Available here once adopted: BRRR 2019
The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) presented the Committee with a report on the situational analysis and profile of governance and management at universities. The presentation was based on previous engagements between the Department and the Committee that took place in August, at which Members had asked for a report on the functionality of the individual universities with regard to governance, management and other related areas of functionality within the institutions. The report was a collation of information from across the Department
Members raised concerns over the low throughput rates of historically disadvantaged institutions (HDIs), and asked what the Department was doing to assist them, as it appeared that the divides of inequality were being deepened. The Department said that where there was poor management, there would be poor governance which resulted in the constituents within suffering. In the case of universities, it was the students who suffered in terms of their performance, which resulted from the mismanagement of finances. That required the Department to assist. The mechanism at the Department’s disposal was legislation which empowered the Minister to undertake appropriate action, such as placing an institution that had failed under administration to stabilise it, such as had happened at Fort Hare and the University of Venda.
Member also asked why walk-ins were prohibited, as they felt that this excluded students from registering for degrees. However, the Department insisted that the very nature of walk-ins had a destabilising effect. It stressed the importance of timeous applications by students to ensure they received the information of where they had been accepted for study in good time. However, there was a “Catch” system in place to assist students who fell by the wayside.
Member raised concerns over the remuneration of Vice-Chancellors, which they felt was excessive. The Chairperson said a letter had been written to the Minister requesting him to address the matter, but its receipt had not been acknowledged. The Department confirmed that there had been a big outcry over the matter, and the Minister was looking into it.
Concerns were raised around the lack of student accommodation provided by universities, which left students vulnerable to exploitation by private landlords. The Department responded that it had embarked on an aggressive drive to provide student accommodation with the resources available at its disposal. It had targeted to provide 300 000 new beds over a ten-year period, of which 200 000 would go to universities and 100 000 to technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges.
DHET: Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report
The Chairperson took the Members through the Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).
Mr B Nodada (DA) referred to page 38, point 7.3.3, and said that once consequence management had been implemented, a report ought to be given back to the Committee detailing what consequences and action had been taken against repeat offenders identified by the Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA) at the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges.
He asked if the recommendations also dealt with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) as an entity. That was because the Committee had not received a report from NSFAS, and the AGSA had not received their relevant documentation to conduct a finding. He found that disappointing. He recommended that there be some form of accountability for the entities that failed to furnish the AGSA with the relevant statements which were necessary for it to produce audit reports that enabled Members to exercise their oversight roles.
The Chairperson agreed that the Committee should request reports on the outcomes of consequence management. He also noted that NSFAS had not been able to table a report, and that the Committee expressed concern that a report was not presented and a statement in that regard was issued. The sentiments expressed in the press statement should find expression in the report currently under consideration before Members. That was expressed under point 6.3.4
Mr Nodada reiterated his stance that consequences needed to be imposed on NSFAS for not producing their report. He asked that a portion be added that consequences be imposed for individuals responsible for not tabling their report and annual financial statements.
He also referred to point 6.3.2, and asked for a report form NSFAS on what happened to the 270 000 eligible students who had not received their funding.
The Chairperson suggested that the above questions be asked when NSFAS came before the Committee. Only after engaging with them could Members make the recommendations suggested by Mr Nodada. He suggested the reservations be expressed in the current report, but the recommendations be made after meeting with NSFAS.
Mr W Letsie (ANC) said the report under point 6.1.5 did not reflect the recommendation the Committee had made, that the Deputy-Director General vacancies be filled as a matter of urgency.
Members moved to adopt the report with amendments.
DHET: Situational analysis and profile of governance and management at each university
Mr Gwebinkundla Qonde, Director General (DG): DHET, explained that the presentation was based on the previous engagement between the Department and the Committee that took place in August, at which Members had asked for a report on the functionality of the individual universities with regard to governance, management and other related areas of functionality within the institutions.
Ms Thandi Lewin, DHET Chief Director: Institutional Governance and Management Support, explained that the presentation was a collation of information from across the Department.
In August 2019, the Department provided an overview of governance issues relating to public universities. The Committee had indicated that they wanted a detailed profile/overview of each university. The Department had developed a summary report of key information pertaining to each public university in a separate document.
