The University of South Africa (Unisa) has rebuffed reports that the institution is administratively on its knees and is therefore deserving of being placed under administration.
During a media briefing at Unisa’s Muckleneuk Campus in Pretoria, the principal and vice-chancellor of the university, Professor Puleng LenkaBula, said she acknowledged two reports that led to Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s decision to place the institution under administration.
Nzimande’s decision was based on a ministerial task team (MTT) report and an Independent Assessor’s report by Professor Themba Mosia.
The main purpose of the MTT was to carry out an investigation into the blockages that prevent effective recruitment, retention, and progression of South African black academics at universities in the country.
It also sought to assess the effectiveness of initiatives that have been developed to address these and to make recommendations to the minister and the department on how these blockages can be decisively addressed.
Mosia said Unisa’s Council failed in its responsibility to ensure stability, strategic direction, financial compliance, and a positive public image of the University.
He added that the problems at Unisa “have been left for too long to metastasize to a point where all sections of the university are affected in one way or another.”
“Council has not exercised the duty of care by taking the public in its confidence to be faithful and honest in the execution of the mandate to govern the university and ensuring an efficient utilization of university resources and the integrity of the academic environment.
However, LenkaBula chose to disagree with both reports.
“We reiterate the university’s stance on the Independent Assessor’s Report and its predecessor, the MTT Report. While the university cooperated with both processes and respected the reports, we differ with the findings of both reports that the institution was collapsing.
“However, due to the issues pertaining to the Independent Assessor’s report and the minister’s notice to place the university under administration being sub judice, the university has adopted an official position of not dealing with these issues in the public domain,” she said.
LenkaBula said Unisa is a national asset that deserves to be protected because it was on track towards fulfilling its missional mandate of becoming a Comprehensive, Open Distance and eLearning (CODeL) institution that produces excellent scholarship and research.
She said they also enroll over 350,000 students every year, accommodating over a third of students in the country’s higher education system and 90% of the distance learning component.
Unisa is frequently subjected to a review process undertaken by the Council on Higher Education (CHE), which compels institutions of higher learning to comply to a set of criteria, which she cited as one of the benefits she mentioned.
The last review conducted by the CHE on Unisa found that the university’s plans and contributions have recorded significant growth in its core functions and overall good practices, said LenkaBula.
LenkaBula said Unisa has qualified and accredited academic staff, with 60% of its 1823 permanent academic staff being PhD holders.
Unisa senior media officer Tommy Huma added that a total of 245 of these academics are NRF-rated researchers, many of whom are affiliated with the Academy of Science and publish widely in journals.
Huma said Unisa academics continue to be recognized with national and international awards, particularly in the field of research.
He said the continued appointment of Unisa academics to chair strategic bodies and organs in the industry affirmed the caliber and stature of Unisa academics.