Video (Part 1)
Video (Part 2)
The Committee hosted its colloquium on institutional autonomy at the Bellville Campus of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and heard from a range of stakeholders such as the Department, Council of Higher Education, Universities South Africa, HETN, COSATU, South African Union of Students, Dr Sean Muller, and Mr Charles Hanyani. The Deputy Minister gave the keynote address. The stakeholders had mixed views on the subject but generally, there was consensus on the challenges facing the sector and what could be done to move forward. Some stakeholders proposed semi-autonomy while others believed that institutions should have autonomy with minimal intervention by the government.
Committee members also had mixed views on institutional autonomy. Members spoke about their oversight visits to higher education institutions seen as interfering in the autonomy of the institution. Parliament had to conduct oversight as the public funds given to these institutions by government must be accounted for. Members called on these institutions to avoid operating with a silo mentality, especially in a sector that is flooded with challenges such as funding, accommodation, and graduates not equipped for the skills required to grow the economy.
In closing the Director-General cautioned that the conversation on institutional autonomy must be located within the broader transformation agenda of society and not necessarily merely to fix HEI governance. This colloquium observed that the White Paper is not a sufficient mechanism. Perhaps, now we need to look into a mechanism to strengthen the implementation of policies. While looking at institutional autonomy, we may have de-emphasized certain specifics that constitute it. One of these is student admissions for which the Department would have very specific proposals. The second one is the decolonization of curricula and removal of other inherited ills. These are specific concerns that when we speak about institutional autonomy often become the focus of the conversation. The HEIs should enjoy freedom and autonomy in their relationship with the state within the context of public accountability and the national need for advanced skills and scientific knowledge.
The Chairperson said the Committee led by the former Chairperson, Mr Philly Mapulane, had attempted to host the colloquium on institutional autonomy in 2020 but Covid-19 arrived. An attempt was made again in 2021 but the Local Government Elections resulted in another postponement. The Committee had called for public comment on the subject in September 2021. These individuals would also be giving submissions today.
It is important how we conclude this meeting. The subject matter is institutional autonomy but we are also here to cover the relationship between academic freedom, institutional autonomy, cooperative governance and public accountability. We might need to have a colloquium on a broader spectrum of PSET matters brought to Parliament such as how to have sustainable funding for the higher education sector such as for infrastructure.
The Deputy Minister has said that it is problematic to raise institutional autonomy or other concerns while stakeholders in the sector are fighting – when students are wanting to raise their concerns and feel that management does not want to hear them, when sector workers face the same challenge, and when community members want to access higher education institutions (HEIs) but feel as though they are ivory towers within communities. However, the Higher Education Act stipulates that the Committee has the responsibility and a right to hold public institutions to account as they are funded by the state.
This colloquium is not to paint a stakeholder in a particular light, but we want to find a way as stakeholders to better the lives of South Africans and play our role to bring the transformation agenda to light in HEIs so our people are liberated. We are not here to fight but to engage as a sector. It goes without saying that this is a contentious ongoing topic because there are challenges in how we understand these concepts. These concepts should not contend with one another. One looks forward to what each stakeholder is going to say today and to ascertain where there is no meeting of the minds. We want to see from where the crisis comes so we can find each other to cooperatively govern the sector. There is a clear distinction between intervention and interference – the intervention of the State or the Portfolio Committee is considered interference by some sector stakeholders. Do we have a similar appreciation of the role of public institutions in the sector? We want to understand from the Department what is its role in the sector and what is the role Vice-Chancellors believe is their responsibility. We are uncertain if there is a body that represents or organises council chairs of universities and, if not, we need to have one. The Act gives councils clear mandates which should be different from the responsibilities of VCs and council chairs.
The Higher Education Act is clear on public accountability, and the Committee does not understand why when we exercise that accountability we are viewed in a negative light. We also want to understand how do these institutions assist in eradicating challenges such as social ills and lack of social cohesion. Education should be addressing the challenges we have in our communities such as the current high unemployment rate and lack of active participation in the economy. Are the skills and knowledge acquired in HEIs sufficient to enable them to be active citizens in the economy? If not, we cannot sit back and not ask why the institutions are not meeting the development mandate we want to see as a country. When the Committee wants to fulfil its role, it is often viewed as interfering. However, we want to assist; hence, we come up with recommendations to the sector stakeholders.
There will be part two of the colloquium and it will be more inclusive with public participation. We want to come up with tangible recommendations that have a direct immediate impact on the work we are doing as well as impact in the long run. Those who want to make submissions, please do submit them to the Committee Secretary.
CPUT Vice-Chancellor opening remarks
Prof Chris Nhlapo, Vice-Chancellor: CPUT, welcomed everyone to CPUT. The institutional autonomy of public institutions in South Africa has been a topical issue for years and there are contradictions and paradoxes and how we manage those is of utmost importance. This has been seen in several charters signed across the world such as the Magna Charta Universitatum of EU universities, the Lima Declaration on Academic Freedom and Autonomy of Institutions of Higher Education, the Declaration of Rights and Duties Inherent in Academic Freedom by the International Association of University Professors and Lecturers and the Kampala Declaration on Intellectual Freedom and Social Responsibility. All of these are looking at this subject, which means that it is important and we need to devise how we deal with this going forward. Academic freedom and university autonomy are two sides of the same coin. With this comes responsibility to society and social responsibility as highlighted by the Committee Chairperson.
Universities have a singular opportunity and obligation to contribute to the development of society, and democracy and to play an active role in shaping societies and strengthening the social contract. Therefore, the relationship between academic freedom, institutional autonomy and democracy is critical and a fundamental value for the higher education system across the globe. We are looking forward to the discussion and Siyabulela.
Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology (DHET) briefing
Dr Nkosinathi Sishi, Director-General: DHET, appreciated the Chairperson’s clarity on the purpose of the colloquium. The presentation covered cooperative governance in HEIs; policy origins; roles and responsibilities in the governance of higher education; steering of the higher education system; the Higher Education Act; steering through funding and planning; funding challenges; university sources of income; reporting by institutions; institutional governance challenges; reporting requirements and the White Paper for Post-School Education and Training (PSET).