This presentation could not adequately summarise the full document, but included an introduction to the Department’s oversight of public universities, a summary of key issues addressed in the profile report, and a summary of information provided on each university.
The DHET had the responsibility to develop policy and regulations to govern the public university system in South Africa. The key Act under which universities were established and governed was the Higher Education Act 101 of 1997, as amended. The development of the system was steered through three key mechanisms linked to the implementation of legislation, policy and regulations: planning; funding; and quality assurance. Planning and funding were driven by the Department, and quality assurance and promotion by the Council on Higher Education (CHE). The Department also provides support for institutions to implement programmes focused on improving quality and success.
Funding is allocated to universities based on a funding framework which sets out a transparent process for how funds made available by the fiscus will be distributed to individual institutions.
The framework makes provision for the distribution of operational funds to each university in the form of a block grant, the quantum of which is based on the performance of the institution in terms of specific factors, including teaching inputs, teaching outputs and research outputs.
Targets for each institution are set in place though a national enrolment planning process, which involves discussions and negotiations with the individual institutions, culminating in a negotiated agreement between the Minister and the Council.
The funding framework also makes provision for earmarked grants, which are allocated by the Department to steer the development and transformation of the system. Each earmarked grant is distributed and monitored on the basis of policy guidelines approved for its use
Structure of Each Profile
Each report is structured to provide information on each university in terms of:
Graduates and throughputs
Funding (including the block grants and earmarked grants)
Financial health, and
Ms Lewin proceeded to take the Committee through each university profile.
The Chairperson thanked the Department for the presentation, and said that the bigger document was quite useful and detailed on the governance and management of the universities. He felt that the universities looked good, except for a few like Fort Hare, which had a disclaimer opinion, and Vaal University, which were of serious concern.
Ms J Mananiso (ANC) spoke about the demographics at the universities, and asked that the report include statistics on youth and disabled people, as the presentation depicted only race and gender.
Referring to pages 11-36, she felt -- as a politician -- that the institutions were deepening divides along the lines of race, class and gender. That was because of the historically disadvantaged institutions (HDIs) who were in the low rate of the cohorts. She found that problematic, because it seemed as if certain institutions received preference in governance and management support. Had anything been done to ensure that the rates of cohorts increased, irrespective of the happenings in the institutions? That would avoid deepening inequality divides.
On governance and management in the institutions, she asked what the biggest concerns were. Were concerns rooted in a lack of human capital, or a lack in functional structures? Was supply chain management at the institutions the biggest concern? Ascertaining that would be important for identifying problems like corruption, for example.
Mr P Keetse (EFF) referred to institutions preventing students from registering via ‘walk-ins,’ to highlight how ineffective the catch system was. He wanted the Department to come up with a better mechanism to enable students to apply to universities. He felt it was odd that some universities allowed walk-Ins, while others like the University of Johannesburg, prohibited them. Students generally applied to multiple institutions. Despite acceptance to all institutions, a student could attend only one, which meant all the other institutions would still be expecting the student. That meant the university would not be able to reflect the real figures of how many students had been accepted versus how many had registered. Where walk-ins were prohibited, a student who was accepted but did not register would be taking up a space for a student who could have registered upon walking in. He asked if the Department had a mechanism in place to deal with the confusion that arose in such a situation. He felt that the catch system had proven to have some flaws over the past two years.
He asked how many of the 1.2 million students at the 26 universities were being accommodated in university residences.
He wanted to know what the inequality aspect of the North West University was. The different campuses were equally equipped and run. The campuses looked extremely polarized. When would the three campuses be treated equally?
He had heard that the landlord of premises where Fort Hare University was based had been demanding rental payments, as the institution had defaulted several times. He asked the Department to confirm whether the information was accurate.
Mr L Ntshayisa (AIC) asked what future plans the Department had for students who had not been successful in gaining admission.
What plans were in place to ensure that all the universities had their own accommodation available to students, as student had been subjected to exploitation by private residence landlords?
What criteria did the DHET use to allocate funds to the universities, as some received more while others received less?
