University of Mauritius/Dental College
UNIVERSITY OF MAURITIUS – TAX REGIME – STUDY (02/12/08)
(No. B/1367) Mr A. Ganoo (First Member for Savanne and Black River) asked the Honourable Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Economic Empowerment whether he will state if he has taken cognizance of the joint report of the Law and Management Faculty of the University of Mauritius and the Mauritius Research Council, highlighting the negative impact of the current tax regime on the middle income earners and, if so, indicate the recommendations proposed in the report to alleviate their plights.
The Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources (Dr. V. Bunwaree): Mr Speaker, Sir, I am aware of the presentation made at a half day seminar at the Mauritius Research Council in respect of a study carried out by the University of Mauritius entitled “The Impact of the Tax Reform on the Individual Income Tax System in the Republic of Mauritius”.
The study, Mr Speaker, Sir, is considered to be severely flawed. It is based on a questionnaire survey sent to 1,500 employees in the 100 top companies with a very low response rate of 28.9%. Moreover, out of the 452 questionnaires received, 37 questionnaires were not useable. Beyond the problem of poor response, not corrected by any reported efforts to obtain additional data, the survey is also not representative of the population of taxpayers. Also, whilst claiming to base its conclusions on the survey, in fact, some of the claims rest on pure speculation. For example, the study gives the example of someone with Rs50,000 monthly income losing out because they can no longer deduct interest on debt service of some Rs32,000 and Rs6,600 as insurance premium. This example cannot be valid. Banks in Mauritius would never lend under such circumstances with proper due diligence. For these several fundamental flaws in methodology, established research standards would preclude using this study to draw any credible conclusions.
Mr Speaker, Sir, in contrast, we have facts from a serious study by the MRA covering each and every individual who submitted their income tax return in September/October 2007, that is, 107,000 salaried taxpayers and 32,000 self-employed taxpayers in all. The study also considered that the 36,000 removed from the tax net, whether or not they filed in 2007.
The study has been reviewed and commented by international experts who have commended its seriousness and scientific approach whilst also validating the results. These experts agree that the study confirms that the tax reform has indeed benefitted the vast majority of taxpayers.
The facts are as follows –
• 36,600 taxpayers out of a total of 72,000 were removed from PAYE;
• 82% of taxpayers were either better off or at the same level as before the reform;
• all taxpayers earning up to Rs16,500 monthly did not pay tax, and
• 31% of taxpayers earning between Rs16,500 and Rs32,700 monthly also did not pay any tax in view of higher deductions for dependents.
Mr Speaker, Sir, according to the Central Statistics Office, of the 335,000 households in Mauritius, 67,000 households have an income exceeding Rs30,400 per month for a family of four and constitute the Upper Middle Class or Upper Income groups. Those with income lower than Rs30,400 per month are in the middle class or low income groups. The MRA study clearly brings out that the tax reform has removed the middle class from the tax net and significantly reduced the tax burden facing much of the upper middle class. Indeed, another important finding of the MRA study is that salaried taxpayers earning less than Rs46,150 monthly have, on average, benefitted from higher deductions after the tax reform, due to the deductions being automatically provided to all instead of claimed by those who can.
Mr Speaker, Sir, clearly there has been no negative impact of the current tax regime on the middle income earners because the tax reform has already delivered all required corrective action.
Mr Speaker, Sir, the MRA study in fact demonstrates that even many upper middle class and upper income taxpayers have benefitted from these reforms.
The main exceptions are -
(a) those who did not report income,
(b) those who under-reported income, and
(c) those who were able to aggressively use deductions.
Mr Speaker, Sir, in fact this is one of the major drawbacks of the previous system. Although the previous system boasted multiple tax bands and rates, it was nevertheless regressive in practice due to the numerous deductions, reliefs and allowances not being uniformly and automatically provided. Taxpayers in the lower middle class were paying twice the rate on average compared to those in the higher income groups. This unfairness has been corrected by the reforms as demonstrated by the MRA study, with the lower middle class now out of the tax net.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I need not remind the House that, in addition to making all taxpayers pay their fair share at a low rate, another key objective of the 2006 tax reform is to position Mauritius as a low tax, internationally competitive jurisdiction with –
(i) low tax rates:
(ii) a broad tax base, and
(iii) a transparent/rule based tax regime.
This has resulted in a surge of both domestic and foreign investment.
Mr Ganoo: Mr Speaker, Sir, it comes as no surprise that Government is challenging the findings of this report. The hon. Minister says that it is severely flawed, but he should know that, in fact, this report mirrors the feelings of the middle class income earners today. Can I ask the hon. Minister about the recommendations which the report came up with? Does he have any comments to make concerning its recommendations?
Dr. Bunwaree: I have given the reasons why we believe it is flawed at the level of the Ministry and we seriously believe it is like that. I came to know that when I was replacing my colleague. In fact, I am going to call the Research Council and the people at the University who did this report and discuss with them before coming to the House again.
TERTIARY EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS (FOREIGN) – PERMITS (31/03/09)
(No. B/67) Mrs L. D. Dookun-Luchoomun (Third Member for La Caverne & Phoenix) asked the Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources whether, in regard to the granting of permits to foreign tertiary educational institutions wishing to operate in the Republic of Mauritius, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the Tertiary Education Commission, information as to the criteria used by the Commission for the granting thereof.
MAURAS SCHOOL OF DENTISTRY – OPERATION (31/03/09)
(No. B/68) Mrs L. D. Dookun-Luchoomun (Third Member for La Caverne & Phoenix) asked the Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources whether, in regard to the Mauras School of Dentistry, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the Tertiary Education Commission, information as to –
(a) the date on which the application for its operation was made;
(b) the date of approval;
(c) the institution to which the Mauras School of Dentistry is affiliated, and
(d) the number of students who have completed the Bachelor in Dental Surgery Course from the School of Dentistry.
MAURAS SCHOOL OF DENTISTRY – STUDENTS - REGISTRATION (31/03/09)
(No. B/69) Mrs L. D. Dookun-Luchoomun (Third Member for La Caverne & Phoenix) asked the Minister of Health and Quality of Life whether, in regard to the students of the Mauras School of Dentistry, he will state the number thereof who have been registered at the Dental Council of Mauritius.
FOREIGN TERTIARY EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS – PERMITS (14/04/09)
(No. B/203) Mrs L.D. Dookun-Luchoomun (Third Member for La Caverne & Phoenix) asked the Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources whether, in regard to the granting of permits to Foreign Tertiary Educational Institutions wishing to operate in Mauritius, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the Tertiary Education Commission, information as to the criteria used by the Commission for the granting thereof.
Dr Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, the Tertiary Education Commission is statutorily responsible for regulating the operation, registration and programme accreditation of Tertiary Educational Institutions (TEI) (both local and foreign). There are currently different possibilities for a foreign TEI to operate in Mauritius. These are as follows -
(i) incorporating a local company which will offer programme(s) leading to a diploma/degree awarded by any other foreign/local awarding body;
(ii) partnering with an already established local post secondary educational institution in Mauritius to offer its programme(s) through that institution. In that case, the local institution will become the vehicle through which the foreign institution will operate;
(iii) setting up of a Branch Campus in Mauritius, and
(iv) setting up of a separate entity from the parent institution with degree awarding powers at the start of activities.
I am tabling a full set of the guidelines for the operation of a TEI (in Mauritius) which are very detailed. These guidelines are also available on the website of the Tertiary Education Commission.
For the information of the House, Mr Speaker, Sir, however, I can summarise these guidelines, which refer to elements which aim at ensuring that only credible and bona fide institutions operate in Mauritius. They refer to sponsorship and governance, location, physical facilities, proposed programmes of study, curriculum, development of academic programmes, academic structure, admissions, fee structure, examination and assessment, quality assurance and student supervision, research, students, staff, national and international collaboration, financial plan, phased development of the institution and marketing and promotion.
Mr Speaker, Sir, the House will agree that the setting up of a TEI locally is not to be taken lightly as the reputation of Mauritius may be at stake. Consequently, the TEC has developed clear procedures for registration of a TEI and programme accreditation in order to ensure quality provision. I am also tabling these procedures.
