Think-tank challenges varsities Bill amendment

Source: Think-tank challenges varsities Bill amendment – NewsDay Zimbabwe

BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA

LEGAL think-tank Veritas has attacked the Amendment of State Universities Statutes Bill saying it is defective, and implied that government has no respect for academic freedom.

Government gazetted the Bill which seeks to streamline operations of universities, on January 7.

The Bill will amend 13 Acts establishing institutions of higher learning..

These amendments will apply to the university councils and not the university bodies or matters relating to the appointment of university staff.

But Veritas said the Bill was deeply flawed.

“… the Bill does not wholly succeed in any of the objectives set out in its memorandum, and fails completely in what is perhaps the most important one, namely bringing the university Acts into conformity with the Constitution. In all, it is a deeply flawed Bill,” the Veritas said in its Bill Watch publication.

“Neither the Bill nor any of the university Acts mention academic freedom, this is a very serious omission.”

Section 61 of the Constitution protects academic freedom as a fundamental human right.

“The Bill will increase the government’s control even further by requiring Ministerial approval for the appointment of university bursars (finance officers) and librarians,” Veritas said.

“The importance of academic freedom cannot be overemphasised. By failing to entrench or even mention academic freedom in the university Acts, the Bill signally fails to align them with the Constitution.”

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