See document for details
The Chairperson welcomed the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training and other stakeholders that had just joined the meeting. If you look at the Higher Education Act, it states that university councils can determine their admission policies and entrance requirements and can award, withdraw and revoke degrees and other qualifications. If the council has those rights, how does this impact on the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)? For example, at Wits University the LLB degree used to be an undergraduate degree that NSFAS could fund. However, it later became a postgraduate degree which is not funded by NSFAS. Those decisions taken by the HEI have an impact on how NSFAS can fund the degree. This creates the type of conflict we have seen in the sector. The Committee felt that it was important to have NSFAS present as there is a relationship and interdependence in how these stakeholders operate. This is an example of challenges the sector faces that this colloquium should assist us with.
Deputy Minister keynote address
Deputy Minister Buti Manamela said that the Minister had wanted to be part of this colloquium and so we are excited to be part of this discussion, which has been in discussion for quite some time. He would illustrate some points on why it is still important and why it will also outlive us.
The subject of institutional autonomy can be better understood if it is examined with other key questions on the transformation of higher education in South Africa. It is a good decision that the Portfolio Committee has decided to host this discussion. This decision is particularly important if you consider that it is almost 30 years since the democratic state initiated the project of higher education transformation under the auspices of the National Commission on Higher Education. To start this discussion, we probably need to go back to the basics. Many of our current public universities have their genesis in our racist and divided past. Typically, under colonial and apartheid rule, institutions of higher learning were expected to curtail the agenda of the inhumane and barbaric regime. Repugnant legislation such as the Extension of University Education Act of 1959 made it a criminal offence for a black person to register at a formerly open university without the written permission of the minister of internal affairs. It created the phenomenon of universities reserved for specific ethnic and racial groups in consolidating apartheid and European colonialism in South Africa. The broad agenda was to ensure that black people are channelled towards careers that will not enable them to acquire high-end skills to participate in the productive sectors of the national economy. This had far-reaching implications, even to date, with the structural problems that we are confronted with as a society emanating. Racist higher education legislation resulted in black people being underrepresented in many critical sectors of the economy. Therefore came the notion of institutional autonomy. We must understand the debates around it which are as old as the formation of the modern states and universities as we know them.
The notion of institutional autonomy can be traced back a few hundred years with the evolution of modern states where was an increasing need to demarcate the roles of the state, church and learning institutions. This demarcation was necessary because of the growing tensions between the state and universities and their influence over society. This tension also helped shape the debates and philosophies on institutional autonomy. In our context, the notion of institutional autonomy was central in the policy debates on higher education transformation that were regularly held between government and leaders of HEIs, student activists, worker organisations and other important stakeholders in higher education.
To undo the colonial character of South Africa’s education system, from the 1990s onwards the democratic state set up various policy advisory bodies such as the National Commission on Higher Education. The Commission produced an over-arching framework for the transformation of South Africa’s education landscape and as part of its work, it identified what the deficiencies were in the system at the time, and some are still there because it is part of a transformative process. Importantly, it identified a system that perpetuates an inequitable distribution of access and opportunity for students and staff along lines of race, gender, class, and geographical discrimination. Secondly, the existence of gross discrepancies in the participation rates of students from different population groups and indefensible imbalances in the ratio of black and female staff compared to whites and males. Thirdly, the untenable disparities between historically black and historically white institutions in terms of facilities and capacities. Yes, we have made significant progress in this but we still have those disparities within and amongst institutions.
The Covid-19 pandemic sharply exposed some of the inadequacies and inequalities in HEIs and the different capacities and capabilities in responding to the pandemic. Also, there is the chronic mismatch between Higher Education outputs and the need for a modernising economy. The shortage of highly trained graduates in fields such as science, engineering, technology and commerce, is largely a result of discriminatory practices that have limited access to black and female students and how the deliberate insulation of institutions from certain racial groups in participating in the higher education system inhibited the country's potential and still does.
Those who crafted legislation and policy 28 to 30 years ago had hoped that there would be accelerated transformation. Some of the challenges remain persistent although access for blacks and women has exponentially increased. We still witness challenges in the numbers in science, engineering, technology and, to a certain extent, commerce.
Higher education also has not succeeded in laying the foundations of a critical civil society with a culture of tolerance, public debate and accommodation of differences and competing interests. This is crucial because in pursuit of academic freedom and institutional autonomy there lies the paradox – where institutions themselves must internally practice academic freedom and respect the independence and autonomy of agents within the HEI and their interest to drive what could appear to be conflicting interests.
The Director-General put it quite crudely stating that the authoritarian nature with which some of the institutions have been run leads to the tendency to summon the goals of institutional autonomy when such practices and tendencies are questioned. This paradox is crucial as to what extent do HEI management and councils allow democracy to prevail or do they use institutional autonomy and academic freedom when their authority is being challenged. Nor has it contributed significantly to a democratic ethos and a sense of citizenship perceived as a commitment to the common good. The process of establishing a national consensus on the role of universities in helping to achieve national priorities is important. Universities are an important component of achieving those national priorities. Universities cannot simply say that their responsibility is learning and teaching, knowledge production and research and they have absolutely no interest in whether there is racism outside of their campus or high unemployment, poverty and inequality.
While our HEIs can claim academic achievement of international renown and we have many universities in the top 10 of the continent and some in the world, it is still characterised by teaching and research policies that favour academic insularity and closed system disciplinary programmes. If we put all our universities to the test based on our nation's challenges as opposed to international assessments of university performance, will our universities stand that transformation test? Some challenges that were identified in the 1990s, we have done quite a lot in addressing these, but we still have quite a road to travel in the overall transformation of our university sector. Based on its diagnosis, the National Commission on Higher Education crafted a vision for a transformed higher education system, which should ideally have the following characteristics:
- ensure equity of access and the possibility of success to students irrespective of their race, gender, creed, age or class for higher-level education;
- through well-planned and coordinated teaching and learning programmes it should meet as many as possible the high-skilled vocational and employment needs of a growing economy aspiring to global competitiveness;
- through educational programmes and practices conducive to critical discourse and experimental thinking it must support a democratic ethos and culture of human rights, cultural tolerance and a common commitment to a humane non-racist and non-sexist social order
- it must contribute to the advancement of all forms of knowledge and scholarship as universities should be embracing all forms of knowledge and scholarship in keeping with international and with sensitivity to the diverse problems and demands of the local, national, Southern African and African context.
In addition to this vision, the democratic state adopted a set of fundamental principles to guide the implementation of the project of higher education transformation. These principles were equity and redress, democratization, development, quality, effectiveness and efficiency, academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and public accountability. In its thinking, the Commission understood that even though the principles of academic freedom and institutional autonomy are distinct, they were nevertheless related and for this reason, it understood academic freedom to mean the absence of outside interference or obstacles in the pursuit and practice of academic work. It is regarded as a precondition for critical, experimental, and creative thought and therefore for the advancement of international inquiry and knowledge.