Nevertheless, we are also aware that business needs to be facilitated if we wish to attract investors in the context of the setting up of a knowledge hub in Mauritius.
The TEC Board is currently reviewing the set of procedures so that the registration of institutions and the accreditation of their programmes are simplified without however compromising on quality.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: May I ask the hon. Minister whether he is satisfied that all tertiary institutions operating in Mauritius have got their courses accredited and that the qualifications and awards received by the students are recognised by the authorities in Mauritius?
Dr Bunwaree: Generally I must say ‘yes’. As I said the TEC has got that responsibility, but there are problems now and then, which crop up and we take care of them.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Mr Speaker, Sir, may I ask the hon. Minister whether he has received any complaints - written or otherwise - from students who are attending such institutions in Mauritius, regarding the nature and the level standard of courses being given?
Dr Bunwaree: Yes we do receive complaints and we take care of them.
Mr Varma: Can the hon. Minister inform the House how many such permits have been granted so far?
Dr Bunwaree: I need notice of this question, Sir. I do not have the details.
Mr Speaker: Next question.
MAURAS SCHOOL OF DENTISTRY – OPERATION (14/04/09)
(No. B/204) Mrs L. D. Dookun-Luchoomun (Third Member for La Caverne & Phoenix) asked the Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources whether, in regard to the Mauras School of Dentistry, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the Tertiary Education Commission, information as to -
(a) the date on which the application for its operation was made;
(b) the date of approval;
(c) the institution to which the Mauras School of Dentistry is affiliated, and
(d) the number of students who have completed the Bachelor in Dental Surgery Course from the School of Dentistry.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, I am informed by the Tertiary Education Commission that -
(a) The R F Gandhi A K Trust Ltd, operating as the Mauras College of Dentistry and Hospital and Oral Research Institute sought the approval of the Government of Mauritius for the setting up of a Dental College in Mauritius in September 2001;
(b) Upon the recommendations of a Technical Committee set up by the then Ministry of Education & Scientific Research, provisional permission was given to the R F Gandhi A K Trust on 23 August 2002 to set up a 40 seat private dental college for the running of a 5-year BDS (Bachelor in Dental Surgery) programme, comprising a final year internship. Final permission was granted on 10 July 2003 following which the College was registered on 15 August 2003 with the Mauritius Quality Authority as a private post secondary educational institution. With the enactment of the Education and Training (Miscellaneous Provisions Act) in May 2005, the College is now registered with TEC. The registration, which is renewable on a yearly basis, is valid up to 31 July 2009.
(c) As regards part (c) of the question, the Mauras College of Dentistry is affiliated to the Bhavnagar University, Bhavnagar, Gujarat, India.
(d) A cohort of 35 students completed the 5-year BDS programme at the College in 2008. They were issued with a Provisional BDS Degree Certificate in August 2008 and awarded their final degree in December 2008.
Mrs Dookun Luchoomun: May I ask the hon. Minister which institution was the awarding body?
Dr. Bunwaree: The Mauras College of Dentistry, as I said, is affiliated to the Bhavnagar University, Bhavnagar Gujarat India which is recognised by the University Grants Commission, India enlisted on the International Handbook of the Universities.
Mrs Dookun Luchoomun: May I ask the hon. Minister whether there were any complaints from the Bhavnagar University regarding the standards of operation of the Mauras School of Dentistry?
Dr. Bunwaree: According to regulations set by international norms, when the students finish their studies, they get registered at the Dental Council. For the Indians, it is in India and for the Mauritians, it is in Mauritius. There is a set of issues that have to be taken care of and looked into. In fact, the Dental Council of India, at one point in time, came for a visit and they underlined a few shortcomings. These have to be looked into. But I must say we are gone above this now and for the first and second batches, those who were registered in the first year and the second year, the problem has been sorted out in India.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: May I ask the hon. Minister then whether there are new students who are still being admitted to the institution and what will be their fate?
Dr. Bunwaree: The college is open till June this year and they have to take care of certain shortcomings. This will be looked into and if they have taken care of it, then they will continue.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: May I then ask the hon. Minister if there have been new students who have got admission this year to the institution?
Dr. Bunwaree: They are continuing until the end of June this year.
Mr Jugnauth: Mr Speaker, Sir, may I know from the hon. Minister what proofs were required from the Bhavnagar University by TEC in order to be able to register that institution?
Dr. Bunwaree: There is a set of rules. I can circulate that as soon as possible, Mr Speaker, Sir.
Mr Bodha: Mr Speaker, Sir, as regards the course, it provides for an internship of a year. May I ask the hon. Minister whether the internship was done in Mauritius?
Secondly, I would like to know whether the students, who have been awarded the degree, can practise in Mauritius and whether they have been registered at the Dental Council.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, for the first batch, it ended last year. I think it was by November or December last year. These persons are supposed to ask for affiliation to the Dental Council now. I think, there is a question coming on that afterwards.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Can the hon. Minister confirm that this year there has been no new entrant to Mauras School of Dentistry?
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, I have said that there are. According to the shortcomings that have been underlined and that have been submitted to the college, they are looking into the matter and their work is being monitored. If this is done to the satisfaction of the TEC, then they will continue and they are, for the time being, continuing.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: May I ask the hon. Minister why then he mentioned that the internship and the award for the first two batches have been settled and whether there will still be queries on the award of certificates and registration for the coming batches?
Dr. Bunwaree: For intakes of the first two years, it has been settled. For the first year, it is over. For the second year, I have those who started in second year, five years ago, they are continuing and then, if everything is settled, the college will continue as if nothing had happened.
Mr Jugnauth: Can I ask the hon. Minister whether it is a condition that has been laid down by TEC in order to be able to recognise an institution from India that it should get a certification from the University Grants Commission?
Dr. Bunwaree: I think the answer is positive.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Mr Speaker, Sir, may I then ask the hon. Minister whether this certification from the University Grants Commission was given to the Mauras School of Dentistry?
Dr. Bunwaree: I have to look into this matter. I believe it should be yes,
Mr Speaker Sir. Mr Speaker: Does the hon. Member have another question?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: No, I am still on the same question.
Mr Speaker: Carry on! The hon. Member should have been a lawyer; she would have been a very good cross-examiner.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Mr Speaker Sir, in an answer given to a PQ, the Minister of Education stated that there is an International Monitoring Committee that already approved all the different stages: first, second, third, fourth and fifth year and even the internship. May I ask the hon. Minister then what is the difficulty that has been cropped up now that the certificates have awarded and the students have performed their internship?
Dr. Bunwaree: There are two things, Mr Speaker, Sir. One is the conditions that are imposed by the Dental Council of India. There is another set of conditions by the International Monitoring Committee. For the second one, there is no problem but for first one there is a problem. We are waiting for the Dental Council of India to give the goahead to the Indians in India so that the Mauritians can follow the same.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Mr Speaker Sir, the University Grants Commission gives the certification on the basis of the parent – ‘if I may say so’ parent–institution, whether that parent institution has received all certifications there, before allowing that institution to settle into another country outside the State in India and more so outside the country. Then, my question, Mr Speaker, Sir, is: how come this step has been skipped and that the institution is operating here and that now we are waiting for the Dental Council of India to settle the case there?
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, the problem is that the persons who have qualified, have to ask for the right to practise; and this is done to the Dental Council.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: One last question, Mr Speaker, Sir.
Mr Speaker: Yes.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: The Minister mentioned that now TEC has to be satisfied. Will he inform the House whether there was no representative of TEC sitting on the International Monitoring Committee?
Dr. Bunwaree: I have to look into this matter. I don't have a reply at hand.
Mr Speaker: Next question, hon. Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun!
MAURAS SCHOOL OF DENTISTRY – STUDENTS – REGISTRATION (14/04/09)
(No. B/205) Mrs L. D. Dookun-Luchoomun (Third Member for La Caverne and Phoenix) asked the Minister of Health and Quality of Life whether in regard to the students of the Mauras School of Dentistry, he will state the number thereof, who have been registered with the Dental Council of Mauritius.
