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South African universities speak out on Protection of Information Bill

The Protection of Information Bill was detrimental to the core functioning of higher education, Higher Education South Africa (Hesa), a body representing 23 South African universities said recently.

“Access to information is the cornerstone not only to the functioning democracy but it is central to the enterprise of the university. Specifically, because of the negative way it might impact on Sections 32 – access to information – and 16 – freedom of speech – of the Constitution, the proposed Bill is potentially detrimental to the core functioning of higher education.”  The body said without access to information the process of knowledge generation would be hampered, and without freedom of speech, “academic freedoms would be placed in jeopardy”

To read more go to the Sapa article on Dispatch Online by Clicking Here!

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South African matric is a good solid qualification, according to Umalusi

South Africa’s matric is “exactly where it should be”, according to research comparing it to foreign qualifications, education monitoring body Umalusi says.

“The South African public can be reassured that the National Senior Certificate (NSC) is a good, solid, robust qualification,” Elizabeth Burroughs, a senior manager at Umalusi, said in Johannesburg at the release of a report on the international standing of South Africa’s matric.

To read more go to the Sapa article on Times Live by Clicking Here!

To read the Umalusi Report Click Here!

Rise in SA university student drop-out-rate expected

South African vice-chancellors warned the government recently to expect more students to drop out following shocking results of  pilot national benchmark tests.

A draft report produced for the vice-chancellors’ association Higher Education South Africa (HESA) by the National Benchmark Tests Project shows that most first-year students could not adequately read, write or comprehend – and universities that conduct regular competency tests have reported a decline in standards.

HESA’s findings make it clear that South Africa’s school system, which is following the Outcomes Based Education System,  is continuing to fail its pupils and the country. This will place pressure on universities to do a lot more to tackle what appear to be growing proficiency gaps.

To read more go to Karen MacGregor’s article on University World News by Clicking Here!

Resistance against transformation at universities will not be tolerated anymore says Minister Blade Nzimande

The government is not going to tolerate resistance against transformation at universities anymore, Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr Blade Nzimande said on Wednesday 10 June 2009. 

He referred to The Report of the Ministerial Committee on Transformation and Social Cohesion and the Elimination of Discrimination in Public Higher Education Institutions, and said he had considered and accepted the report and its major findings, and found it deeply disturbing.  “While the report commends institutions for initiatives on change, the report unfortunately states that discrimination, in particular with regard to racism and sexism, is still pervasive in our institutions”, Dr Nzimande said.

Admitting that there is no doubt that significant policy development has indeed occurred towards transformation, the next important step will be to make those policies work.

Nzimande said further that he expects co-operation from Higher Education South Africa (HESA) and he will soon be meeting with them to consider a number of issues. These included developing a transformation compact between institutions and the department. He wants them to consider that vice-chancellors be held responsible for transformation and that this be included in their performance management contracts. The extend to which the curriculum has been transformed to play a role in the socialisation of students with regards to values in the Constitution and broader participation in society, should also be considered

He singled out the The University of the Free State as the institution where racism was the worst, and expressed hope that the University of Stellenbosch will decide, without intervention, to stop using Afrikaans to exclude some students.

Nzimande also announced that the government plans to form a new monitoring- and oversight body to complement the work of the Council on Higher Education (CHE), to keep an eye on transformation issues at universities in South Africa. This oversight body will be based in the Higher Education and Training Department, and details regarding its composition, structure, and brief will be released in the near future. He emphasized that the new body will not be involved in witch-hunts, but that universities will have to be held accountable. The allocation of financial assistance could be used for example, to ensure that universities use these funds for “pressing issues”.

Nzimande stressed that universities should have academic freedom and autonomy, but this should not be an impediment on the way to transformation.

To read more on this go to the article on Politicsweb by Clicking Here!

To read the Afrikaans article by Pieter du Toit on this in Beeld Newspaper Click Here!

SA government is considering extending 3 year university degrees to four years.

Since 1994, access to universities for poor students in South Africa has grown phenomenally. Enrolment of (mostly disadvantaged) African and mixed-race students rose by 268% in the decade to 2006. But in the face of low pass rates the debate has moved on from access to success, and government is considering extending three-year degrees to four years to include the foundational learning many under-prepared students need.

To read more go to the University World News article by Clicking  Here!