The past year has been characterised by major changes at the senior management level, which has brought a measure of organisational stability and reinvigoration. The appointment of the Chief Executive Officer, Ahmed Essop in May 2010 was followed by the appointment respectively of Dr Mark Hay as Executive Director: Quality Assurance, Ms Vuyo Matsam as Director: Corporate Services and Ms Jacomien Rousseau as Chief Financial Officer. I am confident that with the senior management team in place the Council can consolidate the much needed strengthening of the governance and management systems that was initiated in 2008-2009. As a first step, the Council approved a new organisational structure, which incorporates its new mandate as the Quality Council (QC) for Higher Education in line with the National Qualifications Act (No 67) of 2008.
The membership of the Council, which is staggered to ensure continuity, also changed in the course of the year with the term of office of nine members coming to an end. The Minister of Higher Education and Training re-appointed two members and seven new members with effect from December 2010. On behalf of Council I would like to thank Prof Stuart Saunders, Prof Gonda Perez, Ms Luci Abrahams, Mr Vic van Vuuren, Adv Boyce Mkhize and Mr Rob Katz for their valuable contribution to the work of the Council in the past three years. I would also like to welcome the new Council members and look forward to working with them.
I am pleased to report, however, that despite the changes and a range of organisational challenges, the core work of the Council on Higher Education (CHE) was not affected. Although as reported elsewhere in the annual report, the monitoring and evaluation mandate of the CHE needs to be strengthened, the CHE nevertheless continued to highlight key issues in higher education through publications and seminars.
The Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC) has successfully completed the first cycle of the quality assurance framework that was introduced in 2004. The framework for the second cycle, which will focus on learning and teaching in line with the national priority to improve throughput and graduation rates, was released for consultation purposes and will be finalised in the course of 2011/12. The success of the first cycle was, however, marred by the withdrawal of the draft institutional audit report of the University of KwaZulu-Natal on procedural grounds. This has highlighted critical flaws in existing processes, including in the relationship between the different roles and responsibilities of the Council and the HEQC, which is a permanent committee of the Council. The issues and lessons have been discussed by both the Council and the HEQC and will be addressed going forward.
The review of the Higher Education Qualifications Framework (HEQF) is in the process of being finalised and the HEQC has developed a framework for the alignment of existing qualifications with the HEQF, which will take the better part of three to fours years to implement.
The establishment of a Standards Development Directorate and the appointment of senior staff will add momentum to the development of the conceptual Framework for Standards Development. In addition, and based on the recommendations of the external review of the HEQF in 2008, which highlighted the impact of national reviews in contributing to the enhancement of quality, the Council has also re-established the National Reviews Directorate.
It is pleasing to note that the Council has once again received an unqualified audit. However, both the internal and external audits have highlighted a range of organisational challenges, in particular, the lack of adherence to compliance relating to the requirements of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). In this regard, the Council was surprised to learn given unqualified audits in the past, that the Auditor-General has detected flaws in the processes relating to the renovation of the CHE's premises, which date back to the 2008/09 financial year. The Council is committed to ensuring that compliance procedures are strictly adhered to and, in conjunction with the Audit Committee, will closely monitor progress in the implementation of the recommendations flowing from the internal and external audit findings, which is being driven by the CEO. The Council will also initiate an investigation to satisfy itself that while the procurement process relating to the renovation of the building may have been flawed, there was no unethical intent involved.
I would like to thank the staff for their continued commitment, dedication and hard work. I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the role and contribution of Dr Lis Lange, who resigned as Executive Director: Quality Assurance in December 2010 after ten years of service in a variety of roles within the organisation, as well as Dr Jan Beukes who retired as CFO at the end of 2010.
The Council looks forward to continued engagement with the Minister and Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), as well as the higher education sector so that together we can strengthen and transform the higher education system to enable it to contribute to the social and economic development of our country.