Dr. Jeetah: Mr Speaker, Sir, I am informed by the Dental Council of Mauritius that -
(i) it has received applications from 16 newly qualified Mauritian dental surgeons who have completed a course in dentistry at the Mauras College of Dentistry, and
(ii) it is seeking clarifications from the Dental Council of India prior to the registration of these applicants.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I wish to inform the House that my Ministry has taken up the matter with the Indian Authorities through our Ministry of Foreign Affairs. My Ministry has received a reply from the Mauritius High Commission in New Delhi, informing that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Government of India has issued a Notification, dated 06 March, 2009, recognising the BDS degree awarded by the Bhavnagar University for the Indian students of Mauras College of Dentistry, who were admitted during the academic sessions 2003-2004 and 004-2005.
We have also been informed that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Government of India has made appropriate arrangements for the gazetting of the above notification in the Government of India Press.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Mr Speaker Sir, did I get it right that the Minister stated that the Dental Council of India approved registration of Indian students. Has there been a distinction made between Indian students and Mauritian students?
Dr. Jeetah: I do not have this information, Mr Speaker Sir. All I have is that the Indian authorities have requested for the gazetting of this document.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: May I ask the hon. Minister what is going to happen to the Mauritian students who have completed their internship and who are sitting at home with their certificates? Because it seems that this matter has been settled for Indian students.
Mr Speaker: Order, Order, please! Let the Minister answer!
Dr. Jeetah: We are all concerned about this case, Mr Speaker Sir. We are in the presence of a problem and we are working towards finding a solution.
It appears that we have reached a step where these students will be able to get their registration to the Dental Council. My Ministry is eagerly awaiting the gazetting; and after the gazetting, the Dental Council will be in possession of these documents and the graduates would be able to practise.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Mr Speaker Sir, may I ask the hon. Minister, whether, once again, members of the Dental Council have not been sitting for years on the International Monitoring Committee of the Mauras School of Dentistry?
Dr. Jeetah: That is a very good question, Mr Speaker Sir. I asked the same question. There were not only members of the Dental Council, but there were members of TEC and so on. We are now facing the situation and we have to find a solution. I think we are going to see some light hopefully soon.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Will the hon. Minister give a time frame as to when he expects this matter to be settled?
Dr. Jeetah: Mr Speaker, Sir, in Mauritius if one was to gazette the documents wedo it within a day. But, I cannot dictate what would happen in India. I have tried to talk to the Minister of Health in India today, but I understand that he was not available because of the elections. We are looking into the matter very closely.
At 1.00 p.m. the sitting was suspended.
On resuming at 2.30 p.m with Mr Speaker in the Chair
Mr Speaker: Hon. Members, I will have, at the very outset, to make an announcement to the effect that PQ Nos. B/242, B/243, B/244 and B/245 have been withdrawn.
MEDICAL COLLEGES - SETTING UP (21/04/09)
(No. B/286) Mrs l. D. Dookun-Luchoomun (Third Member for La Caverne & Phoenix) asked the Minister of Education, Culture & Human Resources whether, in regard to the operation of Medical Colleges in Mauritius, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the Tertiary Education Commission, information as to if it is in presence of any new application, and if so, the number thereof, indicating where matters stand in each case.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am informed by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) that, out of six applications received for the setting up of Medical Colleges in Mauritius, three have not been processed further due to failure on the part of the applicants to submit additional information required.
These applicant institutions, all from India, are as follows -
(i) Jain College of Medical Sciences Ltd;
(ii) Holy Mary Institute of Technology and Science, and
(iii) Sumandeep Vidyapeeth Deemed University.
Regarding the other three, the Chitkara Educational Trust and DYP Worldwide Ltd have, on 24 February 2009 and 27 February 2009 respectively, been allowed by TEC to set up a Medical College in Mauritius for the running of programmes leading to the award of degrees by University of Technology, Mauritius (UTM). The application for registration of the institutions and accreditation of their programmes are being processed.
It is to be noted that additional information has been sought from the two institutions on 08 April 2009 and is being awaited.
The third application being processed by TEC is from Manipal Universal
Learning Private Limited for the setting up of a Medical College with degree awarding powers. The application, which was submitted on 08 January 2009, was followed by a revised application on 19 March 2009. TEC, which has sought for additional information from the applicant on 07 April 2009, is awaiting a response.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, can I ask the hon. Minister when these institutions are expected to start operation?
Dr. Bunwaree: There are procedures going on. If the hon. Member has heard me well, all of these Institutions have been asked to submit further information. It is a bit up to them. As soon as they submit the information, the process will go on very actively.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: May I ask the hon. Minister whether the Sri Ramachandra Medical University for medical studies is also among those which have already received clearance to operate?
Dr. Bunwaree: Yes. In fact, two medical colleges have already registered. One is the SSR Medical College, which we know, and the other one is the off-shore campus of the Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: May I know when the Sri Ramachandra University will be ready for operation?
Dr. Bunwaree: The information I have is that it was registered on 29 January 2009, and has not yet started operation. It is expected to start operating in the academic year 2009-2010 to offer MBBS programme to be awarded by the Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai.
Mr Soodhun: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, can the hon. Minister inform the House whether the three institutions are fully recognised by India?
Dr. Bunwaree: Last week, I tabled a set of rules/regulations, and the procedures they have to go through. I think it was very clear, and I submitted them last week.
Mr Jugnauth: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. Last week, I asked the hon. Minister this question and he said he was going to check. I wanted to know what are the bodies in India that certify for any institutions to be implanted in other countries and whether there is a condition imposed by TEC to all the institutions which have applied to set up a branch or university here to be recognised.
Dr. Bunwaree: It all depends. Concerning the two cases which I mentioned, they are going to be under the aegis of the University of Technology of Mauritius and there is an International Committee which looks into the matter. When it comes to universities that are already well established in India, of course, we go according to the regulations that are there and the regulations of TEC as well.
Mr Jugnauth: I want to be specific on this issue. TEC has got a certain criteria whereby it will request any applicant to furnish proof of its recognition in India. I want to know from the Minister, especially with regard to the institutions from India, what are the bodies that are required to provide a certification?
Dr. Bunwaree: I can submit it because there is a list of a variety of cases in India, but we all go according to what is officially recognized there.
Dr. Hawoldar: May I ask the hon. Minister with regard to the new medical
colleges which are planning to set up a branch in Mauritius will they be using our
hospitals for clinical medicine or are they interested in setting up teaching hospitals on purpose?
Dr. Bunwaree: For time being, they are going to use our hospitals, but we are impressing on them either to upgrade our hospitals, which will be in the benefit of Mauritius in any case, or to set up their own hospitals.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, for other institutions that have settled in Mauritius there was a requirement of getting the University Grants Commission Certification. For institutions coming from India, it is the University Grants Commission Certification that is required. We just wanted to clear out whether these three institutions have obtained that particular certification from India?
Dr. Bunwaree: We have to consider one by one case, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. If it is an obligation in India, then we take it board here.
Mr Bodha: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, may I ask the hon. Minister whether the degrees that are going to be awarded are going to be valid only for Mauritius, or whether those who are going to have those degrees will be able to go for specialisation outside Mauritius?
Dr. Bunwaree: Well, we are going to do our level best so that these degrees are recognised also outside Mauritius. When the awarding body is a body which is recognised in India, there is no big problem. When the body is another one then we have to be very careful. I agree with the hon. Member, but we are going to see to it before accepting, that the degree is going to be recognised abroad.
Mr Dowarkasing: May I ask the hon. Minister whether, in terms of seats
allocation from these colleges, there is certain quota reserved for Mauritian students, because actually we know what are the difficulties facing our Mauritian students with respect to SSR Medical School?
Dr. Bunwaree: It is not a fixed or definite quota, but we impressed upon them, of course, and I am even seeing to it that the conditions are slightly different for Mauritian students than what they are for overseas students.
Mr Varma: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. Can the hon. Minister inform the House how will the privacy of patients be ascertained in the hospitals which will be used for these purposes?
Dr. Bunwaree: All this is taken care of Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, because, of course, it is important to keep the question of privacy, but this is a well-established criteria.
