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MPs briefed on controversial Higher Education Bill

There are concerns the Bill may give Minister Blade Nzimande sweeping powers to intervene at universities.

The Parliament of South Africa. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Members of Parliament (MPs) are being briefed on the controversial Higher Education Amendment Bill, aimed at making institutions more accountable and to accelerate transformation.

The Bill was quietly tabled in Parliament in November last year.

It sparked concern in some quarters that, if passed, it would give Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande sweeping powers to intervene in universities' affairs.

The department's Dr Diane Parker has told Parliament's Higher Education and Training Portfolio Committee the Bill heralds no dramatic policy changes.

"This Bill doesn't represent major policy changes. What it does is it create coherence across the entire Bill; there is a bit of rearrangement and it cleans up aspects."

But Democratic Alliance MP Professor Belinda Bozzoli's taken issue with this.

"Expanding the minister's powers of oversight in about five areas is a major policy change. It actually shifts the balance of power between the institutions and the State, I would argue quite substantially.