OHE: Change needed on Act

National, Normal

The National , Wednesday, June 1, 2011

THE proposed legislative changes to the Higher Education Act will give the Minister for Higher Education the power to intervene in student strikes and protracted staff protests, architects of the bill say.
They said such protests had often troubled under-resourced public universities over the years.
Speaking on the FM100 talk-back show yesterday, Office of Higher Education director Dr William Tagis and University of PNG legal expert Dr Eric Kwa said the clause was part of “policing powers” the bill proposed.
Tagis and Kwa brushed aside fears expressed by the PNG vice-chancellors’ committee in full page newspaper advertisements last week, suggesting that they (vice- chancellors) study the draft bill and offer their recommendations.
The vice-chancellors said in a statement the 14 days given by the office for stakeholders to contribute suggestions was too short a time for major legislative change for an important education sector.
They said the amendment was necessary and would clearly outline the roles and responsibilities of the minister and the office over the functions of the universities and other institutions.
They said the minister and the office were powerless in dealing with student strikes.
They said the new law would allow the OHE to administer a uniform quality assurance across the higher education sector and “open up the sector to educate a lot more people than the present bottle-neck situation”.
Tagis and Kwa brushed aside suggestions by a caller and PNG University of Technology council member  Rex Paki that the new law would bring “political interference” in the running of universities and colleges.
Paki, a businessman and National Roads Authority chairman, said what the universities and the education sector needed was more money to deliver services and not more legislation to control them.
Paki said universities and colleges were faced with a “garbage in, garbage out” situation where students who were poorly prepared by the under-funded and poorly resourced lower levels of education passed through institutions of higher learning that faced the same money and resource constraints.
But Tagis and Kwa said the law “is being carefully designed” and the ministerial and OHE involvement in university or college affairs “will be when there are extreme cases of dispute or strikes or stalemate”, adding the changes were in line with the recommendations of the Namaliu-Garnaut Report of 2010.