SSR MEDICAL COLLEGE - NATIONAL PENSION FUND – CONTRIBUTIONS (28/04/09)
(No. B/366) Mr C. Sayed-Hossen (Fourth Member for Montagne Blanche and GRSE) asked the Minister of Social Security, National Solidarity and Senior Citizens Welfare & Reform Institutions whether, in regard to the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Medical College, she will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the National Pension Fund, information as to if it is regularly settling its contributions on behalf of its employees and, if not, the actions that will be taken.
Mrs Bappoo: Mr Speaker, Sir, I am informed that the SSR Medical College is not regularly settling its contributions to the National Pension Fund in respect of its employees.
Several visits were effected by the officers of my Ministry to ascertain that the employer was complying with the National Pension Scheme legislation and paying the correct contributions in respect of the employees.
As the employer was reluctant to produce wage records, a summon was served upon him and that was on 30 July 2004 to obtain the relevant documents.
It was only then, that he started producing wage records on a very piecemeal basis following which the officers carried out several assessments of contributions payable. Claims and reminders were regularly issued, but he still failed to settle the amount due for the periods under assessment.
In June 2007, legal action was initiated to recover the amount due.
On 26 June 2007, when the case was to be heard in court, the employer settled the outstanding contributions and the surcharges, amounting to Rs1,857,172. He also promised to produce wage records for the missing periods and to pay current contributions on time.
My officers effected, thereafter, several visits at the employer’s place on 12 November 2007, 17 January 2008, 25 February 2008 and 11 March 2008, to verify the wage records for period July 2007 onwards. As he failed to produce same again, fresh summons were again served upon him on 08 September 2008 and 25 September 2008. Subsequently, the wage records were produced, and my officers are presently carrying out an assessment of contributions due for period July 2007 to date. During that exercise, they have to examine, Mr Speaker, Sir, the monthly wage records of each and every employee, assess the contributions payable to the National Pensions Fund, the National Savings Fund and the levy payable to the Human Resource Development Council.
This exercise is very time consuming and officers from other sections have been involved in order to speed up matters.
As soon as these assessments of contributions due are over, the relevant claims will be issued to the employer. We are expecting that he will settle all outstanding amounts once the claims are forwarded.
Mr Gunness: Mr Speaker, Sir, can we know from the Minister why in the future we have to wait for a one-year period? We know that the employer whom we are dealing with has not been regular in the payment.
Can we, at least, see in the future that we monitor such employer on a quarterly basis?
Mrs Bappoo: I have already given the dates, monthly, about the close monitoring that the officers of the Ministry are carrying out. But because he has promised that he is going to settle the amount due and once this is settled, again, it will be close monitoring, or if action is to be taken, it will be done.
Mr Dowarkasing: Mr Speaker, Sir, the hon. Minister just stated that regularly the officers of her Ministry check the way it is recorded. Is the hon. Minister aware that many of the employees of the SSR Medical School are not on that wage records? They are being employed unofficially. Could she look into the matter also?
Mrs Bappoo: I need to check it exactly so that I can give the exact answer. But I know that for several months, among different years, there are records that have not yet been submitted.
Mr Varma: Thank you Mr Speaker, Sir. Could the hon. Minister inform the House how many employees are concerned?
Mrs Bappoo: I am informed that the total number of employeesas at to date is 77, out of which 39 are non-teaching staff and 38 are lecturers. But among the 38, there are 34 who are expatriates.
UNIVERSITY OF MAURITIUS TRUST – COURSES & FEES (21/04/09)
(No. B/373) Mrs L. D. Dookun-Luchoomun (Third Member for La Caverne and Phoenix) asked the Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources whether he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the University of Mauritius Trust, information as to – (a) the courses being presently dispensed by the Trust, indicating those run in collaboration with the Mauritius Employees
(b) the amount of fees payable for each course annually.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, with regard to part (a), the following three programmes at undergraduate level and four programmes at postgraduate level are currently being run by the Trust -
(i) Bachelor in Business Management;
(ii) BSc (Hons) International Financial Services & Compliance;
(iii) BSc (Hons) Banking & Investment;
(iv) MBA International Business;
(v) MSc International Tourism Management;
(vi) MA Global Financial Services, and
(vii) Post Graduate Diploma in Software Engineering.
With the exception of the MA Global Financial Services and the Post Graduate Diploma in Software Engineering, all the other programmes are run in collaboration with the Mauritius Employers’ Federation in accordance with a Memorandum of Agreement signed by the UoM Trust and the MEF in September 2007.
With regard to part (b), I am arranging for circulating details about fees charged for the various courses.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Mr Speaker, Sir, may I ask the hon. Minister what is the investment that the MEF has made in view of the dispensing of these courses?
Dr. Bunwaree: If a proper question is put, we will give further details, but it depends on the courses and for each one of them it may not be the same.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Is the hon. Minister aware, Mr Speaker, Sir, that the MEF has not invested a single rupee in that project and they are going to benefit from the fees payable for each one of these courses?
Dr. Bunwaree: I will look into what is being raised by the hon. Member; then I will come with a statement to the House.
MAURITIUS - MEDICAL HUB (21/04/09)
(No. B/358) Mr D. Rucktooa (Second Member for Grand’Baie & Poudre d’Or) asked the Minister of Health & Quality of Life whether, in regard to making Mauritius become a medical hub, he will state the –
(a) measures Government proposes to take to encourage doctors, especially those who have benefited from Government scholarships, to come back and serve the country;
(b) measures taken to palliate the shortage of specialists in scarcity fields, and
(c) number of applications for work permit in different fields of specialisation received by Government from private clinics, since 2005 to date, and table copy thereof.
Dr. Jeetah: Mr Speaker, Sir, I wish to inform the House that, in line with the policy of the Government to transform Mauritius into a medical hub for the region, all efforts are being made to attain this objective. We need, amongst others, to have a pool of highly qualified and dedicated medical and paramedical staff, including doctors and specialists.
Mr Speaker, Sir, with regard to part (a) of the question, I am advised that there are two categories of scholarships –
(i) nomination under Open Scholarship, offered through the Ministry of Education, Arts & Culture and Human Resources, wherein all the nominees, including public officers, are bonded and are required to come back and serve the country after a certain period of time;
(ii) nominees under an approved Training Scheme of my Ministry, whereby selected candidates are sent for postgraduate studies to University of Bordeaux II, University of Montpellier and Banaras Hindu University. These officers are also bonded, and are required to come back and serve the Ministry.
- Furthermore, the conditions of the offer of scholarships by the donor countries require that the recipients should return back to their country;
- on successful completion of their postgraduate studies, doctors are absorbed in the public service at specialist level, and
- specialists are also granted the privilege of private practice.
As regards part (b) of the question, I wish to inform the House that the following measures have been taken to palliate the shortage of specialists in scarcity fields –
(i) the PRB Report 2008 has significantly improved the salary and conditions of service of specialists;
(ii) Consultants/Specialists who retire are allowed to continue working within our service on sessional or contract basis;
(iii) the services of a number of specialists from abroad who express interest to serve in Mauritius are retained on a contract basis,
(iv) action has been initiated for the recruitment of specialists in scarcity fields from abroad.
Mr Speaker, Sir, concerning part (c) of the question, I am informed that 23 applications for work permit in the different fields of specialisation have been received from private clinics since 2005 to date. Work permits were granted to only 14 specialists.
Dr. Ramloll: I thank the hon. Minister for the answer. I would like to get confirmation from the hon. Minister whether there is a specific monetary amount, like a bond, which these doctors sign before they leave for a scholarship abroad?
Dr. Jeetah: I have replied, Mr Speaker, Sir. There is a bond that the successful candidates have to agree upon with the Ministry.
Dr. Ramloll: Mr Speaker, Sir, has the Ministry surveyed that, in the next five to ten years, which are the scarcity areas in the different specialities?
Dr. Jeetah: Yes, Mr Speaker, Sir, we do have a list of areas where we have specialists. In fact, I can give some more information, if the hon. Member will bear with me. Out of a total of 222 posts, there are 40 which have not been recruited as yet. These would be fields such as general medicine, general surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, and so on.
Dr. Ramloll: Mr Speaker, Sir, as regards the work permits, will the hon. Minister inform the House about the number issued in the different private clinics and hospitals?
