High quality higher education is a fundamental necessity for equity and economic and social development and a vibrant democracy. Without the production of high-level skilled graduates, the generation of knowledge and responsive knowledge-based community service on the part off higher education, such development will be constrained. The challenges of reconstruction and development are tremendous. Higher education must not fail in meeting the needs of South Africa in the twenty-first century.
The 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 is 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.
The CHE is required to submit an Annual Report to parliament. In this regard, it is pleased to present its second Annual Report, covering the period September 1999 to October 2000.
This first Annual Report of the CHE, issued in November 1999, reviewed higher education prior to the democratic elections of 1994 and since the promulgation of the White Paper on higher education in 1997. It highlighted new trends and developments, examined progress towards the policy goals embodied in the White Paper, identified key challenges and, where appropriate, proposed new directions. The extensive analysis of South African higher education contained in the first Annual Report retains its validity. Indeed, many of the trends and developments that were illustrated in that report have intensified.
The argument in the first Annual Report for considered yet urgent and decisive action towards creating a new higher education landscape and system remains. The CHE Shape and Size task team report, Towards a new higher education landscape: Meeting the equity, quality and social development imperatives of South Africa in the twenty-first century, released in July 2000 further amplified the need for change and advanced proposals around a new landscape.
The period between September 1999 and October 2000 has been tremendously eventful for the CHE. Apart from delivering the Shape and Size report to the Minister of Education, the CHE has taken important further steps in building a national quality assurance system for higher education. It has also been involved in a range of other activities, the details of which are covered in this report. In the process, the CHE has begun to establish its identity as an independent body seeking to operate in the national interest. Overall, the CHE is pleased with its performance and looks forward to effectively and efficiently discharging the important and extensive responsibilities that it has been allocated.
Finally, as chairperson, I thank the members of the CHE and the CHE executive committee, the members of various CHE task teams and committees (including representatives of national stakeholders, the South African Qualifications Authority and the Department of Education), and the CHE staff for their selfless contributions to the work and activities of the CHE.
Professor Wiseman Nkuhlu