Bill will pave way for private universities

college students in lecture. Picture Credit: Thinkstock
college students in lecture. Picture Credit: Thinkstock

Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande has a gift for private institutions offering degrees.

Once passed, the Higher Education Amendment Bill - now before the National Council of Provinces - will allow the institutions to call themselves universities. They would also be able to confer professorships, award honorary degrees and also use the title of chancellor and vice-chancellor.

Clause 33 of the existing legislation bars all these, something that academic leaders argued made the institutions less competitive against the country's 26 public universities.

Institutions offering university degrees in the country, include Monash South Africa, Varsity College, Milpark Business School, Vega, Afda and St Augustine College of SA.

These schools cater for thousands of the country's students who battle to find placement at public universities.

Cida City Campus, South Africa's only free institution that was liquidated and shut its doors last year, also offered a university degree, the bachelor of business administration.

Garth Abraham, president and chief executive of the Johannesburg-based St Augustine, said current legislation made them less appealing to students.

The Catholic Church-owned institution opened in 1999.

"Obviously, provisions such as these impact negatively on an institution such as St Augustine - particularly that provision which prevents us calling ourselves a university."

"We are a university in all senses of the word. Potential undergraduate students who do not always know any better, are often reluctant to register at a college."

"Of course, what those circumstances are remain to be elaborated. Nevertheless, the principle is to be welcomed."

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