Court orders Nzimande to withdraw notice to place Unisa under administration

Court orders Nzimande to withdraw notice to place Unisa under administration
Court orders Nzimande to withdraw notice to place Unisa under administration

Africa-Press – South-Africa. Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has been interdicted from placing Unisa under administration.

The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria handed down the order on Friday after the Unisa Council’s urgent High Court application.

The order comes after Nzimande served a notice of his intention to place the university under administration on Thursday.

On Friday, Nzimande was due to announce his decision on whether he would place Unisa under administration, which was prompted by the findings of an independent assessor’s report, which he said reveals financial and other maladministration of a serious nature and undermined the effective functioning of the university.

According to the minister, the report reveals that the appointment of an administrator is in the best interest of Unisa and of higher education in an open and democratic society.

Unisa’s Council, however, disagreed. They maintained that the report was fundamentally flawed and its recommendations misplaced. The university has taken the report on legal review to be set aside.

“Until the side of the university is properly heard in a legal review, in a court of law, the university believes that it is premature for the minister to implement the recommendations of the independent assessor. Unisa also believes that the institution of an administration is not necessary and may only serve to harm the university,” reads Unisa’s statement.

The university said it welcomed the court judgment interdicting Nzimande from placing it under administration.

“Unisa wishes to assure the public that the academic programme of the university remains intact and its finances are healthy. In May 2023, the Council on Higher Education (CHE) issued its institutional audit report that affirms that Unisa’s academic programme and quality assurance systems are largely intact and governed according to norms and standards of the sector,” Unisa said in a statement.

The university said it hoped its students would be afforded the opportunity to focus on their final examinations, which are currently under way, without any form of anxiety or disturbance.

“The academic programme must be hosted and protected all the time,” Unisa said.

Nzimande said his decision on whether to place Unisa under administration was delayed because he was waiting for a response from Unisa’s Council, but said nothing of substance happened for more than a month and he accused the council of going about its business as if there was no pending decision to be taken.

Nzimande said there was also a Ministerial Task Team (MTT) which conducted an independent review of Unisa and looked at the issue of “Unisa’s mission drift” – which had massive implications for the financial sustainability and future of the university.

He said the MTT was also tasked to make a rigorous assessment of how the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its associative disruptions and shifts will affect many aspects of the academic mission, academic programmes, markets and operating model of Unisa.

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