Mr B Nodada (DA) commented on the structure of the profiles on the institutions, and asked that in future the report include a correlation between the curriculums offered by the institutions and the skills currently in demand in the country. He felt it was also important to measure the outcomes of the institutions in terms of the production of the human’s resources needed for the economy.
He said that universities were autonomous institutions that reported to the Department and were subject to audits by the AGSA, and pointed out several institutions in the report that were inaccurately reflected. The presentation stated that the Vaal University got an unqualified audit with finding, when according to the AGSA report Members had, it had received a disclaimer. A similar discrepancy was found on page 15 of the presentation about the University of Fort Hare. He asked for clarity as to where the Department got the information.
Was the DHET able to follow up on consequence management resulting from the audit outcomes? He had repeatedly raised the issue of consequence management, as his biggest concern was that despite wrongdoing being highlighted at the entities, there did not appear to be any tangible consequences that followed. He wanted to know what steps the Department took when it picked up wrongdoing.
He referred to reports that the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, was currently engaging with the Council of the University of Limpopo on governance issues, and asked if the Department had a timeline as to when those discussions would be concluded. What was the progress?
What progress was being made at the Mangosuthu University of Technology with the implementation of the recommendations?
Mr Letsie said that the universities should track their graduates to see if they were participating in the economy. That would enable the Department to identify which degrees being absorbed by the market and which degrees were not finding expression. It would also help to indicate which universities were producing graduates that were being absorbed into the economy. He referred to a view that graduates from the University of Witwatersrand easily found employment, while those from the University of Johannesburg did not, so he asked for a factual analysis on that point.
He referred to a newspaper article in the Sunday Times that had labeled the Chairperson and himself as xenophobic because they had asked for the profile of staff in the universities, specifically those from the African diaspora. He felt the journalist had misunderstood them. The current presentation by the Department had tried to reflect that, but he felt it was lacking because it referenced only permanent research staff members, and not total staff. He felt that was disadvantageous, because it did not give Members a clear picture of who was teaching and lecturing in the institutions. He wanted the analysis to depict who lectured first, second, third year etc, in all the different institutions. How many of them were from the African diaspora, and how many were black, white, Indian and colored South Africans. He asked the question again at the risk of being misunderstood and being labeled xenophobic.
On the profile of students per race, he commended the Department for detailing that but asked that the same be done for post-graduate students, as there was specific funding for post-graduates. How many students from the African diaspora were enrolled in postgraduate studies, and how were they funded?
The Chairperson remarked that the meetings of the Committee were open to the public, and when journalists sit in, they occasionally report inaccurate information. He was most disturbed by a public relations staff member from Rhodes University who was casting aspersions on the Members of Parliament. It worried him that a public official could do that, and he intended to write the Vice Chancellor of Rhodes University to ask whether the views of the staff member were those held by the University. If the university held the same views, then the Chairperson would initiate an engagement with the University.
He reflected on the concerns the Committee had over the remuneration of Vice Chancellors, which he warned could get out of control. He felt they were paid too much money. There had been public outcry that this needed to be addressed. The Committee was engaging with the CHE, which was an advisory body to the Minister, and the Council had indicated that they would conduct a study to address the remuneration issue. While universities remained autonomous institutions, they were still public bodies that ought to account to citizens about everything that they did. He had written a letter to the Minister, but had not received acknowledgment of its receipt. He wanted to know if the Minister had requested the CHE to begin the process. He asked for an indication from the DG, since the Minister was not present.
Referring to the University of Venda, he said that the presentation had summarised the issues in the longer report, but he wanted more information on the abandoned infrastructure project. The Minister had issued a directive to the University for it to continue with projects, but he wanted to know what the projects were and how much money was involved. What were the circumstances under which the Minister had issued the directive to the University of Venda?
The Chairperson suggested the universities that were under performing should be called before the Committee to detail what the issues were. He wanted the Administrator of the University of Fort Hare to appear before the Committee to give a progress report. It was unacceptable that they had received two disclaimer opinions. He had also read in the weekend newspaper that Vaal University still had issues.
He had received several complaints from the Tshwane University of Technology and had shared some of the details with the Minister. There had been a lot of allegations about the governance and management of the university. There were groupings and factions that had begun to emerge. It needed urgent attention, and he was aware the Minister had begun attending to some of those issues.