In past discussion with the Portfolio Committee, he tried to caution against a nuance that says or that pushes for interference in the running of institutions of higher learning. Everywhere in the world where there are wars everybody is praying to their god hoping that the god intervenes and probably if there is such interference from the gods, there is no way that that interference would be neutral, and such is the notion of institutional autonomy. When you invite external interference, you are hoping that that external interference would be in your favour. My point here is that, yes, it is important for the Ministry and Department to conduct oversight in our institutions of high learning. However, it is also important to let the stakeholders and actors on campus fight it out and reach a level of consensus on the direction the institution should take in pursuit of national priorities. This is crucial, and it is only at that point of non-agreement should the university appeal for some form of external interference. When that happens, he hoped they are not expecting a neutral minister to come in and become the arbiter of the differences in the engagement.
The National Commission on Higher Education understood institutional autonomy to mean a degree of self-regulation and administrative independence for fulfilling academic objectives. The notion that universities are learning and teaching spaces where students must learn, lecturers must teach and managers must manage, is self-defeating because the university space is shared by all the stakeholders. Therefore, some level of consensus on how learning, teaching and management take place must be arrived at without each component encroaching on the role that the other should play. A lot more progress has been achieved over time but in acknowledging that progress, it would be ambitious for us to expect that this colloquium would be absolute in its outcome. Of course, it would be less ambitious of this colloquium if we did not come out of here with the intention to review whatever policies and legislation that governs the sector.
It is worth remembering that the work of the National Commission on Higher Education gave impetus to the implementation of a range of other significant policy and institutional government interventions including the White Paper III on Higher Education, the Higher Education Act which is the principal legislation in HEI governance, the National Working Group on Higher Education of 2002 and also the Changing Size and Shape of the Higher Education System in South Africa, 2005-2017. These were results of fighting it out by actors within the system without the state or legislative body becoming absolute about what the future of higher education and universities should be in the country. These documents and other government interventions made it possible for the appointment of black people and women to serve in HEI management and facilitated a significant increase in black students. He singled out that four of the biggest universities are led by women – University of South Africa, University of Cape Town, Nelson Mandela University and University of Zululand.
This vision also inspired the massive funding and infrastructure expansions in higher education. One of the latest manifestations is the formation of two new universities in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape. When he engaged with the management at both universities, what stood out for him was the potential to create, under the new democratic dispensation and culture, what a university formed in a democratic space should ideally become. Those universities that existed before, the reality is that those are still contested cultures and traditions. This was one of the key arguments in the size and shape debates where we are creating new universities and therefore establishing new cultures. These two universities present the opportunity of what a university created under the new democratic dispensation will look like.
The implementation of government's higher education transformation programme over the past 28 years experienced several challenges including corruption, poor governance within institutions of high learning, internal resistance to transformation, persistence of racist practices, incidents of gender-based violence and instability arising from student or worker protests. In the context of the vision for our higher education system, it is important that a gathering like this dedicate some time to reflect on the critical questions for the transformation of higher education in South Africa.
Some of these include the extent to which we have increased access to higher education for students from historically disadvantaged backgrounds; how far have we gone in transforming the HEI governance structures to increase the meaningful presence of black people and women; have we been able to elevate the status of African languages in HEIs? When the Minister announced the language policy, there was fierce resistance not only within some university communities but also from outside. It is important to note that both institutional autonomy and academic freedom can be used as the basis for resisting transformation. Most importantly, this type of conference might consider if our HEIs are producing the right skills to fight poverty, unemployment, inequality and drive scientific innovation.
In the use that academic freedom and institutional autonomy are not necessarily neutral concepts, to what extent do universities and universities of technology embrace all forms of knowledge. In this regard, one of the heated debates within our sector is that of indigenous knowledge systems and how the structures and the methods of knowledge production and research are embraced.
If we look at societies like China, the foundation of the success of their universities is based on embracing indigenous knowledge systems and any other form of knowledge. In our case, you will battle to find a section that deals with African studies or African literature in some of our universities. The question of academic freedom and institutional autonomy and how it relates to embracing all forms of knowledge and recognising their significance is crucial. Understanding if institutional autonomy has enabled the transformation programme can be better understood if we examine it with other key questions of higher education transformation. He had all the confidence that we can answer some of these questions and come up with useful recommendations on how to accelerate the higher education transformation project and empower actors in the university sector to remain change agents. We should not allow institutional autonomy to rob them of that potential.
The Chairperson thanked the Deputy Minister for his thought-provoking views. When we speak of interference we tend to think of government, politicians and this Committee but how often do we speak of the influence of the private sector? Why do we hardly speak of the interference of the private sector?
Universities South Africa (USAf) submission
Prof Ahmed Bawa, USAf Chief Executive Officer, spoke on the role and purpose of a university; social cohesion; locating and contextualizing universities; universities and the economy; financial stewardship for sustainability; the role and purpose of governance; cooperative governance structures and mechanisms: composition of committees, accountability systems, steering mechanisms and strengthening cooperative governance in institutions of higher learning.
See document for details
The Chairperson said that she found a lot of synergies between USAf, the DG and herself. However, she battled with why, when it comes to implementation, we see the challenges that we see and the conflicts. From the presentations, one can note there is a common understanding of what the issues are and what needs to be done to address those.
South African Union of Students (SAUS) submission
Mr Lubabalo Ndzoyiya, SAUS President, touched on the current status quo; institutional autonomy versus semi-autonomy; student victimization and the way forward. He spoke about restructuring all university structures or bodies so that if the council has 30 members, 15 of those members should be elected students. Government must take a centre stage when it comes to the direction HEIs are taking. Academics must be reminded about their responsibility to focus on the academic enterprise and its quality assurance. The DHET University branch should be given powers to handle student disciplinary matters and to involve national student leadership at all institutions when comes to student disciplinary matters.
Mr Mathew Parks, Parliamentary Coordinator: COSATU, addressed institutional autonomy; the constitutional and legislative context; necessity of transformation; curricula in the sector; fees and admissions; subsidies and efficiencies; maladministration and corruption; employment equity; conditions of service; regional spread; Africa and the world and need for synergy throughout the entire education system.
