Unisa Runs The Risk Of Losing Its Reputation, Says Minister

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The University of South Africa is once again in the spotlight for fraud and maladministration within the institution. The Minister of Higher Education has strongly criticised Unisa's failings, but is hopeful for change.


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The Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande has criticised persons responsible for the poor governance, corruption and looting taking place at the University of South Africa (Unisa).

The university has been under fire in recent months, with some calling for the institution to be placed under administration, due to a recent discovery of strange funds allocations. 

The Minister has harshly criticised the institution's failings and publicly condemned those that use Unisa for corrupt and unethical means, saying that the only aim of the university is for learning and teaching, but says there is a need to act swiftly amidst this crisis, to prevent irreparable damage to the institution's standing and reputation.

Unisa recently celebrated its 150-year anniversary, for which Nzimande was in attendance. 

The Minister said:

This institution really runs the risk of losing reputation and even actually going down, so I'm very determined that we act very soon to take the necessary decision on what needs to happen to address these challenges, so that Unisa can have another 150 years. 

During May 2023, an investigative report was put together by an independent professor and assessor, appointed directly by Nzimande to look into Unisa. 

The 308-page report highlighted and detailed what some of Unisa's funds are being spent on, revealing that significant sums of money are, in fact, not being allocated for student needs, but are instead being used for allegedly maintaining the Vice Chancellor's home.

This revelations made in the report has undoubtedly caused frustration and anger amongst many.

Unisa, like many other tertiary institutions in South Africa, continuously and notoriously have issues related to students and financial aid, alongside the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Students have been battling the same challenges related to funding from their universities for years, which has often resulted in protest action.

The report also raised concern regarding governance, performance and financial management, as well as staff intimidation, and the leaking of confidential reports.

The independent assessor made the recommendation that the university be placed under administration. 

Nzimande added: 

At the moment, we are studying both the report as well as Unisa's council response, including the Vice Chancellor's response, as well as other interested parties.

Unisa's Vice Chancellor, Puleng LenkaBula, says that while the institution is dealing with a number of problems, the challenge is not insurmountable. 

According to the independent assessor, LenkaBula and Unisa's Council members have denied certain facts of this probe, with the independent assessor saying the impression was given that both parties were hoping the matter would "simply disappear." 

I have observed a pattern of denial and ignorance from the Unisa council and management, even in situations where indefensible facts were presented to them. The denial of the persisting problems only serves to continue to ruin the good name and reputation of the university.

The independent assessor made 26 recommendations, which included that Unisa be placed under full administration and the council and management be relieved of their duties. 

 

Suggested Article:

Unisa governance

Over the years, South Africa’s largest distance-learning university has been severely criticised for its alleged lack of good governance. The university has been urged to make changes amidst the issues arising in its administration.  

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