He commended the Department for the thorough and detailed report.
Mr Qonde agreed that the questions raised by the Members were crucial. Governance and management were key to the functioning of an institution. The institutions that seemed to be thriving in those two respects consequently succeeded in the management of their finances, learning and research, as well as their engagement. It was important to ensure that the institutions that were doing well continued to succeed. Similarly, it was important to ensure that the institutions that were struggling in those areas improved. The Department needed to identify ways to support them. The characteristic feature that undercut the capacity of institutions to adequately govern and manage funds was the collapse of responsibility and accountability in the operations of the institutions.
In response to Ms Mananiso’s question about the deepening of inequality, he said that despite what the institution was, where there was poor management there would be governance which resulted in the constituents within suffering. In the case of universities, it was the students who suffered in terms of their performances, which was as a result of the mismanagement of finances. That required the Department to assist. The mechanism at the Department’s disposal was the legislation which empowered the Minister to undertake certain appropriate actions. For example, upon the realisation that there were governance and management problems which impacted financial management and expenditure, the Department could advise the Minister to issue a directive to the institution that had been identified. The University of Venda had been subjected to such processes. That was the basis upon which the University of Fort Hare and the Vaal University of Technology had been placed under administration. When all efforts to stabilise an institution had failed, the last resort would be to place it under administration.
He esaid that supply chain management in the above illustration was always the target. It was used to advance personal interests, and in the process the systems and procedures were collapsed and overlooked deliberately. The Department monitored and evaluated those things, and placed legally sanctioned measures in place to address those issues.
In response to Mr Keetse, he said that the nature of walks-ins caused strife and chaos in institutions because of the vast amount of people that showed up who had not previously applied. He imagined that the Department and its entities could not appear before the Committee all at once to address and engage with Members. In his view, the engagements would need to be sequenced prior to that. He was illustrating that the nature of walk-ins had a destabilising effect, hence the importance of working together to effectively communicate to students the importance of timeous applications. This would ensure that students timeously received the information of where they had been accepted for study. He explained that the Catch system was a mechanism that had been put in place to assist the students who fell by the wayside.
The Chairperson asked Mr Qonde to explain what the Catch system was.
Mr Qonde said that the system was a clearing house. When students applied to institutions, they either got accepted or rejected. Thereafter the institutions would direct the rejected applications to the Department, which operated as a clearing house mechanism. It would interact with the system to identify available spaces for the placement of those students. It removed the burden of looking for available places from the student. That was the function of Catch. Additionally, students who walked in were also problematic, because they had not applied to any institution at all. That was why the Department encouraged students to apply, no matter what, because even though students may be unsuccessful in their applications, the Department could still find university placements for them. He emphasised the importance of students applying in order to minimise the disruption of the system as much as possible.
In response to Mr Ntshayisa’s question about student accommodation, Mr Qonde said that 18% of the students who had entered the university system had been accommodated in university-owned accommodation. The Department had embarked on an aggressive drive to provide student accommodation with its available resources. The figure had risen to 25% as a result of the Department’s provision of new beds. It had a target to provide 300 000 new beds over a ten-year period. 200 000 would go to universities and 100 000 to TVET collages. The funds the Department received from the state would enable them to supply only 30 000 beds, so the public sector had also been approached for funding. The Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) had allocated R6 billion, and the DHET was working with them to roll out student accommodation. There were already eight institutions benefiting from the roll out of those projects. The DBSA had approved a loan of R278 million, and government had put in R122 million, which Fort Hare was benefiting from. That was all to drive student accommodation. The University of Zululand would be receiving 3 000 new beds, and the University of Limpopo and University of Venda would also receive beds.
North West University had worked aggressively to integrate management processes and systems of all campuses within their jurisdiction, and there had been significant progress. He felt Members should not worry about it, as there had been progress driven both by the council and management.
In response to Mr Keetse’s question about the landlord of Fort Hare University, he confirmed that the Department had been made aware of the issues with the landlord, and had been informed that the institution was handling the matter. Apparently, the piece of land had been donated to the University of Fort Hare. The University of Zululand had a similar challenge, and was attending to it.