Council on Higher Education (CHE) submission
Prof Themba Mosia, CHE Chairperson, and Prof Yusef Waghid, CHE Council Member, presented. They commenced with the publications that CHE has issued on the subject; principles to guide higher education transformation; autonomy, accountability and academic freedom stances cannot be context-neutral; the case for institutional autonomy: academic freedom; public accountability; conditional autonomy: finding the sweet spot and the role the Portfolio Committee can play.
Dr Sean Muller submission
The submission by Dr Sean Muller, Senior Research Fellow: Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study, University of Johannesburg, dealt with institutional autonomy; ‘conventional wisdom’ as an obstacle to important discussion; an ‘original sin’ of post-apartheid higher education; examples of institutional infringement on academic freedom; specific examples for action; predatory publishing; sexual harassment and gender-based violence; transparency and return to fundamental objectives.
Mr Charles Hanyani submission
Former National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) chairperson at University of Fort Hare, Mr Charles Hanyani, asked the question: Autonomy or Public Accountability or both? The government utilizes public resources to fund HEIs which ultimately require government to account for the public funds. Where public funds are utilized, institutional autonomy wanes to a large extent as the public should have the final word on how their funds are utilized. He also touched on academic research and the authority of executive management.
He stated that the autonomy of researchers should be regulated to ensure that their problem statements in their research are real-life problems, and the outputs are impactful and transferable especially where public funds are utilized to conduct research. We are tired of hearing about publications that few people outside the academic world can relate to or even apply to their real-life challenges. He asked what is the relevance of peer-review mechanisms for public benefit? He suggested there should be a spreading of risk in universities by redistributing authority as thinly and as widely as possible away from councils and management (too much concentration of risk in these structures). The governance of public universities needs to be more collaborative between stakeholders and not the current top-down approach.
Higher Education Transformation Network submission
Dr Reginald Legoabe, HETN board chairperson, provided background and objectives on the non-profit organisation. He spoke about the rationale for state intervention, given the trends affecting higher education sector transformation; sector employment equity profile; rationale for state intervention on governance challenges and the way forward.
HETN called for a greater role of the Auditor-General in auditing institutions; greater transparency in public funds utilisation especially the Infrastructure Efficiency Grant; greater transparency on public-private partnerships using public funds and stronger compliance enforcement in the sector.
Mr T Letsie (ANC) said the reason we have HEIs is they are supposed to respond to the country's needs. The first item we must agree on is that these institutions assist in our national development objectives to overcome unemployment, poverty and inequality. The White Paper speaks to the tripartite alliance of institutional autonomy, academic freedom and public accountability. In his view, all these matters should be equal but currently, they are not. If one talks about public accountability, immediately those defending institutional autonomy will bring it up. Institutional autonomy is used as the mother body of the tripartite alliance. It has been used unfairly to a certain extent and it is why you find conditional autonomy.
Most HEIs that are put under administration due to problems are because of a lack of accountability. He would disagree with the partial autonomy suggestion by SAUS – to allow the institutions to have complete autonomy or independence of their academic systems and structures – because one is uncertain if the curricula of institutions respond to the national challenges. If this was not the case, we would not find graduates sitting at home with degrees. He disagreed with the 70% autonomy proposed by SAUS, perhaps we should review 100%. Is the Higher Education Act sufficient to make the system work best for every stakeholder in the sector? Is the Act not designed to protect certain groups of people at the expense of others?
In 2019, almost R40 billion of public funds was given to these institutions but when it is time to account, they will tell you about institutional autonomy. Politicians should not interfere. The Act should strike a balance. Does the Act sufficiently cover accountability, academic freedom, and institutional autonomy? If not, where can it be strengthened? Why are there different interpretations in the submissions on what the Act means? How can the Act be strengthened to make it better for the entire system, not a certain group of individuals?
Dr N Khumalo (DA) appreciated the submissions. Based on institutional autonomy, there needs to be democratisation, equity, and redress. We need to talk beyond the quality of the work that academics publish and its relation to academic freedom. The state, universities and stakeholders need to ask what the return on investment is. This should be the same conversation on public funding. If we give institutions money, those institutions should be ploughing it back into society.
We should be looking at how we as the various stakeholders can partner and drive one value system that will eliminate the challenges such as factionalism. Such issues reflect a lack of professionalism in a space where professionalism should be engraved on students in moulding our future leaders. We should start seeing ourselves as a collective.
She sought clarity from USAf on the statutes it mentioned which were created for good governance as in many institutions we see challenges with poor governance. What universities are trying to do should align with the state. There is a space for the state in how universities are run, and universities also need to account for much more.
Mr S Zondo (IFP) said that the monitoring gap in the sector must be closed because institutions tend to operate as monopolies and do as they please. An example was the recent report about the institution where most of the employees were not physically in the institution. In other institutions, one would find that the VC is everything – umntu uyagida, uzishayel’ ihlombe. The difference between institutions now and in the past is that back then institutions had a clear mandate from government and they were monitored. They also implemented exactly what the government wanted at that time. However, now, it is different – when government wants to know or exercises monitoring over the institution, we are told that we are interfering.
As an aside he said it was disappointing to witness the University of Zululand Vice-Chancellor respond coldly in the media about attacks on students where some were raped and assaulted.
Ms D Sibiya (ANC) noted the challenges and recommendations tabled in the submissions. She raised the demon of fraudulent promotions and wondered how this occurred. Nepotism is rife in some institutions. She called on the VCs to keep aloof from undermining stakeholders, especially students. However, she also urged students to stop disrespecting their elders.
Ms C King (DA) said that when we look at institutional autonomy, we consider how fair the process is. Does it create proper opportunities for advancement in the sector and does it create diversity? When we consider the autonomy of an institution, we must be mindful that there will always be tensions between a desirable degree of institutional autonomy and academic freedom versus the legitimate right of government to generate a certain level of accountability for HEIs. When we consider this, Chairperson, the one thing that comes to mind is the degree of involvement the state will have when it comes to institutional autonomy. Are we over-regulating the sector and not taking the autonomy of the institution into consideration? The violation of academic freedom and institutional autonomy has a high cost in intellectual regression, social alienation and economic taxation.
While many in higher education communities are appropriately committed to the traditional and long-standing view of institutional autonomy, does this traditional concept of higher education need manifestation post-Covid and into the future? This is because so much has changed through Covid in digitization as the new mode of teaching and learning – how are we going to conceptualise the autonomy of an institution for students or academic staff? We also need to be mindful and critical of the behaviour of institutions and ask them about the price they are willing to pay to surrender their academic freedom and decisions to obtain desirable funding. When do we consider the massification that has happened over the years in HEIs – to what degree do they depend solely on NSFAS funding? We see that 70% of students entering institutions are NSFAS funded which then takes away some degree of autonomy, considering that they are now solely dependent on NSFAS students entering the system rather than those that are self-funded.