Dr. Jeetah: I thought I had replied, Mr Speaker, Sir. I did mention that there were 23 applications for work permits in different fields since 2005, and that 14 work permits have been granted.
Dr. Ramloll: Can the hon. Minister confirm how many work permits were awarded to each clinic?
Dr. Jeetah: First of all, Mr Speaker, Sir, I don’t know whether it would be ethical to come and display which clinic has been applying for what specialisation. But, in any case, the hon. Member would have to refer to the substantive Ministry.
Dr. Ramloll: Mr Speaker, Sir, one last question on this issue. Will the hon. Minister reassure the House that no work permit is issued in areas where the competence is already available in Mauritius?
Dr. Jeetah: I have answered, Mr Speaker, Sir. I don’t see any problem with regard to having an excess capacity. The hon. Member might wish to know that 22% of the population of this country suffer from diabetes, 30% suffer from hypertension and 45% suffer from cholesterol.
So, the more skills we get in this country, the better it would be.
Mr Jhugroo: Mr Speaker, Sir, can I ask the hon. Minister if he can give the conditions found in the bond which the doctors sign before leaving the country?
Dr. Jeetah: Mr Speaker, Sir, I can certainly table the document. It is not with me at the moment.
Mrs Martin: Mr Speaker, Sir, with regard to part (a) of the question,
I would like to ask the hon. Minister whether we can have an idea of the amount that those who have obtained the scholarships have to sign in the bond and how many of them have actually been paid and not come back to Mauritius.
Dr. Jeetah: With regard to the first part of the question, this is what hon. Jhugroo asked for, and I shall table the document. With regard to the number of specialists who have not returned, as far as my Ministry is concerned, everybody has come back.
UNIVERSITY OF MAURITIUS - ALLEGED MISMANAGEMENT – INQUIRY (23/06/09)
(No. B/582) Mr S. Dayal (Second Member for Quartier Militaire & Moka) asked the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence & Home Affairs whether he will state if he will consider appointing a Visitor to conduct an inquiry into allegations of mismanagement in the affairs of the University of Mauritius.
SSR MEDICAL COLLEGE – STUDENTS - BDS EXAMS (23/06/09)
(No. B/623) Mr M. Dowarkasing (Third Member for Curepipe & Midlands) asked the Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources whether, in regard to the students who have passed the BDS examinations from the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Medical College, he will state if he has taken cognizance of the problems that they are facing in relation to the recognition of the degree delivered to them and, if so, will he state the remedial measures that will be taken.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am informed by the Tertiary Education Commission that the 5-year BDS programme of the SSR Medical College comprises a final year of internship. A first batch of six students and a second batch of 15 students have already passed their BDS examination at the SSR Medical College in December 2007 and June 2008 respectively.
In order to be awarded their degrees and apply for registration with the Dental Council of Mauritius, these students require completion of 1 year internship, which, has however not yet been accredited by TEC. The procedure for the setting up of Dental Colleges is that there is an International Monitoring Committee (IMC) set up by the regulatory body (TEC) to monitor the appropriateness of the management, staffing, infrastructure and equipment of the institution during the progress of the first cohort.
The IMC meets on a yearly basis. This International Monitoring Committee comprising representatives from my Ministry, the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life, Mauritius Institute of Health, Dental Council of Mauritius, the Tertiary Education Commission and two international experts has been convened on a yearly basis to follow up on the progress of the BDS programme during the five years.
TEC has not yet accredited the internship of the BDS programme due to the fact that during the IMC of March 2008, it was revealed that the SSR Medical College had not yet started the internship and the intern year started only on the advice of the IMC. Hence, internship for the first batch started in March 2008 and ended in March 2009 whereas the internship for the second batch will be completed in June 2009.
In line with the recommendations of the IMC of December 2008, the TEC has been monitoring the internship of the BDS at the SSR Medical College and a Quality Assurance Visit was conducted by TEC in February 2009. It was observed further to this visit, that there was no adequate and appropriate supervision for internship in the following areas:
• Dept. of Oral Medicine, Diagnosis and Radiology
• Dept. of Conservative Dentistry and Endodontics
• Dept. of Oral Pathology/Dental Anatomy & Oral Histology
The TEC Board was apprised of the above, and a Sub-Committee was set up comprising representatives of my Ministry, the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life and the University of Mauritius to look into the matter. The Sub-Committee met on 18 May 2009, 21 May 2009 at the TEC and on 17 June 2009 at the SSR Medical College. I am informed that the subcommittee was of a view that appropriate and adequate supervision has already taken place and has therefore recommended to the TEC Board that the internship of the BDS Programme be
accredited. The decision of the Sub Committee has yet to be ratified by the Board and I believed this is going to be done in the coming week.
The Deputy Speaker: The Table has been advised that Parliamentary Question Nos. B/624, B/625, B/626, B/633 and B/635 have been withdrawn.
UNIVERSITY OF MAURITIUS/SSR DENTAL COLLEGE – QUALIFICATIONS - RECOGNITION (10/11/09)
(No. B/1108) Mr G. Gunness (Third Member for Montagne Blanche & GRSE) asked the Minister of Health and Quality of Life whether, in regard to the University of Mauritius/SSR Dental College, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the Dental Council, information as to why the qualifications delivered thereby are still not being recognized by the Council, indicating if remedial measures will be taken.
Dr. Jeetah: Mr. Speaker Sir, with regards to the newly qualified dental surgeons from the University of Mauritius/SSR Medical College, I am informed by the Dental Council of Mauritius that, at its meeting held on 23 October 2009, it has approved the inclusion of the name of the University of Mauritius in the list of recognised medical institutions.
In accordance with Section 40 of the Dental Council Act 1999, my Ministry has already initiated procedures to amend the Principal Regulations.
Mr Gunness: Mr Speaker, Sir, at the SSR Dental College there are two Mauritian students for the batch of 2004 and, from what I understand, they are not being recognised by the Dental Council. Can I know from the Minister whether it will be done now?
Mr Speaker: The law is being amended, so what is the relation?
Dr. Jeetah: I have already replied, Mr Speaker, Sir.
At 1.00 p.m the sitting was suspended.
On resuming at 2.30 p.m with the Deputy Speaker in the Chair.
UNIVERSITY OF MAURITIUS - ACADEMIC YEAR 2009/2010 – INTAKE (24/11/09)
(No. B/1197) Mr S. Lauthan (Third Member for Port Louis Maritime & Port /Louis East) asked the Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resource whether, in regard to the last intake for the present academic year at the University of Mauritius, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the University, information as to the number of students who have -
(a) applied for seats thereat
(b) been selected, and
(c) been enrolled, indicating in each case, the respective courses.
Dr. Bunwaree: Mr Speaker, Sir, I am informed by the University of Mauritius as follows -
(a) 6,948 students have applied for a seat at the University of Mauritius for academic year 2009/2010;
(b) out of these, 5,579 students have been offered a seat on, a least, one program, and
(c) 3,956 students have been enrolled.
A list giving the number of students enrolled in respective programmes is being compiled, and will be tabled as soon as it is ready.
Mr Lauthan: Mr Speaker, Sir, the students often complain that they make an application to the University and, in the meantime, they do seek for a job somewhere, but the University never replies back in case the application is rejected, so that they keep waiting while, at the same time, they can’t take a job.
Why does not the University take steps to reply? Even if it is in the negative, they should tell them that their applications have been rejected.
Dr. Bunwaree: I will communicate this information to the University.
MAURAS COLLEGE OF DENTISTRY & SIR SEEWOOSAGUR RAMGOOLAM DENTAL COLLEGE – STAFF & APPARATUS (03/08/10)
(No. 1B/378) Dr. R. Sorefan (Fourth Member for La Caverne & Phoenix) asked the Minister of Tertiary Education, Science, Research and Technology whether, in regard to the Mauras College of Dentistry and the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Dental College, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the Tertiary Education Commission, information as to –
(a) the number of Professors, Assistant Professors, Senior Lecturers and Lecturers in each dental discipline and of other staff members who are presently -
(i) engaged in teaching only;
(ii) in private practice;
(b) if they –
(i) are equipped with auto clave apparatus for sterilisation thereat, and
(ii) adhere to the prescribed international norms and, if not, will an inquiry be carried thereinto.
