High quality higher education is crucial for social equity, economic and social development and the existence of a vibrant democracy and civil society. Without higher education producing knowledgeable, competent and skilled graduates, research and knowledge and undertaking responsive knowledge-based community service, equity, democracy development will all be constrained. The challenges of reconstruction, social transformation and development are tremendous. Higher education must not fail in meeting the new priorities and needs of South Africa
The Council on Higher Education (CHE) is an independent statutory body established by the Higher Education Act of 1997. Its mandate is to advise the Minister of Education on all matters of higher education so that the system becomes characterised by equity, quality, responsiveness to economic and social development needs, and effective and efficient provision and management and also contributes to the public good. The CHE is also responsible, through its Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC), for quality assurance in higher education.
It has been another busy and eventful year for the CHE. Apart from a range of activities related to the advisory and general higher education development mandate of the CHE, the CHE has taken important further steps in building a national quality assurance system for higher education. The details of all its activities are detailed in this fifth Annual Report, which the CHE is required to submit to parliament and covers the financial year, period April 2002 to March 2003. Overall, the CHE is pleased with its performance and looks forward to continuing to effectively discharging the important and extensive responsibilities that it has been allocated.
In June 2002, a new membership was appointed to the CHE by the Minister of Education for a four-year term. I want to extend my appreciation to the previous membership of the CHE and, in particular, the previous Chairperson, Prof. Wiseman Nkuhlu, for their tremendous leadership and contribution to the work of the CHE during the past few years. Through their wisdom, time and efforts, the CHE has over a relatively short period become institutionalised in the life and dynamics of higher education and has made tremendous progress in discharging the mandate and responsibilities that have been accorded to it by the Higher Education Act of 1997 and the White Paper on higher education.
The new CHE Council began its term with a workshop at which the challenges for higher education in general and for the CHE in particular were identified, existing committees of the CHE were restructured or reconstituted and activities for the coming years were identified and prioritized. In the short time in office, the new Council has already had to rise to a number of challenges and has advised the Minister on crucial issues ranging from institutional restructuring to the National Qualifications Framework in higher education.
I look forward to working with the members of the CHE and the Secretariat to discharge the CHE's important responsibilities in the coming years and to working with all higher education constituencies and stakeholders to build an equitable, responsive and effective new higher education landscape in South Africa.
Mr Saki Macozoma,
Chairperson of the Council on Higher Education