Mr Qonde asserted that consequence management was part of the operations of all institutions, and that its implementation was based on the specific challenges each institution faced. Where there was a collapse of governance and a malfunctioning of management, consequence management would be non-existent.
The Department had worked out their enrolment plans over a period of six years. Each year the progress was monitored. The variance that was allowed was two percent below or above. Institutions could not admit more students than their staff complement could accommodate, as it would result in overloading. Everything the institutions did was planned according to the resource capacity within which they could function.
On the curriculum reflecting the skills in demand, he said that every year the department produced statistics on the Post-School Education and Training (PSET) system, which gave a breakdown in respect of the areas of teaching and learning in the system. That was done for all the faculties. The Department had increased its capacity to offer critical skills degrees. It had conducted a study at Rhodes University and Fort Hare University to track employment patterns after graduating. The trends that emerged were that students from Rhodes got more absorbed into the private sector, while those from Fort Hare got absorbed into the public sector. That gave a fair indication as to how the trends emerged, and what would inform interventions needed to support institutions. One of the indications was that governance and management had an undesirable impact on the quality of provision and the prestige of an institution. Efficiency in governance, management, teaching, research and community engagement needed to be improved for every institution, as parents looked at the stability of an institution when deciding where to send their children.
On the issues raised about the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), Mr Qonde said that the Department had received correspondence in that regard. The challenges were being addressed within the prescribed processes. The institution seemed to still have a fair amount of capacity in terms of governance and management to address the matters brought to their attention.
The remuneration of Vice-Chancellors was under consideration by the Minister, as it had been raised repeatedly. However, the institutions were autonomous, and Vice-Chancellors were employed by the council and not by the government, so they were not subject to government employment legislation.
The Chairperson was not satisfied with Mr Qonde’s answer, as he felt it was broad and vague. A letter had been written which had not been acknowledged, and he needed the DG to inform the Committee how the matter was being addressed. Not only had the Committee voiced concerns, but a letter had been written to the CHE to address the matter.
He also felt that Mr Qonde’s responses to the questions were very high level, and lacked specific detail. For example, the Chairperson had asked about the infrastructure development that had been discontinued at the University of Venda and how much it had entailed, but Mr Qonde had referred to the right of the Minister to intervene by issuing a directive, but had failed to answer the specific question. Similarly, Mr Keetse had raised a question about walk-ins and the DG’s response had dealt only with the principle of walk-ins, but had not given specific details of how it worked and whether it was allowed. The Chairperson asked for specifics on the questions Members had raised.
Mr Qonde replied that the directive issued by the Minister had sought to establish those specific facts from the institutions who were bound to give details about the matter. After the facts had been established about what had gone wrong, then the response of the institution could be assessed. Thereafter, if necessary, the Minister would institute an investigation if the institution failed to provide all the facts.
He clarified that walk-ins were highly discouraged. The tragic incident that occurred at the University of South Africa, where a person had lost their life due to a stampede that broke out during a massive walk- in, served as a lesson that walk-ins needed to be discouraged and an alternative mechanism needed to be established.
The Chairperson expressed his frustration at the lack of specific detail provided by the DG.
What had made the Minister issue a directive in the first place?
Ms Lewin said that the Department was not quite sure what the Committee had wanted in the report, so was had been presented was a collation of work from across the Department. It had been helpful to get suggestions from Members about areas that needed improvement.
On the suggestion that statistics be provided on students with disabilities, she said the Department could provide Members with that data.
She said that one-third of PhD graduates came from Southern Africa. Most of them were self-funded.
At most institutions, the number of students accommodated in campus residences was 40% and below. Rhodes accommodated the most students, with 50% being in campus residences.
She said concerns over infrastructure at the University of Venda were linked to the management of the infrastructure projects. The institutions that had good infrastructure projects had entire teams monitoring them. The supply chain was effective, with the right people being assigned to the relevant tasks. The University of Venda had six incomplete buildings. The directive was centered on concerns about the management of the projects which had caused a backlog. The university had wanted to proceed with the projects, despite the Department’s indication that engagements needed to take place first. A new Vice-Chancellor and team had been appointed. She explained there was a delicate relationship between the Department’s engagement around governance and management and the institutions, as each institution had different issues. A lot of state funds were poured into infrastructure, so the Department needed to keep a watchful eye.
