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CHE > Media and Publications > Other > CHE News - Issue no 6
January, 2003

In this issue:

CHE Launches electronic Newsletter

The CHE is re-launching its newsletter in an electronic, web-based format. This allows us to reach many more readers and to integrate the CHE News with our website in a way that creates synergies with hosted information on current and past projects, programmes and publications by the CHE's four directorates.

Progress has been made by the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC) in the preparation for the roll out of a full quality assurance system in 2004. This includes the training of auditors as well as preparations for pilot audits that will take place at University of Pretoria, the Vaal Triangle Technikon and the Midrand Graduate Institute. Another high-profile project of the HEQC, namely the process of re-accrediting MBA programmes, is being followed quite closely by the press.

News from the advisory division of the CHE focus on the activities of the Distance Education Task Team, whose work informs fundamental national policy on who can provide distance education in the country; on the release of a research report and recommendations on the governance of mergers in South African higher education, as a way of contributing to one important aspect of the establishment of new higher education institutions; and on the almost-ready framework for the monitoring and evaluation of the achievement of policy objectives. Finally, this issue of CHE News takes a look at the implications of the definition of higher education as a service in terms of GATS.

On the dissemination work of the CHE, two important contributions to debate on, and information about, higher education have been finalised. Earlier this month the CHE launched the first issue of the Higher Education Monitor, a publication of the Advice and Monitoring Directorate of the CHE in collaboration with the Accreditation and Coordination Directorate of the HEQC. The first issue takes a close look at the provision of private higher education in South Africa based on the HEQC re-accreditation of programmes offered by private providers. The second publication, which will be released by mid-August, is a Directory of South African Education and Training Quality Assurers and Professional Bodies. Both publications are available on the CHE website and in the case of the Higher Education Monitor, a chat room has been designed to generate debate among higher education specialists, stakeholders and the general public.

SA recently received requests to open up its HE sector to liberalisation and remove trade barriers...

Trade in higher education services is a huge industry involving globally billions of Rands. Currently, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is being negotiated under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). GATS is designed to increase trade liberalisation internationally and it includes 'education' as a service sector. GATS aims to remove perceived 'barriers' in the trade in services, which in higher education services might include visa restrictions, taxation that disadvantages foreign institutions and accreditation arrangements that privilege domestic institutions and qualifications. South Africa has recently received through the World Trade Organisation (WTO) specific requests to open up its higher education sector to liberalisation and remove trade barriers.

South Africa received up to now three specific requests to negotiate education/higher education as part of the latest GATS round, submitted from New Zealand, Norway and Kenya. In addition the United States has made a generic request to all member countries. South Africa is no stranger to the international trade in higher education. In the language of the WTO, South African higher education knows all modes of supply at varying degrees and with a growing market. The GATS modes of supply are: Cross-border Supply, Consumption Abroad, Commercial Presence and the Presence of Natural Persons. By Cross-border Supply, GATS refers to the provision of a service where the service crosses the border and does not require the physical movement of the consumer. In higher education, distance education, e-learning and virtual universities are typically the means by which cross-border higher education is provided. Consumption Abroad is the name for the provision of a service involving the movement of the consumer to the country of the supplier. Typically for that mode of supply in higher education is the phenomenon of students moving to study abroad or international semester and full-degree students coming to study in South Africa. The third mode of supply, Commercial Presence, refers to a situation whereby a service provider establishes or has a presence of commercial facilities in another country in order to render a service. This can take the form of a South African university establishing a satellite campus abroad, or reciprocally the establishment of a branch of a foreign institution in South Africa, e.g. the private Australian Bond University. Other examples of this mode of supply include franchising arrangements with local institutions, something well known to be done by Cambridge University or University of London. Lastly, the Presence of Natural Persons is a service supply mode whereby a natural person travels to another country on a temporary basis to provide the service. Typically in higher education this would refer to South African nationals working abroad as professors, teachers and researchers and foreign academics working in South Africa. GATS aims to regulate, with a view to liberalise, the trade of services in higher education.

Some view GATS as a positive force, accelerating the influx of private and foreign providers of higher education into countries where domestic capacity is inadequate. Others take a more negative view, concerned that liberalisation may compromise important elements of quality assurance and permit private and foreign providers to monopolise the best students and most lucrative programmes. Many aspects of GATS are open to interpretation, and many nations have yet to fully engage in the process, at least in respect of the potential implications for education.

Kagisano Issue No.3 The CHE Higher Education Discussion Series Kagisano features Dr Jane Knight of the University of Toronto and South African Dr Pillay Pundy in discussion on the key issues involved in the trade negotiations on GATS and higher education, and scenarios on South Africa's potential position. An introductory article by Prof. Saleem Badat and the address of the Minister of Education, Prof. Kader Asmal, to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry further outline the importance and implications of GATS and South African higher education.

