High quality higher education has a crucial contribution to make to 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 and development will all be constrained. The challenges of reconstruction, social transformation and development are tremendous. Higher education must not fail in helping to address the new priorities and needs of democratic South Africa. The Council on Higher Education (CHE) is an independent statutory body established by the Higher Education Act of 1997. Its core mandate is:
- Advising the Minister at his/her request or proactively on all policy matters related to higher education
- Assuming executive responsibility for quality assurance within higher education and training - including programme accreditation, institutional audits, programme evaluation and quality promotion and capacity building
- Monitoring and evaluating whether, how, to what extent and with what consequences the vision, policy goals and objectives for higher education are being realised, including reporting on the state of South African higher education
- Contributing to developing higher education - giving leadership around key national and systemic issues, producing publications and holding conferences and research to sensitise government and stakeholders to immediate and long-term challenges of higher education.
2003-2004 has been another busy and eventful year that also marked the fifth year of the CHE’s existence. Building on and continuing with a range of activities related to its advisory and general higher education development responsibilities, the CHE took important further steps in finalising and implementing a national quality assurance system for higher education. The details of all its programmes, projects and activities are detailed in this sixth Annual Report, which the CHE is required to submit, through the Minister of Education, to parliament and covers the financial year, April 2003 to March 2004.
Overall, and within the confines of personnel and/or financial constraints, the CHE is proud of and extremely pleased with its performance over the past five years and in the past year on all fronts, and especially in the quality assurance arena where there have been many notable achievements.
Guided by the wisdom of the CHE Council and Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC) Board, and supported by a knowledgeable, highly professional and energetic and dedicated Secretariat, I look forward to the CHE continuing to effectively discharge its important and varied responsibilities. Critical challenges remain securing and retaining high-level specialist personnel, and securing from the Treasury the level of financial resources that are congruent with the effective undertaking of the CHE’s mandate.