Status of Mergers of Higher Education Institutions: briefing

Basic Education

22 June 2004
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Meeting report


22 June 2004

Professor S M Mayatula (ANC)

Relevant Documents:
Department Presentation - Restructuring the Higher Education Landscape: Mergers and Incorporations
Higher Education Restructuring and Transformation: Guidelines for Mergers and Incorporation
ANC Research Unit - Proposal for a study visit to higher institutions of learning
Guidelines for Mergers and Incorporations

The Director-General of the Department of Education, Mr T Mseleku presented the Department's document entitled "Restructuring the Higher Education Landscape: Mergers and Incorporations". He highlighted the areas that presented problems in the transformation process and then went on to cite examples of the types of problems that had occurred as Institutions had merged or been incorporated. As time was limited, there was only a very brief period of input from members. The issue of fee structures and the objectives of the transformation process were discussed. Time was spent arranging the Study Visit that the Committee has planned from 1-6 August 2004 to higher institutions of learning in the north and south.

Members of the delegation from the Department of Education (DoE) included Mr T Mseleku, Director-General, Professor A Pharok, Head of the Merger Unit and Ms E Sedibe.

Prior to the presentation, the Chairperson said that this would be the last meeting of this session. He asked if he could add the forthcoming visit by members of the Committee to higher institutions of learning to the agenda. The meeting agreed to this. Two groups of five members would visit the Universities of Potchefstroom (North West University), Pretoria (Tshwane University of Technology) and South Africa in the north. In the south the Universities of Port Elizabeth (New Name: Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University) Transkei (New Name: Walter Sisulu University for Technology and Science), Durban-Westville and Natal (University of KwaZulu-Natal) and the Border/Eastern Cape and Port Elizabeth Technikons would be visited.

Mr Mseleku said that in anticipation of the time constraints, his department had prepared a comprehensive document that gave the background to the transformation process that had been envisioned for higher education institutions. He urged the Committee to also visit institutions of higher education that were not involved in mergers and incorporations to evaluate how transformation was taking place in these centers. The mergers and incorporations that had already taken place in 2004 and the proposed mergers for 2005 were listed. The merger of the Cape Technikon and Pentechnikon in 2006 was not listed in the document (New name: The Cape Peninsula University of Technology). Mr Mseleku referred the Committee to the guideline document entitled "Higher Education Restructuring and Transformation: Guidelines for Mergers and Incorporation". The department played a supportive role in the transformation process. These guidelines had been of use to institutions in implementing the mergers as well as for the monitoring of progress by the Department. Mr Mseleku said that an amount of R3 billion had been allocated in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) budget over a period of 5 years.

Mr Mseleku said that in this process of transformation the key principle that had to be adhered to was to "ensure that these were measures of equal partners" and "not a swallowing of one institution by another". The challenges facing these institutions were student fees and financial aid, staff conditions of service and benefit structures, maintaining equal status between the campuses of the new institution including the provision of equal facilities and the bringing together of different cultures. He discussed certain features and problems that had been associated with the mergers in 2004. These related to the proximity of the merging campuses, the consolidation of academic programmes, poor management and administration, the leadership of interim councils, the domination of one institution by another and protests related to academic restructuring.

The Chairperson asked about the new fee structures and whether the higher fees of the previously advantaged institution were adopted or if an average between the various fee structures was taken. Mr Mseleku said the Department had been watching this issue very carefully and that a number of factors were considered in the process. He said there might be differential fees between campuses of the same institution but this was to keep the fees the same for students who were what he termed "pipeline" students. Students of the new institution would pay fees according to the new structure.

Mr Y Bhamjee (ANC) referred to the Committee's study visit and said that it was difficult to know what aspects needed to been concentrated on. He thanked the Director-General for providing some valuable insights that would assist with the Committee's visit. He read out the objectives of the visit from a document that had been prepared by the ANC Research Unit.

Ms H Zille (DA) agreed with what Mr Bhamjee had said about the objectives of the study visit. She asked if the Durban Technikon could be added to the institutions to be visited. Referring to the objectives of restructuring she said that the process of restructuring needed to be measured against the two overarching goals of "rational sustainability" and "to improve the quality of higher education". In measuring the success of transformation, she said one should not get stuck in the narrow process of racial head counting but to rather look at the process in terms of these two overarching goals.

The Chairperson said he did not want to get into a debate about broad issues or a consideration of areas of study at that point. He said he needed to organise the two groups for the Study Visit from 1 to 6 August.

Mr Bhamjee said that he did not think there would be a problem with the inclusion of the Durban Technikon except that there would be a time factor to consider. He said that the Study Visit document did take an open approach and was looking at moving forward.

The Chairperson went on to organise the two groups.

Mr L Greyling (ID) asked if he could motivate to go south so that he could join an Environmental Study Group that was also going to that area. The Chairperson said that it would not be possible to do both.

Mr Greyling also reminded the Chairperson of a Caucus Meeting that was taking place during the week of the study visit. The Chairperson said that members could not be brought back for the Caucus meeting. He asked members to give their travel details to the Secretary who would also contact the relevant institutions.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.


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