Dr. Jeetah: Mr Speaker, Sir, I am tabling the information requested for at part a (i), a (ii) and b (i) of the question.
With regard to part (b) (ii) of the question, I am informed by the Tertiary Education Commission that there are no prescribed international norms and that each country applies its own norms.
Since 2002, the quality of the programme of the Bachelor of Dental Surgery at both Dental Colleges was monitored on the basis of guidelines of the Dental Council of India. In 2008, Government approved the Clinical Training Framework for Dental Education which sets out the minimum requirements that any Dental College wishing to establish itself in Mauritius has to comply with.
Mr Speaker: Hon Jhugroo! Could you please keep quiet!
Dr. Jeetah: I would like to inform the House that both SSRMC (Dental Wing) and the Mauras College of Dentistry have not been granted permission by the Tertiary Education Commission to recruit new students since 2008 and 2009 respectively because they did not meet the minimum requirements in terms of full time staff in the various departments.
I have, Mr Speaker, Sir, requested the Tertiary Education Commission to discuss actively with the two Dental Colleges and guide them so that they continue to operate and provide quality dental education to their students in Mauritius.
Mr Obeegadoo: Mr Speaker, Sir, since it would appear that these colleges do not meet the requirements of the Tertiary Education Commission and hence there is no new student intake, will the Minister say what ongoing mechanism exists to make sure that the teaching presently dispensed in these colleges both in terms of staffing and in terms of equipment does come up to requirements, at the present time, concerning existing students?
Dr. Jeetah: There is Mr Speaker, Sir, I understand an International Monitoring Committee of which the hon. Member who asks the question is a Member of, and I think that he has sat on about nine occasions to monitor the quality of the institution.
Dr. S. Boolell: Mr Speaker, Sir, I want to ask the hon. Minister whether there are international dental visitors to these institutions to guarantee the international status?
Dr. Jeetah: Yes, Mr Speaker, Sir, I did mention that there is an International Monitoring Committee in which we have representatives of TEC, two external members from outside Mauritius at the level of DEAN, representatives of the Ministry of Education, Health, MIH and the Dental Council.
Dr. S. Boolell: Is it possible to know who are the two international visitors with the status of DEAN?
Dr. Jeetah: I can submit the information later, Mr Speaker, Sir. It is not in my file.
Dr. Sorefan: True to say that I was in the IMC, the report was written, sent to the Ministry, but no action was taken. Could the Minister do the needful so that the actions and recommendations that came from us and the Dental Council be taken into consideration?
Dr. Jeetah: Well, Mr Speaker, Sir, that is not true. I just answered that in 2008...
Mr Speaker: Hon. Jhugroo, could you please keep quiet, if you continue like this, I will ask you to go out!
Dr. Jeetah: Mr Speaker, Sir, I will repeat that is not true because I did mention that since 2008, the Tertiary Education Commission has not granted permission to recruit students at SSRMC and in 2009 the same applies to Mauras. They have taken action and I have instructed in a way at Tertiary Education Commission so that they work together to make sure that we have the quality standard that we need to have to provide this country with quality dentists.
Mr Obeegadoo: Mr Speaker, Sir, I am totally and utterly confused, if those two institutions are not good enough to take on new students, how can they be good enough for continuing with more senior students?
Dr. Jeetah: Mr Speaker, Sir, I did mention that there were difficulties. One of the main problems that they are facing is that they are finding it very difficult to recruit the number of professors, that’s the information that the hon. Member asked for, which I am providing. Another reason related to this is that these professors cannot practise here because of some difficulties that have arisen with the Dental Council that could have facilitated them to stay here. So, this is why I have asked the Tertiary Education Commission, together with the Ministry of Health, to try to see how we can resolve this matter. Mr Speaker, Sir, allow me to add that in this country, 95% of the population suffers from tooth decay or one form or the other and we badly need these schools here in this country.
Mr Obeegadoo: Mr Speaker, Sir, may I be allowed to insist on an answer to my question?
Mr Speaker: No, not to insist.
Mr Obeegadoo: May I be allowed to rephrase the question, Mr Speaker, Sir?
Mr Speaker: Yes.
Mr Obeegadoo: Being given that we are all concerned with the standard of dental care dispensed to our population, if the Tertiary Education Commission considers that the staffing level is not adequate for new students, how can these schools continue to operate with more senior students who require obviously better levels of staffing?
Dr. Jeetah: Mr Speaker, Sir, as I said, there is this International Monitoring Committee that actually gives its opinion on the state of affairs and we have to rely on it. Maybe you can address the question to the hon. Member who has sat for nine occasions on these committees.Mr Uteem: Mr Speaker, Sir, may I know from the hon. Minister whether these institutions are being allowed to issue a diploma or degree or any kind of certification that is being issued by these institutions are being recognised?Dr. Jeetah: Yes, I would like to thank the hon. Member for asking this question. We have had two batches which have graduated so far and I am informed by the Tertiary Education Commission that some students who have completed their bachelor in dental surgery at the Mauras College of Dentistry are now pursuing higher studies in China, Australia, USA and in India. The reason why I am mentioning this is that it appears that these countries have given recognition to these degrees.
TERTIARY EDUCATION COMMISSION (TEC) - EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR - APPOINTMENT (03/03/15)
(No. B/117) Mr S. Rutnah (Third Member for Piton & Rivière du Rempart) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Science Research whether, in regard to the Executive Director of the Tertiary Education Commission, she will –
(a) for the benefit of the House, obtain from the Commission, information as to his (i) terms and conditions of appointment, including the salary, allowances and other benefits drawn;
(ii) experience in quality assurance and regulatory framework, and
(b) state if the Delhi University, India, has set up a disciplinary committee against the latter and, if so, indicate if -
(i) the Commission had been informed thereof prior to his appointment;
(ii) his contract has been renewed and, if so, indicate the terms and conditions thereof, and
(iii)his replacement is being contemplated.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam, Speaker, with your permission, I wish to reply to PQ B/117 and PQ B/144 together as they are both related.
With regard to PQ B/117 part (a) (i), I am informed by the Tertiary Education Commission that following an advertisement in January 2013 and a selection exercise by TEC, Professor A. K. Bakhshi, former Executive Director of TEC was offered appointment to the post of Executive Director on 18 July 2013 on a contract basis of one year which could be renewed for a second period of one year at the end of which it could be again renewed for a third and final year. He assumed duty on 14 October 2013. After the one year, the contract was extended on a month-to-month basis with effect from 14 October 2014. His appointment has been terminated on 28 February 2015.
The terms and conditions of employment of the Executive Director include a monthly salary of Rs144,000, a special allowance of Rs56,000 as well as a gratuity, bonus, rent allowance, luggage allowance and air tickets for himself and his spouse from and to India at the start and end of his contract. A copy of the Terms and Conditions is being tabled.
With regard to part (a) (ii) of the question, I am informed by Tertiary Education Commission that Prof. A. K. Bakhshi has been in the fields of academics and research and is a former Vice Chancellor (Allahabad, India). He has also been Head of the Department of Chemistry, Director of the Institute of Lifelong Learning (ILLL) and also Director of Centre for Professional Development in Higher Education (CPDHE) at the University of Delhi.
As regards part (b) of the question, according to TEC, prior to the contractual appointment of Prof. Bakhshi as Director on 14 October 2013, the Commission was not aware of any disciplinary committee set up at the Delhi University of India against him. In a correspondence dated 17 October 2013, the Head of Mission, Mauritius High Commission, New Delhi informed that according to a letter from the President of the Society for Values and Ethics in Education dated 09 October 2013, the Executive Council of Delhi University had apparently initiated disciplinary action against Prof. A. K. Bakhshi who despite being on leave from Delhi University had accepted the nomination as Executive Director of TEC. This issue was also raised in the local media.
