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Portfolio committee to summon CPUT council to Parliament

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The Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s council is expected to be summoned to Parliament after it failed to attend a scheduled meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training, it said on Thursday.

The committee on Wednesday conducted an oversight visit at CPUT’s Bellville campus for an update on registration and operational issues after the introduction of the fee-free policy “among the first poor and deserving admissions”.

It met with, among others, the university management, Student Representative Council and employees and was briefed on university leadership, transformation, staff shortages, NSFAS, student accommodation, and instabilities resulting from the #FeesMustFall campaign, the committee said in a statement.

But it was disappointed by the “non-attendance” by the university’s council and chairperson Connie September said it did not take kindly to such behaviour.

“The university council missed an opportunity to benefit from insightful input from members, but also the benefit of being constructively critiqued. We are extremely concerned about reports received at the meeting that suggest that not all is well at the institution,” she said.

“The committee had been concerned about instability at the institution as well as the absence of a vice-chancellor (VC), who resigned and to date there had been many acting VCs. Violence and torching of buildings during protests is a matter of concern, and the possible effects on learning and teaching, as well as the alleged negative outside influences that had been cited.”

September said attempts had been made to meet with all stakeholders, but had not been realised. Committee members expressed “profound disappointment” that the council chairperson was not present and that the council had not done a presentation “when the committee had come to them”.

“This is such a critical period in our country where monitoring of universities needs to be scaled up in ensuring smooth operations, following the introduction of the fee-free policy, aimed to benefit the poor child,” she said.

“We are extremely concerned about the instability that still persists at the institution, including students not completing the necessary applications since 2017 to apply for NSFAS funding. We will engage with the department and will have to keep CPUT in our oversight agenda.”

The council would be summoned to Parliament as “accountability was not optional”, September said.

According to correspondence between CPUT’s deputy registrar Nikile Ntsababa, and a representative from the portfolio committee, it was previously agreed that the council would not prepare a presentation.

“Council agreed not to prepare a presentation since, as prescribed in the Higher Education Act and Statute. Council has oversight responsibility and therefore is not involved in management and administration of the university,” wrote Ntsababa.

“Management will therefore present to the committee the university’s state of affairs and council will respond to any enquiries and comments made by the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training at the meeting, particularly on council’s oversight responsibility.”

The CPUT council has delegated the task to the executive committee of council to attend the meeting on their behalf.

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