Council for Trades and Occupations, said the challenge with the SETA Grant allocation is having to apply every financial year and not knowing what the approved amount will be. This made it hard to plan. As a new organisation it had not had any roll overs. QCTO had new services it was charging, but these were not budgeted for. The Council was trying to supplement but the revenue generated from these streams was still minimal.
The budget decrease in Occupational Quality Assurance (OQA) was because of the change in the organogram of the organisation where clusterisation had been implemented and therefore the certification unit moved from OQA to OQM (Occupational Quality Management). There was a huge increase on the administration budget mainly because it was now centralised so that the core functions can be independent and get to focus on the function it was meant to do.
Mr D Stock (ANC, Northern Cape), said it was not the first time the Committee had met with CHE, and in those times when it did, he picked up that out of the key challenges being raised, there is always an issue of lack of resources to execute the mandate. He asked what it has done to improve the situation and maybe from the Committee’s side it can alleviate the situation to the Minister and try to help CHE to be able to get the necessary support they are anticipating to get. He did not believe in throwing money at a problem as part of the solution. As Members of Parliament they had dealt with situations where people came asking for money and when the money is allocated it even increases the problem. He would appreciate it when the extent of the problem is understood and how it came about. He asked what the proposals were to correct such problems.
Mr Stock observed that the budget of the 2018/2019 Financial year had dropped by 4.5 % for compensation of employees, which then makes it very difficult for CHE to appoint and fill the critical posts, therefore the incoming Committee could be sitting with the same problem of lack of funding, and therefore all problems cannot just be attributed to the lack of funding. The reason behind the budget cut must be obtained because CHE will not be in a position to carry and achieve its mandate all the time. If your mandate has been expanded how are you going to carry out your responsibilities with a limited budget?
Mr M Khawula (IFP, KZN) asked the Department what it meant when they said they are not asking for the money but they are asking for permission to come with the money; what the role of QCTO was in trying to assist on the certification backlog so that it is minimal; and asked about QCTO’s growth in personnel and when it expected to reach its ceiling, if ever.
Mr Khawula asked what decolonisation of the curriculum entailed. What do you understand about decolonised education? Which fields or areas are we talking about?
He asked how CHE provides adequate advice to the Minister, how they cope with that scenario? He sought clarity on what CHE means when it points out that they have a surplus which is not a surplus; and about the actual and ideal budget.
Ms D Ngwenya (EFF, Gauteng) asked what CHE does to intervene on disadvantaged students from poor socio-economic background who are struggling with the medium of communication in Higher learning. What can be done with that situation? Would it not make sense to have some sort of bridging courses? She was tempted to answer Mr Khawula on the question he had posed about decolonisation. She asked if the qualifications of lecturers in TVET colleges will be reviewed. She struggles with the quality of lecturers found in TVET colleges. She asked what can be done to review the quality of the qualification of the lecturers standing in front of the students; what CHE meant by a public dialogue? Was CHE intending to involve the public and listen to the students about the kind of quality education they get and the challenges they face in their institutions?
She congratulated and extended her gratitude to QCTO on being able to deal with the backlog issue. She asked about the reconstruction of National Accredited Technical Education Diploma (NATED) qualifications, with regards to the involvement of private business when the reconstruction of NATED qualification was done. Did QCTO involve potential employers for these students when they qualify? She asked what investigating badging meant and what it involved.
Ms T Mampuru (ANC, Limpopo) sought clarity on the CHE research budget and it reaching its goals. Was it going to reach its goals with a budget of R6.3 million? She asked about the staff component with regard to gender and critical vacant posts, how many women in senior managerial positions and at which percentage is CHE accommodating people living with disabilities?
Ms L Dlamini (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked how new QCTO was. She asked how much QCTO had been spending since its formation. She would have liked a breakdown of their expenditure. It was worth noting and highlighting that all the departments in the country at the current moment had no money including all the critical ones like health which had suffered a budget cut. Therefore, it was important to find out the best ways of working with the little that is available to achieve targets. She was not comfortable with the 50% compensation on personnel especially at a post-industrial revolution era where a lot can be done without the human element and rather have technology implemented. What could be done without the human? She challenged QCTO to be innovative.
Ms Dlamini asked where QCTO placed the county in terms of the quality of education produced in the institutions. Based on the Council’s quality assurance where did it put SA as a country, is the quality of substandard, or poor, are the claims correct?
She would wish a progress report be made available to the Committee on how QCTO has dealt with the certification backlog so that it is assured as well.
The Chairperson said there were a lot of qualified graduates sitting at home. She asked whether QCTO involved the industry and businesses in ensuring that the qualified graduates were responding well to the requirements of the industry.
She asked what CHE’s advice was on the pressure of enrolment at institutions, taking into consideration the over demand of accommodation and housing at universities. What is CHE’s advice to the Minister? What solutions did it bring in terms of solving that issue as parents are complaining that they are renting flats that are extremely expensive?
She asked CHE to explain whether decolonisation of the curriculum, curriculum reform and curriculum transformation was the same thing, if not it must clarify. She asked what happens to the underperforming students using state money. Do we have a cut off? She asked whether South African graduates were employable in other countries like Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Are our students up to the required standard? The shortfall on research was a worrying factor. What can be done to mitigate this so that institutions can conduct research and are able to guide the country on where to invest?
Funding is also dependant on the state of the economy, but this absolves us from the responsibility as a government to fund the institutions properly so that they can execute the mandate
She asked QCTO to unpack the External Integrated Summative Assessment. She asked whether although it sought to ensure quality, would it not be a deterrent where student would find it hard to get their qualifications.