When it comes to the guidelines set up for good governance practice by councils, we need to assess how strongly those have been implemented. Is the council following those guidelines? From what we have seen over the years it is clear that it is not. It is only a tick box exercise and at the end of the day, we see the disparities that take place in an institution.
Lastly, when it comes to gathering information and collaboration between government institutions, we need to ask ourselves where the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act and Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) come in, especially when it stifles getting information from institutions when they quote these Acts to avoid us from getting proper information.
Ms D Mahlatsi (ANC) said that the conversation we are having today is indeed long overdue. We must enter this conversation with an open mind to be able to reflect objectively and critically as individual stakeholders for the betterment of the sector because this process intends to better the sector. Now, if one had to speak to the present-day, Prof Bawa was spot on about the issues of institutional autonomy. He goes on further to touch on the cultural context, location and global and international issues related to the sector. However, she could not quite connect the dots on what needs to happen or what the way forward is. We have all these challenges that all agree on but what needs to happen to better the sector? Of course, we advocate for collaboration and cooperative governance in this sector but we need to be specific on what issues need to be dealt with so that we better the sector. Prof Bawa further speaks to the role of higher education. How do we ensure that HEIs as reservoirs of knowledge are meant to produce outputs for the state to deal with the country's socio-economic challenges? Further, how interrelated is the investment input to the output contribution meant to make the lives of our people better? This is a conversation that we need to have as a stand-alone item. She supported Prof Bawa having that conversation about HEIs and the economy.
Cosatu indicated that the Higher Education Act is crippling the higher education sector. During my time on this Committee, we have recognised part of the challenges of the Higher Education Act are the fiduciary duties of councils.
It has been tested by the Committee itself to be able to state that councils, even VCs, have become demagogues of some sort. To a large extent, they cannot be held accountable because in terms of fiduciary duties, they are not accountable in terms of the Act. How do we hold institutions accountable when fiduciary duty does not apply to them? There will be a need to amend the Act. Accountability should come automatically – would we need to go as far as amending the Act?
Cosatu speaks about subsidies and efficiency. It is quite clear that in HEIs, students and workers are the main stakeholders. As much as we want these institutions to be operational colleagues with or without government funds, they should perform and be able to have an output that is assisting the country. However, what then becomes the influence of the third stream, government, which is investing in those institutions? She always says that investment comes with a mandate and it comes with influence.
We must have good Samaritans who can invest in institutions to build the social compact that we refer to and what the President always refers to but that influence must be in line with the NDP. When you look at the annual reports of all HEIs, none of them refers to the NDP and so on what are the outputs based on? They should be in sync with what the country needs to do to build our economy; so that people can work; so that people can pay; so that we do not rely on NSFAS. Unfortunately, because there are socio-economic challenges, we have to rely on NSFAS. NSFAS is not going anywhere until we can deal with socio-economic issues; until young people can find jobs or have parents who can work so they can fund their kids’ education.
Lastly, Mr Hanyani's submission is quite important about the risk authority that lies with councils and is later delegated to VCs but it does not give us a clear indication of what needs to happen. If you cascade that authority down to workers, in what way and how do we make an institution accountable? At some point authority must lie somewhere and when you cascade it down to workers, what does that mean? Has that theory been tested elsewhere to show it works?
The Committee is not here to fight with the VCs. Members are here to hear their side of the story too but where do we find a common ground? How do we work together to make the sector operational and work? Are the institutions with more funds such as reserves able to share those so that more institutions and more students can be accommodated? How do we ensure that access is seamless without these challenges we face right now and that the sector is in line with what the country needs?
Prof Bawa spoke about the cultural context. Before 1994, institutions operated in a particular fashion. Post-1994, it is not automatic that the culture of these institutions is going to change. There must be a process of transition, but what process are they willing to take to ensure that institutions move with us? This is not only happening in our country but happens everywhere. Institutions cannot operate in a silo and the production of knowledge in institutions must be able to respond to the needs of the country.
Mr B Yabo (ANC) welcomed the submissions which were very thought-provoking. It is important to participate and interact on an intellectual level to be able to come to some form of synthesis that might resolve the problems we are faced with. In knowledge production, you start by asking questions and it is in that process that you come to answers – you will create a thesis, and at times an antithesis and finally you will reach a synthesis.
With the advancement and the exponential growth of knowledge, you can create solutions. We are trying to create a PSET sector that produces human beings who are prepared. It is pointless to prepare people for a world that no longer exists. When you graduate, you are rendered redundant because you are prepared for history and not the present and the future. She wanted to give that framing because context is very important. She appreciated what Prof Waghid said as he provides a contextual approach, but he also takes it a lot higher, he provides an intellectual framing of what autonomy means and he gives it within the ontological context and cultural context of Africa versus the globe. My question is who is the globe? We have the global north and global south but also the dominance of the west and the emergence of the east. Who is the globe? He extrapolates and says no, but maybe we should look at the context of global standards and then trickle it down to localized solutions. So we are going to speak of autonomy in the context of the African situation.
Ms Yabo referenced the work of Kwame Gyekye who speaks of the person and the community in the African context. He makes the point that in African socialization the person is not seen outside of the community, the community defines the person, and the person lives within the community but must at all material times seek to find their unique features as a person in the community. Thus autonomy does not relate to being outside of a regulatory system, it speaks of being able to be identified with key critical elements that say this is, but within a community.
What we encounter when we do oversight is that HEIs treat themselves as social enclaves that are far removed from authority and scrutiny. We must beg for permission from these academic enclaves on whether they may be held up to scrutiny for (1) the public funds and (2) for the primary enterprise for which they are given responsibility. What is the primary enterprise of HEIs? The short answer is knowledge production. That is where we should begin if we speak about autonomy and there is also a consistent reference to a causal link between academic freedom and institutional autonomy. Does academic freedom become adversely impacted if you remove institutional autonomy? Will academic freedom, the ability to conduct the primary enterprise for which these institutions exist, be impacted adversely if we change the governance model and remove institutional autonomy? Is there a case for it? If you come in you begin to scrutinise, you exert authority, you want accountability - then academic freedom will be compromised.
