Tertiary Education Act (2011) -Providing for the harmonious and rationalised development of quality education and training


04-January-2012

Directed towards education and training after the secondary stage, the Act provides for the harmonious and rationalised development of education and training at the stages presently considered as post-secondary and university education and training.

It is in accord with the Education Reform Plan initiated in 2009 and is in response to the theme to rationalise the higher education and training provisions to make it more responsive to the needs of the labour market and to ensure the optimal use of resources within a common framework.

Education reform and development of the last three decades or so

Over the last three decades or so, the government has demonstrated a sustained commitment to the development and improvement of the national education and training system and the development of its limited human resources.

Through the implementation of a series of education reforms (1978, 1991, 1998), policies and development plans, notable achievements at all levels of the education and training system in national, regional and international comparative terms, have been recorded and considerable progress in education and training and human resources development have been recognised in a relatively short time.

With regards to education development after the secondary stage, the education reform of 1998 brought about a number of initiatives enabling post-secondary institutions to start offering courses leading to qualifications beyond the certificate levels.

Additionally, other educational institutions like the then National Institute of Education (now School of Education of University of Seychelles), the then Seychelles Polytechnic, The Seychelles Tourism Academy (STA) and the Seychelles Institute of Management (SIM) have been offering higher level courses in partnership with overseas institutions of higher education.

More recently, in September 2009, we witnessed the establishment of our first national university – the University of Seychelles (UniSey) – creating the possibilities for university level courses to be developed and qualifications to be obtained locally.

These reform initiatives have been accompanied by the establishment of the Seychelles Qualifications Authority in 2005 to quality assure the development of the national education and training system.

As Seychelles re-positions itself to better adapt to and take advantage of regionalisation and globalisation, on-going adjustments to the legal frameworks for sustainable harmonious and rationalised development of the national education and training system, particularly after secondary stage has become a necessity as the country pursues the further transformation of the national education and training system to better respond to the challenges of providing improved human resources both in terms of quantity and quality for sustainable national development.

Components of the Tertiary Education Act (2011) and its inter-relationships with the National Qualifications Framework

The Tertiary Education Act (2011) is organised in six parts.
The title of the Act is consistent with Unesco’s (United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) definition of tertiary education and covers all education and training after the secondary stage which is commonly referred to as post-secondary and higher or university level of education.

The Tertiary Education Act (2011) is therefore a comprehensive legal framework which accommodates existing providers of education and training after secondary and provides a framework for the rational and harmonised organisation and development of the whole range of public and private institutions and levels of qualifications after secondary in line with the National Qualifications Framework, that is from level 3 to level 10.

Tertiary Education Commission

Part 1 of the Act provides for the establishment of the Tertiary Education Commission.  The Tertiary Education Commission is central to the Act as it is through its functioning that the Act will become a ‘living’ legal document.

As indicated by its functions, the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) will be the main legal mechanism to advise the minister responsible for tertiary education and to co-ordinate the sustainable, harmonised and rationalised development of tertiary education nationally.

The Commission will be headed by a Board and administered by a chief executive officer (CEO).
In line with the recent Cabinet policy directive on regulatory bodies like commissions and authorities, the appointment of the Board and the CEO will be by the President.

Institutional governance and charter

Part 2 of the Act also provides for two types or categories of institutions to operate in the new tertiary education landscape that will develop. These are professional centres (now post-secondary institutions) and universities.

Furthermore, the Act stipulates that tertiary education institutions, whether public or private will exist within a legal framework of a ‘Charter’. The main elements of the Charter, which will be supervised by the Commission, have been elaborated in the Act.

With the Charter as a legal framework in place, future movements of tertiary institutions from the administration of one parent ministry to another, as has been witnessed in the past with the post-secondary institutions, should not adversely unsettle these institutions.

Establishment and governance mechanism for universities

Part 3 provides for the establishment and governance mechanism for universities. In giving a legal framework to universities, the Act has been guided by international practices that characterise the university world.

The structure and posts referred in the Act can be found in the legal framework of most universities.

Establishment and governance mechanism of professional centres

Part 4 of the Act provides for the establishment and guidance mechanism for professional centres (now post-secondary institutions).

In providing for the legal framework for professional centres, the Act has consolidated and enhanced the status of existing structures (director, heads of programmes and administrative manager) with a view to further improve the profile of these important institutions alongside the development of universities.

Additionally, to reinforce the link with industry and guarantee stakeholder representation legal provision is made for the establishment of a Professsional Centre Board to provide policy direction.

In many ways, the governance structures of Professional Centres are comparable to that of universities.

Rights and duties of learners 

The legal of provisions under Part 5 of the Act underscore government’s commitment to increasing access to education and training beyond the secondary level to as many deserving learners as possible. While learners’ rights towards access to have a say in the management of the institutions and to seek redress for grievances are enshrined in the Act, their duties to fulfill the requirements of the learning programmes and to respect the institutions’ codes of practice are also emphasised.

It also provides for the protection of learners in the event of the institution ceasing to provide a learning programme in which a learner is already engaged. It is worth noting that very few laws of this nature make such provisions. 

Other provisions

Part 6 of the Act takes account of financial matters and important principles and values including that of autonomy and accountability.

Major merits of the act

Rationalised and harmonised landscape of education and training after secondary

The Act rationalises the education and training landscape beyond secondary and ensures necessary harmonised interface with the legal responsibilities of the Seychelles Qualifications Authority (SQA) with regards to the quality dimensions of learning programmes.

Enhancing of fundamental principles and values including that of accountability autonomy 

The Act underscores the importance of a number of fundamental principles and values notably that of autonomy and accountability in line with the provisions of the on-going education reform agenda.

Review of other legal framework and related policies

As part of the rationalisation and harmonisation process of the education and training landscape the implementation of the Act will require the review of certain current legal frameworks such as Education Act 2004 and SIM Act 2006 and related policies.

Provisions for the future

The Act is a modern and future oriented legal framework. It provides for the establishment institutions other than those existing, including private ones, within a framework in which the quality of education and training can be better rationalised and safeguarded.

The Act as a platform for improving human resources development

In summary, it is important to recognise that it is within the remit of the Tertiary Education Act (2011) to create what may be termed “an enabling environment” for the country to achieve a high level of education and training and therefore to produce a highly skilled workforce. 

 

This cannot be emphasised enough in the current climate where human resources constraint remain one of the country’s principal challenges.

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