According to record available at TEC, though there is a record in the minute sheet that a letter was issued to Prof. Bakshi on 21 October, 2013 to seek his explanation, no copy of the letter sent nor the reply thereto is available on the file given that the original copy was handed to the then Legal Officer of TEC and cannot be traced. Further, according to records available in August 2013, University of Delhi had asked Prof. A. K. Bakhshi to show cause as to why disciplinary action should not be initiated against him. Notwithstanding this matter, in a letter dated 19 September 2013, the University of Delhi gave Professor Bakshi approval to join the Tertiary Education Commission as Executive Director subject to his availability in the matter of show cause notice as and when required by the University.
As for the part relating to the renewal of the contract, I am advised that the initial contract starting on 14 October 2013 which was for one year was subsequently renewed by the TEC Board on a month-to-month basis as from 14 October 2014 on similar terms and conditions.
With respect to PQ B/144, I wish to inform the House that, the employment of the Executive Director of TEC, on a month to month basis has been terminated with effect from 28 February 2015; the post will be advertised shortly. In the meantime, arrangements have been made for a senior officer of TEC to act as Officer-in-Charge for the smooth running of the organisation pending the appointment of a full-fledged Director.
Madam Speaker: Yes, Hon. Rutnah!
Mr Rutnah: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Firstly, in an answer to a question of my friend, hon. Uteem, last year, Minister Jeetah stated the following –
“I suggested that we appoint the person subject to a quarterly review - the person, reference made to Prof. Bakshi - to assess his preformance, but then we did not get into recruitment procedure, etc., but I am interested in the quarterly assessment performance.”
Now that we know that his contract was being renewed on a monthly basis, is there on record of any quarterly basis assessment of this person?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I would like the hon. Member to let me know which question he is referring to. Which Parliamentary Question is he referring to?
Madam Speaker: He just mentioned. Can you repeat it?
Mr Rutnah: For the benefit of the House, I am referring to PQ B/962, last year, a question put by my friend, hon. Uteem and it reads as follows –
“May I know from the hon. Minister – he mentioned himself….
Madam Speaker: Hon. Rutnah, can you just tell the hon. Minister whether the question was addressed to her or it was to the precedent Government?
Mr Rutnah: It was last year.
Madam Speaker: You got it.
Mr Rutnah: I am referring to a question last year. I am trying to ascertain whether when the Minister gave the answer last year in relation to the question put by hon. Uteem, whether the quarterly review was carried out, now that we know that the contract of this gentleman was renewed on a monthly basis.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: I will look into the matter. I do not have the information right now.
Mr Uteem: Madam Speaker, the hon. Minister just mentioned that there is a legal opinion. So, may I know from the hon. Minister the name of the legal adviser who gave that opinion and whether any effort has been made to try to get back those documents from him?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: I have just answered to the hon. Member that I do not have that particular information. I will look into the matter and come back with the information.
Mr Rutnah: Can the hon. Minister confirm in the light of the answer she gave that the professor was, in fact, Head of Department of Chemistry with qualification in Science rather that in legal matters and what criteria were put to recruit someone with no legal background in a regulatory oriented job?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I’ll just give the Scheme of Service. According to the Scheme of Service - I will just give you the advertisement and the profile of the ideal candidate – it is professional with a standing track record, well versed in custodian of the academia, fully conversant with present and future trends in the fast developing tertiary education sector worldwide, experience in management and development of knowledge industry, top leadership qualities, capacity to deliver in line with Government policy, the provision of the TEC Act and the TEC corporate vision strategies and objectives.
So, nowhere in the Scheme of Service or the advertisement, there was any mention or requirement for legal background for the post of Executive Director of TEC.
Mr Rutnah: Does the hon. Minister now agree that this was actually a tailormade
job specification to suit someone?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I have no information showing that this was a tailormade scheme though I do agree that we have had a lot of problems with the former Director.
Mr Uteem: Madam Speaker, the hon. Minister just mentioned that there is now an Officer-in-Charge for TEC, may I know from the hon. Minister whether the TEC Board has been reconstituted or if not, when does she propose to reconstitute the Board?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: The Board is being reconstituted and very soon the Board will be sitting.
Madam Speaker: Next question, hon. Bhagwan!
TERTIARY EDUCATION SECTOR – QUALITY AUDIT –
(No. B/143) Mr D. Ramful (Third Member for Mahebourg & Plaine Magnien) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Science Research whether, in regard to the tertiary education sector, she will state if a committee was set up to inquire into the quality audit thereof and, if so, when, indicating –
(a) the composition thereof, and
(b) if the committee has completed its inquiry and, if so, will she table copy of the report in relation thereto and, if not, why not.
TEC – EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR – POST (03/03/15)
(No. B/144) Mr D. Ramful (Third Member for Mahebourg &Plaine Magnien) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Science Research whether, in regard to the Tertiary Education Commission, she will, for the benefit of the House, obtain therefrom, information as to if the Executive Director thereof has been dismissed and, if so, indicate if the post will be advertised internationally and, if so, when.
(Vide reply to PQ No. B/117)
TERTIARY EDUCATION COMMISSION – POSTS - SCHEMES OF SERVICE & QUALIFICATION REQUIREMENTS (01/09/15)
(No. B/382) Mr G. Lesjongard (Second Member for Savanne & Black River) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Science Research whether, in regard to the Tertiary Education Commission, she will, for the benefit of the House, obtain therefrom –
(a) information as to the changes brought to the schemes of service and qualification requirements for the posts of Executive Director and Deputy Executive Director thereof respectively, indicating whether there has been an upgrading or a downgrading of the entry qualification requirements in relation thereto and
(b) copy of the schemes of service for the posts of Financial Controller, Head of Finance and of Deputy Finance Controller thereof respectively and table same.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, with regard to section (a) of the question, according to information provided by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC), no change has been brought to the scheme of service and qualification requirements for the post of Executive Director.
Regarding the post of Deputy Executive Director, I wish to inform the House that, at a meeting of the previous Board held in September 2014, it was decided that the scheme of service be amended.
The main changes brought to the scheme of service are as follows -
(i) The qualification requirement has been revised from the previous ‘‘post graduate degree, at doctoral level’’ to a ‘Master’s Degree in the fields of Management or Business Administration or Law or Economics or an equivalent qualification”;
(ii) The requirement for prospective candidates to be at Professorial level has been removed; and
(iii)The experience requirement of “at least ten years teaching and research at tertiary level” has been amended to read “|at least ten years post qualification experience in a senior management position’’.
I view the situation with concern, and the changes brought to the scheme of service appear to be indeed a downgrading of the post without any change in salary.
I am however informed that the new TEC Board has recommended that the scheme of service for the post of Deputy Executive Director be reviewed so as to make it more consonant with the post taking into consideration that the holder will be called upon to, inter-alia, deputise for the post of Executive Director.
With regard to part (b) of the question, a copy of the scheme of service for the post of Financial Controller, Head Finance Division and of the Deputy Finance Controller respectively is being tabled.
Mr Lesjongard: Thank you. Do I understand from the hon. Minister that when the scheme of service was changed at that time, that is, back in September 2014, it was, like we say, taillé sur mesure?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: It would seem so. I would wish the hon. Member to check with his former alliance, maybe this was the case.
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Lesjongard!
Hon. Ganoo: Can I ask one supplementary, please. I listened very carefully to the hon. Minister; I thought I heard her saying that for the post of Deputy Executive Director, the qualifications will be reviewed. Would it be for the case of the Executive Director also?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: The Executive Director has already been appointed according to the former scheme.
Mr Ganoo: What was the requirement needed for the post of Executive Director?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: It was okay.
Mr Lesjongard: May I ask the hon. Minister to inform the House, as it is right now, how many senior officials are holding posts in an acting capacity at the level of the Tertiary Education Commission?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: I don’t have the exact figure, but I know that for the Finance Controller, the post is being occupied by the Deputy Finance Controller on actingship.
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Lesjongard!
