Lobatse High Court judge, Lashkavinder Walia, has reserved judgement in a case in which ABM University College is challenging the Tertiary Education Council (TEC) decision requesting the institution to stop offering associate degree programme.
The College’s lawyer, Dutch Leburu, submitted that the decision by TEC that ABM should cease offering associated degree courses, which was made by TEC Executive Secretary, DR Patrick Molutsi, was unlawful as the Tertiary Council Act did not empower him to act the way he did.
Dr Molutsi’s functions, Leburu submitted, were purely academic such as receiving applications, preparing budgets, and writing correspondences. He said that Council was the one authorised to take the decisions that Molutsi had taken. Further, Leburu submitted that even after usurping the Council’s powers to suspend programmes, Molutsi had failed to institute investigations into the matter. He also submitted that even a Minister who is above him at the highest level of appeal’s structure does investigate when a matter comes before him.
The ABM lawyer also submitted that lack of investigations into the matter was an indication that it was not even brought to the Council as should have been the case. And that regulation 14 of the Act, which Molutsi purportedly relied on in taking the decision he took, does not empower him to act the way he did, saying that the regulation stated that a tertiary institution should inform the Council of any fundamental change that could affect the institution’s operations.
The institution, he submitted, differs with TEC in that whilst TEC argues that the introduction of associate degrees was a fundamental change, the institution’s view was that it was simply a nomenclature.
Responding to the submissions by Leburu, TEC lawyer, Phemo Ntalagwe, submitted that Section 9 of the Tertiary Education Act gives the Executive Secretary powers to liase with tertiary institutions registered with it and take decisions.
He said that Molutsi had acted within the confines of the act as, in his liaison with the institution, he had to see to it that their day to day operations were in consonance with requirements of the Act.
He further said that in cases where the Executive Secretary realises that something was not done in the right way, he has powers to point that out to the institution and take appropriate action if the situation is not normalised.
Molutsi, he further submitted, had afforded ABM a hearing in the form of correspondences he wrote to the institution and that, at one point, he called on the institution to produce the necessary documents in relation to the new programmes for presentation before the Academic Planning and Development Committee but that this request was ignored.
In conclusion he submitted that it’s TEC’s view that the introduction of the associate degree programme without due authority from the Council was irregular as the move amounted to a fundamental change with the potential to affect operations of the institution.