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Leadership at some SA varsities worse than at SABC‚ fees commission told

The Chairman of the National Planning Commission and leading academic‚ Professor Malegapuru Makgoba has rubbished the quality of leadership at some universities‚ describing university councils as worse than the contentious SA Broadcasting Corporation board.

He told the fees commission in Pretoria on Monday that most of the country’s vice-chancellors would not even qualify to be senior lecturers in some of the countries he has worked in like the US and United Kingdom.

Makgoba said vice-chancellors in SA were not of the highest quality the country could get‚ adding that the country would end up with a “rotten” higher education system no matter how much money was pumped into the sector.

Vice-chancellors are appointed on the basis of their contribution as scholars but I am not sure that we follow that criteria in SA‚” he said.

Makgoba lamented the fact that SA produced about three PhDs per 100 000 people while Italy produced 18.

He said to be competitive‚ SA needed to increase its PhD production by about 10 PhDs per 100 000.

“People who hold a Phd in the university are the most productive and most innovative… it is important to create a system of quality that infuses the rest of the education system in a country‚ in a society and gives direction for the future‚” he said.

Makgoba argued that the biggest problem was the priority and budget allocation mismatch‚ with higher education allocated a measly 0.71% of the GDP though it was regarded as a priority.

He said SA’s economy was bigger than that of Cuba but‚ Cuba spends 4.47% of its GDP on higher education and provides free higher education to its citizens.

Makgoba said this mismatch had its roots causes on the outdated budget framework designed in 1963 and inherited by the new dispensation in 1994.

“We came into the new dispensation with a model that was designed in the past and we did was tinkering along that budget framework…. it is still the same framework but the priorities have changed‚” he said.

He said there was more than enough money to fund free education for all only if objectives were matched with budgeting.

Makgoba said finance minister Pravin Gordhan had said last month that if SA cut corruption by 20%‚ there would be R40 billion for free higher education. He said this meant if corruption was cut by 100%‚ the country would have an extra R160 billion.

President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission in January following widespread protests by university students last year against the high costs of university fees.

The commission‚ headed by Judge Jonathan Heher‚ is inquiring into and will make recommendations on the feasibility of a fee-free higher education and training in South Africa