One can come up with a solid case that says if autonomy is removed, academic freedom is compromised. Perhaps we will be able to give a hearing to that argument, but it must be cogent. It must not be an argument of chance takers who want to protect enclaves of apartheid vestiges in the education system. What is glaring is the presence of an overarching authority of capital interests mainly in previously advantaged institutions. We recently went to Stellenbosch University which still has an untransformed staff complement 28 years into democracy. They stated that they have a slow uptake of an equitable share of jobs and work opportunities for people of colour. But if you ask that they give a scientific explanation as to the impediments that make it impossible to employ equitably across racial lines, there is none. The only possible explanation is the protection of an old apartheid relic to keep the status quo and it is defended by academics with all these PhDs. There must be some other reason why they are unable to absorb people of colour in the staff complement.
Institutional autonomy has been abused to protect vestiges of an old relic that we should have buried long ago. Dr Muller raises a critical issue about when the state was taken over by a democratic government. Those who occupied the corridors of state power exited gracefully but the same did not happen in the PSET sector. He argues that some of them did not even have the necessary capabilities, qualifications and merit to even occupy the seats they occupy since the dawn of democracy. An exercise that was undertaken in the government was not undertaken in the sector.
You cannot have a one-size-fits-all solution and that is why Prof Waghid's contribution to context is appreciated. Before the USSR collapsed and the People's Republic of China, even when they were applying the same socialism, the USSR would deploy commissars in each corner of the USSR. However, their presence did not enhance innovation but throttled it. Thus the USSR ceased to develop and grow because those who were supposed to advance innovation throttled it. Whereas in China the adoption of socialism had Chinese characteristics which encouraged innovation. It was almost the same political system but the outcomes are different because of the application. In terms of context, the application by the Chinese was that the presence of these political leaders meant that innovation was the order of the day to ensure that the economy of China grows in leaps and bounds. We have seen it as China sustained a 6% average growth rate.
Institutional autonomy blocks the state from having access to accountability from these institutions. A solution for this problematic hindrance for government needs to be spoken to in our South African context. It must not be a one-size-fits-all solution in the same way that socialism was not a one-size-fits-all solution in the examples that have been given. For the USSR it became a collapse. For the Chinese, it became an accelerated developmental mechanism that has put them where they are now. China’s per capita income is second in the world. Therefore, the solutions we come up with to deal with institutional autonomy must promote the primary enterprise of these institutions - knowledge production. One appreciates the truth put to us by Dr Muller when he says there are misconceptions about the PSET sector and the research fraternity of South Africa and that we are one of the best in the world. He debunks the myth by asking which metric is being used. It means we need to redefine the metric by which we measure ourselves first.
We need to re-measure the metric by which we measure ourselves against the globe and we must then define who is this globe that we are measuring ourselves against. Perhaps, we will try and measure ourselves against our ex-colonisers, which is not a good measure by her standards. It is not a good measure. We need to ensure we develop the PSET sector to become an engine room of knowledge production without being inhibited by onerous interference but also accountability must be the order of the day. He agreed with the speaker who said VCs need to be subject to scrutiny and there must be an authority that can discipline VCs. You cannot have an all-powerful being, not in our country. You must have checks and balances. We must seek to create checks and balances and ensure that those work. Let us recalibrate our metrics, recalibrate what we deem to be a good performance, and recalibrate the standard of authority within the PSET sector, especially in regard to institutional autonomy.
The last point by Mr Hanyani is that public funds should fund research that resolves public challenges and societal problems. If we are going to follow the money, we should follow it to the end of the tunnel where it responds to our current problems. Instead, we have existing students and academics who are prepared for a world that no longer exists. Many of our existing students are not prepared for the world they find themselves in. This is why they get misplaced, without jobs and lost to the system. We should apply our minds to that reality, we should not enforce the caste system. The Indians and the Hindus have a caste system that has kept their society in check for thousands of years.
It is an irony that at the top of the caste system are teachers and then the rulers and warriors. It appears that we have a caste system scenario here where institutional autonomy has placed institutions out of the reach of the rulers and the scrutiny of the people. That must be revised.
Mr Ernest Khosa, NSFAS Board Chairperson, said that this subject was too important to be left to academics alone. Academic freedom and institutional autonomy affect NSFAS as a funding entity of government. Just like the leading question the Chairperson posed in his introduction about social ills and economic imbalances and how this relates to academic freedom and institutional autonomy. The question is what relevance is academic freedom and autonomy to our funding objectives. Our funding objectives are, put colloquially, to ensure that the students we fund acquire jobs at the end of their training or have the capacity to create jobs leading to social stability. Now that is a very important mandate.
For us to measure our mandate we should be able to engage with HEIs. We should at least be in tandem with them on understanding the meaning and implication of the concept of academic freedom and institutional autonomy, which is not the case now. The Director-General has very eloquently spoken to us about the origins and status of the government policy on academic freedom. He also spoke about the need for cooperative governance. There is something he said that we should not forget. As he spoke about the origins of government policy on academic freedom, one realises that the current policy position on academic freedom and institutional autonomy was a response to a particular state of our nation historically. It responded to issues at that time. The White Paper responded to the challenges of that time.
The Deputy Minister pointed out that the drafters of our laws and policies got their hopes lost with time, which is true and was evident in the activities of the student #Fees must Fall movement. It questioned the relevance of the curriculum and raised concerns about the land question which at face value was then seen as an extracurricular issue. Mr Khoza emphasized that there is a relationship between our education system and the land question. That question is not a standalone issue. Issues were raised about decolonisation. What was pleasing was that presenters today seem to agree that the concept of academic freedom and institutional autonomy can never be seen outside this context of relevance.
To turn the situation around we need to confront this context that we are talking about. Three elements were mentioned many times by the presenters. Inequality is no small issue – we have now overtaken Brazil as the most unequal country in the world. Inequality explains the instability; it even explains the unfairness in institutions. Secondly, unemployment and the general economic regression in the country with the collapse of state entities as a metaphor.
How do academic freedom and institutional autonomy and the role of HEIs respond to this context? There is room for intervention by the state if we want to see a new concept of academic freedom and we should always see the difference between interference and intervention. They do not mean the same thing. Interference is micromanaging, intervention is what is happening today. This colloquium is some form of intervention. He then proposed that a subsequent colloquium should at least develop some new framework on what we mean by academic freedom and institutional autonomy. In doing that we should be brave enough to move away from a construct of academic freedom. The second proposal is for this colloquium not to be a mere talk shop it may well be important for some consideration of some structure to review the status and take forward whatever proposals that will have been made.
