UNISA silent on Minister’s plans to place it under administration after damning report

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The University of South Africa (UNISA) has announced that it will refrain from making further comments regarding Higher Education Minister Dr Blade Nzimande’s intention to place the university under administration.

This decision comes in response to the Independent Assessor’s Report, which revealed evidence of wrongdoing against Vice-Chancellor Professor Puleng Lenkabula and identified the university’s failure to fulfil its mandate.

Unisa has rejected the findings that the institution was collapsing.

Briefing the media in Pretoria on Wednesday, Lenkabula says they will not speak out on the matter until it is ventilated in court.

A decision on the future of UNISA hangs in the balance following the damning independent assessors report. Part of the recommendations was that the institution be placed under administration. A Ministerial Task Team (MTT) appointed by Nzimande also painted a gloomy picture of the situation at the 150-year-old institution.

The university differs on the matter which is going to the courts. Professor Lenkabula says while this is the case, there are no tensions between the institution and the Minister.

“We are holding different positions because it involves the aspects of the law that require our governance systems and compliance systems. And therefore, if the minister announces on something, we then use a relieved requisite. It is not our responsibility to undermine that. If there is something the university has to account for, there are mechanisms, the engagement with the department and the minister,” says Lenkabula.

She says they will not comment further on the matter.

“Due to the issues pertaining to the Independent Assessor’s report and 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 has also sought to defend the quality of qualifications at the institution. The university has been under criticisms following allegations of cheating. The university has gone fully online since the Covid pandemic. It says it has measures in place to ensure qualifications are up to standard.

“Like all other institutions of higher learning, UNISA has also put in place additional to safeguard the integrity of qualifications. This includes standard procedures within departments, quality assurance committees as well as college-specific peer reviews measures to ensure Unisa qualifications are up to standard,” Lenkabula explains.

The academic staff was also not immune to the allegations.

Lenkabula elaborates, “I wish to state that Unisa has qualified and accredited academics. 60 percent of academic staff are PhD holders. A total of 245 of these have national NRF foundation-rated researchers.”

UNISA says it does not plant to go back to physical examinations as this is not aligned with its goals of being a world leading open learning distance institution.