Higher Education and Training Minister Naledi Pandor, reacting to allegations of degree fraud at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the University of Zululand writes on the Politicsweb that the investigations underway are ‘iron-clad and cannot be manipulated’.
“I have noted the reports circulating about the sale of student places and irregular awarding of qualifications at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The university has kept me briefed about the work it is doing to bring those responsible to book, including university staff members who may have collaborated with criminals for financial gain. The university is working with the appropriate law enforcement authorities to ensure that those responsible face the consequences. The university council has assured me that all is being done to ensure that their academic systems and processes are iron-clad and cannot be manipulated in any way. I have asked the university to keep me updated on its work in this area.
“We will also work closely with Universities South Africa (USAf) to ensure that all institutions are aware of the ways in which they can guard against assaults on academic integrity. Academic integrity and the integrity of our academic qualifications is fundamental to our university system. All university systems around the world are at risk from these issues, but I do not believe that these problems are widespread here. My department will work closely with the affected universities to do everything they can to prevent any future problems.
“It is clear that there are criminals outside and within our university system who will stop at nothing to use our universities for financial gain. I want to be clear that we will not allow our universities to be captured. Some of our most vulnerable institutions are under pressure from those who seek to, in various ways, make money from our university system. Those who seek to do so will do whatever possible to loot our universities, regardless of the effect on students, staff and institutions and the academic project.
“They work with individuals inside the universities to make this happen. We will not allow this to happen in any of our institutions. Where corruption is uncovered we will support those who are doing everything they can to prevent it. Universities should be battlefields of ideas not battlefields of corruption. In May, this year, Professor Gregory Kamwendo, a respected academic at the University of Zululand, was murdered.
“He was working hard to protect the integrity of academic qualifications and strengthen the quality of the academic project at the university. We now know his murder may have been linked to the work he was doing in this area. We live in a violent society and universities are no longer ivory towers. However, when people who work in universities are in danger, because they are trying to do their jobs – delivering quality education and training to young people – then this is a matter of grave concern and it should be to all of us.
“We owe it to Professor Kamwendo and his family, and to the many committed academics in our university system, to deal decisively with the criminals involved, to protect our universities from criminal activities, and to ensure our focus is clear – universities are places of learning and teaching, research and engagement, involved in solving the challenges of society and contributing to the development of the country.
“I assure you that I will work constructively with our institutions to maintain the integrity of our academic qualifications and to ensure that our students are receiving the best possible opportunities for learning. Universities do not belong to individuals or groups – they are public institutions and they have a national role to play.”Report on the Politicsweb site