Mr Khosa referenced the SAUS President saying that you can sense in our country that disorder is the order of the day. Education is the means of the social continuity of life, so this speaks to the necessity of education as a central integrand for agency and mobility. Different speakers attempted to define institutional autonomy and academic freedom, which may prove to be different or a difficult, yet an interesting topic. The question is what institutional autonomy is and academic freedom and where is the autonomy applicable? Will autonomy ever exist? The categorization is very important. From what has been presented, it is obvious we need to ask the question: what should the relationship be between the state and HEIs? We want to assess that the concept of autonomy presupposes the relationship with the state and that autonomy is a relative concept.
Secondly, the different formulations or concepts, be they theoretical or practical, are by universities. We recognize HEIs as centres of knowledge production. We want to assert as well that there is no internationally accepted or universal understanding of what constitutes institutional autonomy in its content and practice. All in all, from the speakers, there is the view that education is part of a wider social phenomenon in society, where the ruling ideas in society are those of the dominant forces in society. The dominant ideas are those of market capitalism, popularly known as neoliberalism. The growing analysis is that education is a political instrument depending on the balance of forces in a given society coming closer to the question of who the globe is. It can either be a tool for progress or regress. At the moment a new parallelism has taken centre stage such as the growing number of private institutions, especially in developing societies. There is an intention to reduce education to a mere commodity in the market, what we call an education market. There is the tendency to commercialize institutions of higher learning for profit, which even undermines the autonomy which is so much defended by many HEIs. In conclusion, we need to check and balance what will accompany the definition of autonomy.
We need rules of engagement. We believe we need to define autonomy as a framework for what should happen at an institutional level. We raised the need for a framework and guidelines because even today no one has the authority to define autonomy. We are still debating – and we do not want to debate for the next 28 years. We need to develop guidelines and a framework and bring solutions besides defining the concept of institutional autonomy or academic freedom. As much as we have identified the problem, we need to develop a way forward to quickly assist us in moving forward.
Ms J Mananiso (ANC) said that she was left with more questions than answers. Addressing the Department, she said there is a need for radical massive transformation in the monitoring and evaluation of HEIs. If the Act is clear on cooperative governance, public accountability and academic freedom, people would not think that when Members of Parliament do oversight, it is interference. She asked DHET if there are plans to change the status quo in the sector. We need competent people in charge. We must have a framework that speaks to institutional autonomy so that those who are absent can also make submissions on the subject and better the sector.
It is about time that the research in the country speaks to the solutions for the country. She was pleased with the input of the former NTEU chairperson. As stakeholders, it is not too late to redo things and be innovative. We are not here for scones and drinks. Serious issues have been raised today and these must be viewed and treated with high regard so we can be progressive.
Dr W Boshoff (FF Plus) said much of what was presented reminded him of the authoritarian view in which the state has an overbearing responsibility for basically everything. If public money is spent on anything such as universities, there should be accountability for the money spent. However, it would be problematic if the state through various programmes dictates what universities should and should not pursue. We speak of checks and balances and division of power. Universities are in a space where autonomy is highly valued and important. There seems to be a yearning amongst Members of Parliament to take that away and make universities look like departments. This would not assist us as a country to have independent knowledge production in South Africa. Universities should reflect the diversity of society.
The Chairperson stated that recommendations would come out of part one of the colloquium. This was part one of a two-part colloquium. The Committee would create space in its programme to host the second part for the wider inclusion of stakeholders.
Department's closing comments
Director-General Sishi recognised the efforts of the Chairperson and Committee for hosting this important engagement. We are grateful for this learning opportunity. All the views of our social partners and stakeholders will be taken seriously and raised with the Department EXCO.
He spoke about the critical role that tertiary education plays in the country and shaping the discourse on social transformation. In our democracy underpinned by our understanding of the roles and responsibilities of academic freedom we cannot remain aloof but must become responsive to critical societal imperatives. It is imperative to arrest and reverse the growing inequality in our country entrenched according to race that exacerbates the exclusion of the poor and previously disenfranchised from meaning participation in society at large and the economy in particular. Therefore, the conversation on institutional autonomy must be located within the broader transformation agenda of society as a whole and not necessarily merely to fix HEI governance. Our responsibility must be seen as going beyond the narrow areas.
You observed that perhaps the White Paper is not a sufficient mechanism to drive obstinate targets that are set. Perhaps, now we need to look into a broader policy mechanism to ensure that we can strengthen the implementation of our policies. While looking at institutional autonomy, we may have de-emphasised certain specifics that constitute it. One of these are student admissions. If the conversation was specifically only on student admissions and institutional autonomy, the Department would have very specific proposals on this.
The second one is the curricula – the decolonization of curricula and removal of other ills inherited from the historical legacy that remain. Therefore, it is important for us now to locate the reasons we are still struggling with this. Methods of teaching and assessment, research, the establishment of academic regulations and the internal management of private and public resources. These are specific concerns that when we speak about the notion of institutional autonomy often become the focus of the conversation. Therefore, it would be important for the Department to zoom into these specifics and deal with the short, medium and long-term strategies for this. These are the concerns on which we seek the strengthening of the social compact to ensure we achieve the goals articulated in the Higher Education Act. The HEIs should enjoy freedom and autonomy in their relationship with the state within the context of public accountability and the national need for advanced skills and scientific knowledge.
In the DHET input, we may not have sufficiently indicated what is going to be done about the problems identified. The Department takes the point that solutions must be presented along with the identified problems. The need to expand the notion of accountability beyond just the state is highlighted in the Department presentation.
The concerns raised about curricula admission assessments are important. However, there is a link between the role of the state and the role of the Department. The Department policies need to be implemented at the institutional level so that we broadly address the challenges highlighted today by stakeholders and the Committee. The gaps that exist in policy and implementation must be closed by ensuring that we strengthen monitoring and oversight. Different levels of oversight can be looked at such as at institutional and departmental level. In the areas where the Department is responsible, it will strengthen its systems and will hold itself accountable. Nepotism cripples the system as a whole because people are not given positions based on merit and this messes things up. This will continue if we do not deal with institutional autonomy-without-public accountability. The point is clear on how we are going to conceptualise the economy in light of existing distortions. Some of them are emanating from our funding models that tend to prioritise the poor and the working class; thereby ostracising and marginalising other categories.