She asked about the accreditation of workshop of the TVET colleges. She asked if QCTO was partially in charge of the accreditation function of these workshops. She commented that the TVET in the country’s system of education needs to be re looked and re arranged with an objective of improving the quality of the output.
Mr Kruger said that for someone who sits in the Council, he can assure the Committee that there is definitely a lack of funding to respond to its mandate. The CHE does not generate income and is largely dependent for allocation from the Department. The only income it generates is the fees they charge for services to private institutions. They were even now looking at charging the public institutions but this is something they are debating and trying to avoid as far as possible.
Mr Mothusi said the request for additional funding which was approved in December of R12. 5 million was done on time when the budget process kicked in for 2017/2018 financial year but the unfortunate part was that the people who had the authority to approve the budget only did the approval in December. The R 12.5 million was not a surplus, it was additional funding because it came late in the year owing to the delayed approval. When the 2017/2018 financial year closes there will be a surplus because of a figure of R12.5 million which came late.
In total there were 51 vacant position.
Mr Baijnath said that the issue of decolonisation was a complex one politically and also a highly contested one in terms of the educational process and curriculum development and reform. The CHE had two publications on decolonisation, one which looks at decolonisation of the curriculum and the other looks at the history curriculum and in particular looks at what is happening. The very big issue starts with the domination of Western canons of knowledge production and that is historically partly embedded. In the post liberal environment, the universities have to be asking critical questions about notions of knowledge. What knowledge does it validate? What knowledge does it privilege? What perspective does it privilege? What interest does it privilege?
The quality assurance regime is internationally comfortable and is benchmarked with the other universities in the world. The universities were attracting students mostly from the SADC countries but also a significant part came from all over the world especially at the Postgraduate level, the top universities are comfortable competing with the rest of the world.
CHE had a duty to ensure that students, especially disadvantaged students, succeed, and get good quality qualifications and develop skills and capabilities that make them employable and realise their full potential and become an asset to the world.
Prof Beverly Thaver, Council Member: Council of Higher Education said that the appointment of African staff and the recruitment of South African-African students at postgraduate level was one of the challenges being faced by the institutions. Such a challenge was a travesty of the South African justice because how are institutions going to cultivate the next generation of academics. A solution was the need for some steerage at systems level.
The notion of our universities is a colonial project, and as part of decolonisation the ideology of a university should be one which is seen as situated in Africa. Some steerage would need to happen, for example the ways of teaching in institutions should establish some symmetry between those teaching and those learning. The learning experience should not be far removed from the lecturers.
On the language, institutions should possibly consider switching to languages that students are able to write in, understand and can make meaning.
When looking at the quality of qualifications historically disadvantaged institutions are at a huge disadvantage and continuously remain at a huge disadvantage. Under democracy these institutions have moved to what is known as comprehensive institutions. The students graduating from these institutions do not get employed in the market because the market is racial, therefore when the issue of quality is being looked at, some form of steerage must be established that can enable the traditional universities to maybe take on some of the curriculum arrangements of the universities of technology as well as comprehensive institutions.
The system needs to be reviewed in terms of acknowledging and recognising pockets of excellence within the universities of technology and comprehensive institutions than focusing on the established universities. As CHE moves towards strategic planning and mapping the next phase a much closer link with the National Development Plan must be established so that it can come with indicators around moving the institutions towards looking and resembling what it means to live in Africa.
Ms Lolwana responded with regard to newness, QCTO was relatively new compared to the other quality councils because the formations have been sequential and she was there in the establishment of the other councils like Umalusi and CHE.
The DHE is the employer of lecturers and the Department has been trying to put a project of improving the capacity and the quality of lecturers.
The issue about stressing that QCTO needs money is not a matter of finding another source because the money is already in the system, but it is a matter of assistance supporting and finalising processes in the system so that the money moves with the function.
On the staff component she agreed that a lot of activities can be done by IT, but however IT does complex work and big data because of the rules which have been established already. QCTO is at the point of establishing those rules too and a conceptual frame in order to be able to command the computer. QCTO will get there, and still needs the human mind to make judgements and be able to make the right interpretation.
Quality is relative and is for a purpose. The quality and standard that is expected from Umalusi is different from the quality that you would expect from a body like QCTO or CHE. The purpose of QCTO is building qualifications that are going to be fit for the occupations of the country.
Mr Naidoo said that when QCTO develops a qualification they invite everyone in the industry and then select
QCTO qualification are benchmarked with international qualifications.
The External Integrated Summative Assessment was not a gate keeping mechanism, it is generally about standards.
Badging is another word for certification. It is a technology system that gives credentials to learners for qualifications and can carry them on their mobile instead of carrying hard copy certificates. It is a career path for the learner.
Mr Gumbochuma said the organisation was one of the high performing ones in terms of audits. It was audited by the Office of the Auditor General of SA (AGSA) and for the past 3 years it has had 2 clean audits which it is quite happy to maintain. He would provide a response in written form showing the breakdown of the organisation’s expenditure so that Members could get a sense of direction where QCTO was going, but he could confirm that the organisation was well managed and performing.
The Chairperson welcomed all the presentations and discussions. Autonomy needed to be regulated hence the need to directly involve the Minister in issues that are critical like decolonisation of curriculum matters because at times universities tend to enjoy and abuse the autonomy it is given.
She was counting on the two organisations and appealed to them to assist the Committee to make sure that the education system is transformed.
The meeting was adjourned.
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