University of KZN suppressing “academic freedom”

The University of KwaZulu Natal faces a “lack of academic freedom” which has now “stifled debate about institutional matters and of debates conducted in ways which obfuscate rather than elucidate issues”, according to an Oral Feedback memorandum which the Mail & Guardian newspaper had obtained and reported on.

This after the Council on Higher Education (CHE) appointed a task team to investigate the university. The newspaper reported extensively on the development at the university.

According to Martin Hall, who formed part of the said task team and wrote in the newspaper in January this year, the CHE decided to suppress the report of its own audit of the University after a letter he wrote to the then chairperson of the HEQC a few weeks after the audit panel finished its work was leaked to and published in The Mercury newspaper in January 2009. Hall said a report which has since not been published if it is to be published, it “would have been found to be a thorough and balanced evaluation of one of South Africa’s leading universities” as it “details and commends significant achievements and presents a range of evidence-based recommendations for continuing improvement”.

He said the reasons the report “reasoned and evidence-based findings on institutional culture and academic freedom would have helped the university move on from a difficult phase in its history”. Hall says although the “oral feedback is not formally part of the report”, it was however a written statement that had “previously been agreed on by the audit panel”.

Hall said Malegapuru Makgoba, vice-chancellor of the university being audited decided who should be present to hear the statement and that not only did Makgoba open the oral feedback session to anyone who wished to attend, but that she also made it available to anyone in the university via a live video stream on the internet. “This duly happened on October 24 2008”.

Related articles:

  1. Varsity’s voices of dissent gagged by Martin Hall,
  2. A crush at UKZN’s exits by Monako Dibetle,
  3. UKZN’s fraught power dynamic requires a neutral hearing by Dr Blessing Karumbidza, a former UKZN academic who is now a researcher at the Social Economic Rights Institute of South Africa in Braamfontein and holder of a South African Research Chairs Institute post-doctoral fellowship at the Institute of Economic Research on Innovation at Tshwane University of Technology,
  4. UKZN academics question senate probe by M&G report,
  5. UKZN’s VC made ‘solemn oath to be impartial’ by Colin T Johnson is a retired pro vice-chancellor of Rhodes University and was a member of the CHE’s audit panel for UKZN,
  6. CHE audits ‘might never be the same’ by Professor Renuka Vithal is deputy vice-chancellor (teaching and learning) of the University of KwaZulu-Natal and an institutional auditor for the Council on Higher Education,
  7. Authoritarianism just tip of iceberg by M&G reporter,
  8. University dispute causes of credibility by Dr Shirley Brooks, a senior lecturer at the University of the Free State and lectured at the University of Natal (later University of KwaZulu-Natal) for nearly 12 years and a former member of UKZN’s faculty of science and agriculture,
  9. Stepping out of line by Dr Caroline White, a university disputes mediator in London, where she also chairs the management committee of the London Detainee Support Committee and is researching “foreign criminals” and indefinite detention,
  10. CHE panel ‘acted with integrity’ by Ahmed Essop, Chief executive of the Council on Higher Education.
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