Higher Education Bill [B34-2008] & National Qualifications Framework Bill [B33-2008]: Effect on existing Education legislation: Department of Education briefing

Basic Education

28 July 2008
Chairperson: Mr R. van den Heever (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Education had formerly briefed the Committee on the National Qualifications Framework Bill and Higher Education Amendment Bill, and the Department now tabled a schedule that summarised the consequential changes being made by these Bills to existing pieces of education legislation. It was noted that the South African Qualification Authority Act would fall away. Quality Councils, as referred to in the Higher Education Act, were now being defined. The Minister would be authorised to appoint eight, instead of six, non voting members to the Council for Higher Education to improve communication between the various councils. Provision was made for the Minister to issue regulations on the Council for Higher Education. General and Further Education and Training Quality Assurance Council was given additional functions.

A second briefing summarised the main changes to the General and Further Education and Training Quality Assurance Council Act. Definitions were given of assessment body and internal assessment. Technical changes were aimed at improving monitoring and communication between the councils. The role of the Council in external assessment was better defined and changes were being made to Sections 8 to 10. Independent schools, private colleges and other assessment bodies were now subject to quality standards of this Council.

Members asked the reasons for replacing the legislation, and whether the Bills were in line with best international practice,

Meeting report

The Chairperson noted that public hearings would be held on the education bills on 30 July, and that the formal consideration of the National Qualifications Framework Bill and Higher Education Amendment Bill was set for 12 August.

National Qualifications Framework Bill B 33-2008 (NQF Bill) and Higher Education Amendment Bill (HE Bill): Consequential changes to other legislation: Briefing by Department of Education (DoE)
Mr Duncan Hindle, Director General, Department of Education, referred to his previous presentation on the National Qualifications Framework Bill [B33-2008] and its similarity to some points of the Higher Education Amendment Bill (HE Bill). He then referred Members to the Schedule (see attached document) comparing the existing Higher Education Act 101 of 1997, the Higher Education Amendment Bill B34 of 2008, and the current NQF Bill. He noted that the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA) Act would be replaced by the new legislation, and so references to the SAQA Act would fall away. The changes related mainly to points of clarification or new definitions, but there were a few substantive insertions or amendments.

Clause 3 of the Higher Education Amendment Bill related to functions of the Council for Higher Education (HE), including its general and specific functions. The term “Quality Council” was not defined in the HE Act. In the NQF Bill it was defined as “a council contemplated in chapter 5 of the NQF Bill.”

Clause 4 now authorised the Minister to appoint eight non-voting members to the Council for Higher Education (CHE), as opposed to the existing six. The aim of this measure was to ensure cross-referencing and better communication between the three councils and it was in line with the creation of Quality Councils as contemplated in the NQF Bill.

Section 69 of the existing HE Act did not provide for regulations governing the composition of the CHE and the manner in which fees for services rendered must be paid. The HE Bill therefore authorised the Minister to enact such legislation in line with clauses 33 and 34 of the NQF Bill.

A new Section 17A was being inserted into the Act, whilst the
General and Further Education and Training Quality Assurance Council (GENFETQ or Umalusi) was given additional functions, through Clause 9 of the HE Bill which corresponded to Clause 28 of the NQF Bill.

Discussion
Mr G Boinamo (DA) asked what the main reasons were for replacing the SAQA Act with the NQF Bill.

Mr Barry Beukes, Legal representative, DoE,
responded that when the original legislation was promulgated, it was agreed that the SAQA would not remain the driver of the system but that the focus would shift to the national qualifications framework. This was then developed and endorsed by a ministerial committee to ensure local and global connectivity. 

Adv A. Gaum (ANC) asked whether the Bills were in line with best international practice in Higher Education.

Mr Beukes replied that the Bills had been developed according to best international practice. The levels would also remain the same – in accordance with international standards – but the addition of some definitions aimed to make the system more simple and streamlined.

Mr Hindle added that the addition of the third quality council enabled programmes that did not fall into the domain of higher education to be overseen by a dedicated authority.


General and Further Education and Training Quality Assurance Council Act (GENFETQA): Department of Education (DoE) Briefing
Mr Duncan Hindle then summarised the changes in the GENFETQA as a result of the new Bills, again referring Members to the attached schedule of consequential changes.

He noted that the term “Assessment body” would mean either the DoE or an organisation authorised by the DoE. “Internal assessment” was also defined in the Bill and other matters were clarified.

On page 4 of the Bill the various amendments and definition changes were aimed at improving monitoring and communication between the Quality Councils.

The most substantive changes were being made to Section 8, and in Section 9 the role of Umalusi in terms of external assessment was closely defined. This was to ensure the quality of assessment at all exit points, effectively writing into law what was common practice. Section 10 was being amended to remove the term “provider” in favour of “assessment body”.

Independent Schools, private colleges and other assessment bodies were now being made subject to the quality standards of Umalusi. This would mean that the Registrar had to be informed by Umalusi whether or not programmes were acceptable.

In Section 15, the term “providers” was replaced by “education institutions”.

Mr Hindle reiterated that the new Bills made more sense when read in conjunction with the principal Act.

The meeting was adjourned.

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