The 'latest edition of Kagisano', is dedicated to the "General Agreement on Trade in Services and its Implications on Higher Education". Kagisano is a scholarly edited, academic journal published by the CHE.

Purchasing Consortium Benefits Higher Education

Purchasing Consortium for Higher Education in Southern Africa

The Purchasing Consortium for Higher Education in Southern Africa (Purco) recently welcomed Border Technikon and the University of Swaziland as new members. This brings the total membership of the purchasing consortium to thirty-five educational institutions, stretching from Cape Town to Thohoyandou and from Windhoek to Durban. Within the first month of membership, Purco was involved in facilitating the tender process for the supply and installation of new IT-equipment at Border Technikon.

Purco serves the higher educational community of Southern Africa by extending procurement cooperation, utilising available expertise at member institutions and by reducing costly duplications in the purchasing activities of all participating universities and technikons.

Aggregation of the sector's purchasing spend allows Purco to facilitate a wide variety of contracts on behalf of its members. These contracts cover travel, paper products, office equipment, services, catering supplies, waste removal, maintenance supplies and vehicles, to mention but a few. Several of Purco's suppliers meet their social responsibility in a unique way by investing in higher education through the offering of special educational discounts.

July 2003 news is that Purco is implementing a South African Airways on-line booking system on its website to save costs for all air travelers. A further exiting development is the hosting of a web-based contract management system for its members and suppliers. Supplier catalogues of contracted items will become available on the Purco website during this month. Purco is currently investigating the implementation of an e-procurement system for the higher educational sector. This system will cater for both consortium and institutional purchases. A web-based purchasing system will benefit higher education, as it will lead to substantial process cost savings.

The annual Purco conference will be hosted at the University of Rhodes on 28 and 29 October 2003. Some of the speakers include Brian Yeoman from the University of Texas, who will make a presentation on the importance of environmental procurement in a developing country. Professor Gavin Staude of the Investec Business School at Rhodes University will facilitate a workshop on strategic planning for procurement. Professor Matthew Lester, also from Rhodes University, will make an interesting presentation on the economic realities of managing the country's budget. Purco will re-invest in the community that it serves by paying the conference fees for one delegate per member institution. Any enquiries on the conference can be directed to Kate Benyon or tel: 046 - 603 8763.

Re-Accreditation of MBAs

After extensive consultation with schools and institutions offering the MBA programme, the Higher Education Quality Committee has finalized the 'Manual for the MBA re-accreditation'. This was done in consultation with MBA leaders from all South African institutions offering the MBA programme (at a meeting held on 27 March 2003). From the above meeting the HEQC has requested institutions to nominate evaluators and a selection process has been done during June 2003. Self review reports from institutions offering MBAs have been submitted and evaluated. On 24 June 2003, a preparation workshop for evaluators took place at Kopanong Hotel and Conference Center. About 50 evaluators took part in the preparation workshop. The HEQC also has a pool of International expert to assist both in evaluations and comment on instruments and documentation for the re-accreditation process. People from various geographical locations like USA, NETHERLANDS, constitute the International reference group Australia, Hong Kong, UK etc).

In terms of instruments for site evaluations, the HEQC has developed a guideline and schedule for the re-accreditation process. An overview of the site visits was sent to appropriate institutions for suggestions and or adjustments. The first site visit will be taking place on Wednesday 9 July 2003 at Technikon Witwatersrand. Site visits to institutions will be completed during the second week of September 2003. Recommendations from these site visits will be tabled at the HEQC Board for decisions. Outcomes will be communicated to institutions at the end of the year (2003). Information from the re-accreditation process will feed into a report on the state of the quality of MBAs in South African Higher Education.

Responsiveness through partnerships

In 2002 the CHE started a project to explore the relations between higher education institutions and the private and public sectors with respect to the production and absorption of graduates with high-level skills and of research. The culmination of several months of preparation that included the commissioning of several research pieces was a Colloquium between higher education and the private and public sector. Among the conclusions reached at that meeting was the suggestion of taking concrete cases for collaboration in order to realise some of the ideas discussed at the colloquium. Following on this, the second part of the Responsiveness Project focuses on exploring three different models of partnerships between higher education institutions and the public and private sectors: higher education and local government, urban-based higher education institutions and urban-based business, and higher education institutions and an economic sector.

On 24 March 2003, a summit on Strategic Partnerships between Higher Education institutions and Local Government was held in Sandton. The purpose was to explore the relationships between the higher education institutions of Johannesburg and the City Council. The public higher education institutions included were Rand Afrikaans University, Technikon South Africa, Technikon Witwatersrand, Vista University East Rand, Vista University Soweto, and the University of the Witwatersrand. The objectives of the summit were to explore further the content of strategic partnerships between higher education and local government; begin the process of engagement between different partners; outline to participants projects around which the content of a strategic partnership could be explored more fully; and decide on further steps to operationalise decisions.