Regarding the monitoring of transformation, she said that the reporting regulations that had been put in place in 2014 were being reviewed. The institutions had to submit a lot of reports to the Department, which did not have the capacity to manage them at the level of detail required. It was important to get the information on transformation in institutions, and where there were gaps in reporting, the regulations needed to be amended to address them.
The Acting Chief Director: University Planning and Institutional Funding, referred to the buildings at the University of Venda, and said there was a 320-bed female residence, a 314-bed male residence, the School of Health Sciences building, the second phase of the new School of Education building, and student centres to be built at the residences. The tender had been R188 million, and to date R133 million had been spent with a balance of R55 million remaining. A new procurement process had been started to finish the projects. The poor performance and quality of the contractors had been raised a challenge. The university had conducted its own forensic investigation into the abandonment of those buildings. The Department was supporting the university to complete the buildings.
She reiterated that a profile on students with disabilities, as well as the nationalities of post-graduate students, could be compiled. The Department did not work with a headcount for temporary staff, only for full time staff. Some temporary staff stayed for a month or a week. However, the institutions had to provide the Department with a database on the demographics and profile of their staff members.
On the Central Application Service (CAS), the Bill had been published for comments and they had been worked into the final Bill. The development of the system was ongoing, and it would be piloted with a set of universities during 2021. The purpose of CAS would be for all students to apply directly to CAS, and their applications would be distributed to the universities of their choice. The advantages of that would be the payment of one application fee, and the provision of career advice and redirection where they did not get accepted into the universities of their choice. Once the system had been successfully tested it would be rolled out to all universities and ultimately to TVET and CET colleges, as well as sector education and training authorities (SETAS). “Catch” would be operational in 2019 for the students who had not applied on time. The universities could redirect students to “Catch” when they did not have space. It would open after the release of the Matriculation results in 2020, and would run for three months from January to March 2020.
On the funding criteria used to finance universities, the Department recognised that the apparent differences in funding appeared to contribute to the inequalities across the institutions. Most of the funding came from the TG input units, where Further Education and Training (FET), as first-time equivalents, entered the system. Institutions were allocated funding using a model with four different categories, where the health sciences generated the most income for institutions. Most previously disadvantaged institutions did not have health sciences related qualifications, which meant they would get less money. Also, where institutions had more students, they would receive more funding.
On the audit outcomes of the University of Fort Hare and the Vaal University of Technology, those institutions had submitted their annual reports late and had been granted an extension. Fort Hare had got a disclaimer opinion on both their financials and performance. The Vaal University of Technology had requested a further extension and received an unqualified opinion with findings.
On the implementation of the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) independent assessment report, the Minister had received the report and shared it with the Council in October, and had requested it to respond to the findings and recommendations. The Council had asked the Minister to appoint an independent assessor. It was worrisome that the Council had focused its attention on the recommendation to disband the Council and had ignored the other recommendations. The Minister had to refocus the Council’s attention to the seriousness of the findings of the recommendations particularly the need to restore governance at the institution. The Council had asserted they were not responsible, and yet they were. The Minister had requested them to look at the findings and recommendations, and utilise the Historically Disadvantaged Institutions programme grant to address the shortcomings identified by the assessment. Since the meeting with Minister, the Department had not received any follow up information, and as a result had requested the Minister to write a letter requesting an update.
The Chairperson asked that the Committee be presented with a summary of the assessment reports when the administrators of Fort Hare University and Vaal University of Technology appear before the Committee. He also asked for a report on the University of Venda.
He asked that the Department follow up with the Minister about the remuneration of Vice-Chancellors. He felt that Vice-Chancellors could not be paid large salaries under the guise of the autonomy of institutions. If it were found to be necessary, then legislation regulating the subject matter could be proposed.
Transformation at the institutions remained an issue, especially with regard to the academic staff, and the Committee would follow up on that issue.
Ms Mananiso said that in future the report should highlight the disability infrastructures within the institutions.
The meeting was adjourned.
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