By Ofentse Mokae
25 April 2010
The two-day stakeholder Summit on Higher Education Transformation, which concluded on Friday, has been described as a “useless talk shop”.
The summit hosted by the higher education and training department together with the Centre for Education and Policy Development was intended to present the first opportunity for a frank engagement in the sector on the complex issue of transformation.
It brought together management, the academic community, students, workers and government to interrogate amongst others, issues of student access and success, teaching, learning and curriculum transformation.
Democratic Alliance shadow minister on higher education and training Wilmot James says the summit steered away from the main problem the country faces, which according to him is to build quality in teaching, research and governance at universities.
“The fact is that the Ministry of higher education and training does not have the money to grow student enrolment or build quality. Universities therefore have to do more with the money they have and the students they must graduate. Current levels of misery will therefore inevitably spread,” argues James in a statement.
He says no solution was found for the lack of fit between the country’s 50 further education and training colleges and the 23 universities.
“Students in the one sector cannot easily move into the other, SETAS were not discussed at all, nor was the fact that the National Skills Fund sits with R2,7 billion in unspent funds,” he added.
The party however welcomed recommendations made which included the introduction of a 4 year long undergraduate degree and the retention of foreign African graduates in lecturing posts.
The summit held at Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s Bellville campus was also addressed by deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe who emphasized the need for human resources development to address skills shortage in the country.
“It is imperative that we increase the country’s human resource capacity by producing high-level and scarce skills that are needed by the economy and for effective service delivery to the population,” Motlanthe said.
He added that he was convinced that if a workable consensus on identifying the challenges and solutions to South Africa’s education transformation potential was reached, then they would be better placed to respond to government’s five priorities of education, health, rural development and land reform, creating decent jobs as well as fighting crime and corruption.