Annual Report of the Council on Higher Education 2008/2009

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September, 2009

Foreword

Chairperson’s Message

At the beginning of the year under review the Council welcomed Dr Cheryl de la Rey as the Chief Executive Officer. Her knowledge of higher education, management experience and energetic approach has made a marked difference to the functioning of the CHE. The advisory function has been reinvigorated, several long-standing projects have been brought to conclusion and new projects have been initiated. Very importantly from the perspective of the Council’s role, is that the governance and management systems have been clarified and systematised. I am pleased to report that the Council and all its committees, including its permanent committee responsible for quality assurance, the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC), have functioned effectively in terms of our statutory mandate and adherence to principles of good governance.

This report provides a broad overview of the work of the CHE over the past year. Important contributions were made to the development of higher education policy through the advice provided to the Minister. Public debate was stimulated via the publication of the report on institutional autonomy and academic freedom and through workshops and colloquia on policy questions related to community engagement, curriculum changes and postgraduate education.

Notable in the past year is that the CHE, while continuing its planned programme of work, also refl ected on its own effectiveness and impact in executing its mandate areas. The annual consultative conference in October 2008 focused on the question of how to provide timely, useful and effective advice to government. The deliberations of this conference contributed to a revised and reinvigorated approach to the advisory function of the CHE.

In keeping with the commitment in the Founding Document, the HEQC was reviewed by an external panel during 2008. The Panel found that the HEQC has been quite successful in most of its areas of responsibility. In particular, that the HEQC has contributed to a clear sense of the importance of quality assurance processes in all higher education institutions.

The recommendations of the review will be helpful in the development of a framework for a new cycle of quality assurance, which will commence in 2011. Notwithstanding the external review, which was demanding on Dr Lange and her team, the first cycle of quality assurance activities continued as planned.

Of significance to the CHE was the passing of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Act and the Higher Education Amendment Act towards the end of the 2008/9 financial year. By virtue of this legislation, the CHE became the Quality Council (QC) for Higher Education. In planning for the new mandate, the CHE has worked closely with the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (Umalusi). Continuation of these close working relationships is crucial for implementation of the CHE’s new role which takes effect in 2009/10.

One of the key decisions taken by Council in the past year was the resolution to purchase a building to accommodate the CHE. A risk analysis and previous audit reports had pointed to several risks associated with the Skinner Street premises. After careful consideration of a due diligence exercise which firmly pointed to the financial and other advantages, the Council decided to purchase a building in Persequor Technopark in close proximity to Umalusi, the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The Council expresses appreciation to the former Minister of Education, Mrs Naledi Pandor, for her approval of the purchase of the building and for a constructive relationship with the Council during her term of office. We also thank the officials of the former Department of Education (DoE) for a similarly constructive engagement with the CHE.

Over the past year there have been several changes in the membership of the Council. I am very appreciative of the contributions made by my fellow members of the Council, both those retired and those newly appointed. It has been a privilege working with all of them in this nationally important process. On behalf of the Council, I wish to thank Professor Africa, who served as Chairperson of the HEQC since its launch in 2001 and also Professor Stef Coetzee, Dr Frene Ginwala and Ms Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya for their important contributions to the work of the Council over many years. As we approached the end of the financial year, we had the pleasure of welcoming to the Council Professor Rolf Stumpf, who is also the new HEQC Chairperson.

Successful organisational achievements are dependent on hardworking, reliable and committed staff. The Council is deeply appreciative of the work of the CHE staff. We are especially proud of the continued achievement of an unqualified audit report in a year that was rendered more complex by the acquisition of the building. Dr Beukes, the Chief Financial Officer, and the CHE Finance team played a notable role in this regard.

Looking ahead, this is an exciting and challenging time. The CHE is planning to occupy its new premises and execute its expanded mandate. We also look forward to working with the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Bonginkosi “Blade” Nzimande, in contributing to a more accessible, transformed system of higher education and training. The CHE’s monitoring work shows that the time is ripe for revising policies and plans so that the progress of the past fifteen years may be deepened and the gaps and shortfalls addressed with a sense of renewed focus and determination.

Professor Chabani Manganyi
Chairperson
Council on Higher Education
August 2009

CEO's message

This has been a year of extraordinary change for the CHE. Many new appointments followed my appointment as Chief Executive Officer. At the Director level, Dr Lumkile Lalendle and Ms Judy Backhouse were appointed to the Institutional Audits and Advice and Monitoring portfolios, respectively, and Professor Francis Faller was seconded from Wits University as Director for Programme Accreditation. By the end of the financial year, the advisory and monitoring functions were showing signs of revitalisation, several new projects and partnerships were initiated, the governance and management systems clarified and the CHE was planning for its relocation to new premises. This annual report provides an overview of the programmes, projects and activities of the CHE over the past year.

Particularly significant among all the changes is the expansion of the CHE mandate. Subject to the date of implementation being promulgated, the CHE will be assuming responsibility for the implementation of the Higher Education Qualifications Framework (HEQF). Therefore, in addition to quality assurance and quality promotion functions executed through the CHE’s permanent committee, the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC), the CHE will be working on standards setting and the naming of qualifications. In executing this new function, the CHE will be working closely with the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (Umalusi) and the new Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO).

Cooperation and partnerships feature strongly in the work of the CHE. During the past year, the CHE worked closely with the National Research Foundation (NRF) on a number of projects, and the National Council on Innovation (NACI), and established a joint task team to focus on human capital development. The Centre for Research on Science and Technology (CREST) continued to provide valuable research to support the CHE’s monitoring work, and there was an ongoing exchange of information with the office of Higher Education South Africa (HESA).

To execute its mandate the CHE works closely with all higher education institutions, both public and private. In May last year, the South African Technology Network (SATN) was launched at an inaugural conference in Durban. As CEO of the CHE, I was honoured to be an invited keynote speaker. Since then, the CHE has worked closely with SATN members, namely, the Universities of Technology. The CHE has also been instrumental in the initial work being undertaken by five rural-based universities to develop a niche strategy linked to rural development and poverty eradication. As an organisation, we are appreciative of the spirit of cooperation and collaboration we experience in working with all higher education institutions and for the many invitations we have received to conferences, workshops and seminars. Thank you too to the Department of Education, particularly the Higher Education Branch, for the constructive working relationship throughout the year.

Organisational changes are both exciting and demanding. I am sincerely grateful to all the CHE staff whose efforts have enabled the outcomes described in this report. I also wish to thank the Council Chairperson, Professor Chabani Manganyi, all the members of the Council and its committees for their leadership and support throughout the year.

As we closed the 2008/9 financial year, the CHE began a strategic planning exercise in anticipation of the new governance arrangements in the form of two new government departments responsible for different education sectors. Our initial planning discussions have been imbued with a sense of excitement about new possibilities. We look forward to working with the new Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) in a policy framework that takes an integrated approach to post-school education and training.

Dr Cheryl de la Rey
Chief Executive Officer
Council on Higher Education
August 2009