The summit was well attended and lively discussion followed addresses by the Minister of Education, a representative of the City Mayor, the CHE CEO and a presentation made by the higher education institutions. The most important conclusion of the meeting was the need to create a framework to operationalise the interest in collaborative projects between the higher education institutions of Johannesburg and the City Council. To give expression to this decision the CHE accepted to convene a steering committee tasked with the development of a draft memorandum of understanding between the parties. The steering committee discussed the first draft of the Memorandum of Understanding in March. The second draft will be discussed at a meeting on 16 July after which it is expected that the different institutions will take the approved draft to their executives for further discussion and endorsement. It is hoped that the MOU will be signed towards the end of 2003.

Preparing the Auditors

The HEQC pilot audits begin in September this year, with the first six-year audit cycle starting in 2004.

For this, audit panelists are needed. These are people who were chosen according to a set of agreed criteria, largely but not exclusively from higher education. Although experienced in their academic fields and in issues in quality, they needed orientation to the process of being an audit panelist. This was what the auditor preparation programme aimed to provide.

During the last two weeks of July, there were two three-day sessions held, each with about 25 participants. The programme included the legislative background to audit; the HEQC's audit framework; the audit criteria; the institutional self-evaluation document, which woul be the panels' initial encounter with an institution - they would base key decisions about how to carry out the audit on this; and teamwork among the panelists.

Very importantly, it provided space for debate about concepts and definitions of quality, and about how a focus on quality can influence the development of higher education in this country. The context for this debate was the highly diverse South African higher education landscape, from which each participant have brought their own experience and perceptions. Some differed widely. All was needed to be brought into the debate so that differences could be recognized, but at the same time a common understanding of the purpose, scope and processes of the quality audit could emerge. Participants needed to have confirmed and developed their skills in analyzing data, and in making evidence-based decisions.

In developing the programme, the HEQC had drawn on expertise from within and outside the country. The Centre for Higher Education Development at UCT, and the Australian Universities Quality Agency, particularly, were contributors to the process. The programme was however essentially conceptualized and structured by the HEQC itself, drawing on what is by now a considerable and detailed body of knowledge about the institutions and about their approaches to and understanding of issues in quality.

The programme would be thoroughly evaluated, especially after the pilot audits. Panellists' views about how well the programme prepared them for their roles will be essential in testing its success, and in influencing change. Participants in the programme, from the beginning, had a leading voice in its development, and the HEQC would in the future draw on their experiences and expertise to improve the programme, and to participate in delivering it.

The next edition of the Newsletter will bring an update on this challenging and important initiative.

HEQC Staff observes an audit in Australia

Dr Prem Naidoo participated in observing an Australian audit site visit in May. As a result of this visit, Dr Mark Hay from the Audit and Evaluation Directorate was invited to observe an audit site visit at an Australian University. While Dr Hay's visit provided useful insights into the conducting of an audit during a site visit, there was also opportunity to interact with the Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA) staff on a range of issues related to institutional quality audits.

The visit provided the opportunity to discuss mutual topics around quality issues and audit systems, and a discussion on the contextual implications of conducting audits in different countries and continents. For example, one such discussion was centered around balancing fitness of and for purpose in the developing of a new national audit system.

CHE builds database of Researchers

The CHE is in the process of building a database of researchers with an interest in higher education studies. Please submit your contact information by filling in the feedback submission form.

The State of Private Higher Education Provision in South Africa

The private provision of higher education is an important component of the higher education system. About 117 private providers share a growing market of higher education in South Africa. In a path-breaking report, the CHE reflects on key findings of the re-accreditation process for private providers conducted by the HEQC during 2002.

Based on the analysis of quantitative and qualitative data derived from 58 private providers, making up almost 50 % of private institutions, the study finds that 25.3 % of all programmes submitted for accreditation to the HEQC are in Business Administration, followed by 14.7 % in Religion, 13.8 % in Information Technology, and 12.4 % in Marketing and Public Relations. Other significant fields of private provision include Communications and Media, Education and Training, Graphic and Fashion design. The large majority of programmes were accredited at NQF levels 5 and 6, providing students with exit qualifications of a National Certificate or National Diploma respectively.

In the whole, the report paints a bleak picture of private higher education. It argues that private higher education provision "seems to be characterized by a qualification upward creep which distorts the value of higher education degrees". The quality of private higher education is undermined by inadequate quality management and a lack of well-qualified staff, learning support and other crucial resources like well-equipped libraries. In the view of one evaluator, "the salary and working conditions of these full-time academics are poor and smack of 'sweat shop' tendencies". The often trumpeted "responsiveness" of privates to the market is seriously questioned at multiple levels.

The "Higher Education Monitor" is a new publication series of the CHE.

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