Most stakeholders may be aware of what the Minister is doing currently to strengthen funding mechanisms to deal with the 'missing middle'. Conversations are taking place between the Department and the HEIs. The Minister had also appointed a ministerial task team tasked with coming up with a comprehensive funding model. Once the work of the task team has been completed there will be a better consensus amongst stakeholders. The Department will engage institutional leadership and management and engage the Vice-Chancellors. They also need to be part of these conversations because there is no attempt to polarize the conversation.
The Chairperson welcomed and acknowledged the inputs submitted in writing via the MS Teams chat box to the Committee. These inputs were: Institutional autonomy, academic freedom, and social accountability are tied up with a particular version of the university that might have brought us to the classes of 2015 and 2017. Essentially reminds us of the fact that maybe we need to revisit how institutional autonomy, academic freedom and social accountability are looked at.
The question of the discrepancies between salary and the number of students at a university is a critical one. There is a disturbing trend where VC’s salaries are not congruent with the size of the university. This raises the question whether VCs are in the business of the provision of quality education or on a path to personal profits. The need to investigate and regulate VC salaries has been on the agenda since 2018, if not earlier, and to date, there are no answers. We continue to see VCs with a few students commanding salaries above 4.5 million without shame. When we look at the graduation output rates of these universities there's little to justify the abuse of public funds. Furthermore, you find the gap between VC salaries and lawful earners very shameful.
Charles H said: A key observation you have made speaks to an aspect of public accountability in many university councils is failing to address - the perks of senior executives are puzzling when one looks at throughput rate et cetera. People speak of students as those who enter a university as consumers who enter a supermarket consuming the offerings. An alternative understanding would be of people who join the university and become part of its community. From this perspective, they should enjoy the rights and responsibilities of academic freedom and institutional autonomy while they are there.
Julie Reddy said: From a practical implementation and accountability perspective, we need to also interrogate institutions and institutional autonomy practices in terms of exclusionary admission policies and practices vis-a-vis learner access to higher education studies including recognition of CAT and partial studies, the practice of RPL 10 per cent threshold for admissions, lack of RPL for credits as per the national RPL policy, parity of esteems of qualification awards, the 50 per cent clause and no enabling flexible learning, teaching and learning, teaching and assessment pathways etc. HEIs are not using the important intersecting space offered by NQF level five across the three sub-frameworks of our NQF to promote access to higher education studies.
Chairperson's closing comments
She thanked everyone present at the colloquium. We need to make this a space where we assist one another as sector stakeholders. We are all in the sector together, so it would be beneficial for us to work together. VCs may think that this was a witch-hunt, but we are coming for the golden ticket that these institutions should be for young people. The second part of the colloquium will include ordinary citizens, students and stakeholders. These institutions do not belong to us but to the people of this country. We encourage what happened at Sol Plaatjie University where the university made sure that the community had access to it.
We all have a general understanding of what we are trying to achieve through education, but we should continue to ponder the role of education, what it is, how it must be presented and where does it exist. What are the experiences of those in education spaces? What are the experiences of those teaching in that space? The process of learning should not be a top-down approach, but rather horizontal and not only receiving but engaging as a scholar. How do we ensure that the role of education lands where it is meant to land?
What we could perhaps begin to understand is what we want to achieve. What we want to achieve in the medium-term would be the ability as stakeholders to fulfil our differentiated roles as outlined. If we can afford one another that space, it means that when the Committee identifies there is a gap for a particular skill in the economy, we are given the space to make that recommendation and it will be well received, not seen as interference but as an intervention by government to ensure the country can respond to the needs and demands of the economy. This is the main objective. We should identify the short, medium and long term goals of the process we are embarking on and the actionables coming out of it.
Perhaps a starting point could be the consideration of a task team to look into a sector social compact charter which would stipulate the commitment from all stakeholders to ensure the Act is upheld in terms of their responsibilities as stakeholders. Equally, if we are calling for a charter, we might need to embark on a process of looking at the legislative gaps that could be present. If we all agree that the Act is clear, what informs the contradictions we see on the ground? What informs our inability to implement what is stipulated in the Act? This is where we would need to zoom into the Act, policies and regulations for the sector.
The Committee together with the Department will also investigate any operational systems that need to be addressed. The Committee notes that DHET needs to investigate its capacity challenges in its University Programme to strengthen its oversight over the institutions. It must analyse the reports submitted by universities about what has come out of this engagement.
We need to establish ombuds offices to create independent spaces to mediate conflicts between university stakeholders. This is to avoid a situation where when matters come to the Committee, we are not seen as though we are interfering. However, the Committee has the responsibility to intervene when there is insufficient internal capacity to address conflicts within institutions.
The colloquium speaks to the need to address the challenge of lack of social ownership of universities within our communities. If the state invests in institutions, it can hold the institution to account. The same applies to parents, they should be able to hold public institutions to account. Even the lady who stays down the street from the university should be given space to come and speak to the VC about the young women walking from campus to their residence are not safe and how the community can assist you in that. This is what we envisage when we speak about the social ownership of our institutions. There is still a lot of work we need to do collectively. We need to strengthen the functioning of the higher education ecosystem, but we can only do that if we appreciate the different roles we must play as stipulated in the Act.
The biggest challenge at this point is that we need to build and strengthen governance leadership of university councils. Resuscitating the capacity building programme that existed in the past for councils would assist greatly, but this programme must extend to the rest of the stakeholders in institutions. We must also look at strengthening collaboration beyond the sector with other departments. We note that to do the work planned, we need to strengthen greater governmental and financial support and investment in institutions. Another important point is the role played by the Auditor-General in auditing these institutions.
We want greater transparency in the utilisation of public funds, especially for infrastructure projects. Members would like to see greater transparency in public accountability. The Committee can unequivocally state that it has total regard for academic freedom and institutional autonomy, but the tendency of dismissing public accountability by institutions should no longer have room in the sector, especially when as stakeholders we all yearn to work together to resolve the challenges crippling the sector. There is a significant difference between interference and intervention. None of us here want to interfere in the daily operations of institutions. Our goal is to intervene to ensure institutions fulfil their mandate to drive our economy forward and develop our country and ensure that our people are self-liberated. This Committee supports and protects the principle of cooperative governance, academic freedom and institutional autonomy.
In closing, she asked that VCs should report persons or bodies that were trying to interfere in institutions. If people are holding VCs at gunpoint demanding certain things to happen, they must be brought before the Committee or reported. We want to get to a point where we are no longer dealing with the subject of institutional autonomy, academic freedom and public accountability.
The colloquium ended.
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