UNIVERSITY OF MAURITIUS -VISITOR’S REPORT – RECOMMENDATIONS (29/09/15)
(No. B/590) Mr S. Rughoobur (Second Member for Grand’Baie & Poudre d’Or) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research whether, in regard to the Visitor’s Report dated 25 February 2013 on the ‘Restructuring of the University of Mauritius’, she will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the University, information as to if -
(a) the recommendations thereof have been approved by the Board of the University and;
(i) if not, why not and;
(ii) if so, indicate where matters stand as to the implementation thereof and obtain copy of the evaluation report on the results achieved as at to date, if any, and;
(b) consideration will be given for the redefinition of the mission, vision and objectives of the University in the light of the present day socioeconomic challenges facing Mauritius.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, in reply to part (a) of the question, the University of Mauritius has informed that the then UoM Council unanimously approved the visitor’s report in toto in March 2013.
With regard to part (a) (ii) of the question, as at date, a large number of the recommendations have either been implemented or are in the process of being implemented. A few carry heavy financial implications and will be considered in due course.
Madam Speaker, the University of Mauritius Council has been closely following up the progress of implementation of the recommendations. Five progress reports have already been submitted, the next progress report will be submitted during the forthcoming Council meeting.
With regard to part (b) of the question, Madam Speaker, I wish to inform the House that the University of Mauritius launched its strategic plan for the period 2015/2020 in January 2015. In the course of the formulation of the plan, extensive consultations had been carried out with the relevant stakeholders. In light of the discussions, the earlier visions and missions statements were revisited.
As for the strategic objectives, these have been realigned to more adequately address the socio-economic challenges of the country. In this connection, the University of Mauritius has identified six strategic directions with clear objectives, key action and key performance indicators for each of them. These strategic directions are excellence in teaching and learning, excellence in research and innovation, strategic partnership for internationalisation, enriching student experience, sustainable community engagement and long lasting financial sustainability. A number of core areas to transform the economy have been identified in the economic mission statement vision 2030 presented by the Rt. hon. Prime Minister. Interestingly, some of the ideas in the strategic plan of the University closely parallel the policy directions enunciated in the economic mission statement.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Rughoobur!
Mr Rughoobur: Thank you Madam Speaker. The hon. Minister just stated that the report has been implemented; there were three divisions that were to be created. The planning facilities and services and I think there was a third division – academy I think. I would ask the hon. Minister to confirm that these three divisions have actually been created and adequately staffed and also to confirm because these days we are speaking about the issue of employability. These issues were addressed in that report and the Vice-Chancellor lately stated that there is no mismatch between what are the courses that are being offered by the University and the expectation of the job market. Can she please elaborate on this issue of employability?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: To start with, Madam Speaker, as far as the restructuration is concerned, it is on. The three sections mentioned by the hon. Member are the academia, the planning department and the resource department.
These are for the planning and academia, it has already been done. As far as the resource and facilities section is concerned, first of all, a Committee of the Council has to sit and prepare a report after which only the appointment of the person concerned will be considered. As far as, employability and the courses are concerned, initially it is true that there has been a mismatch in the past but a lot of care is being taken now to ensure that there are consultations between the University of Mauritius and other Tertiary Education Institutions and the private sector. These consultative meetings have been on since 2013, but we have had more consultations done and what is being done right now is that we are trying to come up with a series of courses which have been proposed by the private sector so that we assure that our students once they leave University are adequately equipped to enter the world of work, thereby enhancing their employability.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Fowdar!
Mr Fowdar: Thank you Madam Speaker. I wanted to ask the hon. Minister whether her Ministry is working together with the HRDC in order to look into the issue of carrier guidance, a major cause of labour mismatch on the job market.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Certainly, Madam Speaker. The Human Resource Development Council is working closely with the Ministry and with all the Tertiary Education Institutions with a view of ensuring that the courses that are being dispensed will help students to get employed more readily. Furthermore, a career service centre is being set up at the Registrar’s Office in the meantime the HRDC, the Ministry and the Tertiary Education Institutions are working together.
Mr Baloomoody: The hon. Minister, while mentioning about the implementation of the report, stated that, due to financial constraint, some proposals could not be implemented. If you look at the report of the activities for 2013/2014, it is clearly said that the University of Mauritius still faces financial challenges because of the increasingly competitive tertiary education environment, reduction in Government grants and rising cost of higher education and research. So, can I know, through the hon. Minister, what Government intend to do to assist the University of Mauritius?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: First of all, Madam Speaker, it would be nice to emphasize that the University of Mauritius obtains its funding from the Tertiary Education Commission and for the 2015/2016 budget year, they received Rs504 m. But, over and above this, the University of Mauritius has got fee paying courses from which it obtains funds. There is the University of Mauritius Trust Fund from which it obtains further funds for specific projects and what is also important is that there is an audit being carried out at the level of the University of Mauritius to see where expenses can be cut done and to try to see how more efficiently the funds could be made use of.
Madam Speaker: Last question hon. Rughoobur!
Mr Rughoobur: There has also been another recommendation of the report to set up a unit where the private sector may participate along with the University to ensure that the issue of mismatch is addressed.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, in my answer earlier I mentioned that, as from 2013 only, such consultative meetings are being held by the University of Mauritius and the private sector.
Madam Speaker: Next question, hon. Rughoobur!
STATE LAND DEVELOPMENT COMPANY – UNIVERSITIES – CONSTRUCTION (13/10/15)
(No. B/677) Mr S. Rughoobur (Second Member for Grand’Baie & Poudre d’Or) asked the Minister of Finance and Economic Development whether, in regard to the project for the construction of universities, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the State Land Development Company Ltd., information as to -
(a) the amount of funds invested therein as at to date, indicating the -
(i) names of the consultants and of the selected contractors therefor, and
(ii) expected completion dates thereof, and
(b) if the Company is exempted from the application of the provisions of the Public Procurement Act.
UNIVERSITY OF MAURITIUS & CANBERRA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY - MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING (20/10/15)
(No. B/713) Dr. R. Sorefan (Fourth Member for La Caverne & Phoenix) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research whether, in regard to the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the University of Mauritius and the Canberra Institute of Technology, on 20 February 2013, she will state if there has been, as a result thereof, any –
(a) exchange of students and of academic staff members;
(b) joint research project, and
(c) capacity building for public officer.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I am informed by the University of Mauritius that a Memorandum of Understanding between the University and Canberra Institute of Technology was signed on 20 February 2013. The duration of the MoU is of five years as from the date of signature and is renewable by mutual consent of both parties.
With regard to parts (a), (b) and (c) of the question, I am informed that as at date, there has been no exchange of students, of academic staff members, no joint research project and no capacity building of public officers.
The Faculty of Science of the University of Mauritius did express an initial interest to invite the visiting academic staff in Forensic Science in January 2014.
However, the phasing out of the course after having run for three years and due to this phasing out, this need for the visiting academy staff was no longer felt and, consequently, the Faculty of Science did not receive with the proposals and the matter has, therefore, not been pursued further.
Dr. Sorefan: Will the hon. Minister consider strongly of this MoU, because it will be to the advantage of our staff and students and research fellow that we do implement seriously, very soon?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: In fact, the Canberra Institute of Technology is a leading institution and can do a lot in the training of skilled labour force. I, indeed, will ask the University of Mauritius to consider taking full advantage of this MoU.
STATE LAND DEVELOPMENT COMPANY – UNIVERSITIES –CONSTRUCTION (17/11/15)
(No. B/897) Mr S. Rughoobur (Second Member for Grand’Baie & Poudre d’Or) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research whether, in regard to the project for the construction of universities, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the State Land Development Company Ltd., information as to-
(a) the amount of funds invested therein as at to date, indicating the –
(i) names of the consultants and of the selected contractors therefor, and (
ii) expected completion dates thereof, and
(b) if the Company is exempted from the application of the provisions of the Public Procurement Act.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I am informed that, in 2011, Government took the decision to decentralised the Tertiary Education infrastructure with the setting up of university campuses at Pamplemousses, Montagne Blanche and Réduit. In this context, a Special Purpose Vehicle, the Knowledge Parks Ltd (KPL) was created on 15 May 2013, to own and manage the three campuses. The State Land Development Co Ltd (SLDC) was appointed as the Project Implementing Agency.
As regards part (a) of the question, a total amount of Rs476.3 m. has been invested in the construction of the campuses which have reached near completion.
As regards part (a) (i), the Contractors working on the project are - (1) Hyvec Partners Co. Ltd for the construction of Montagne Blanche Campus and Pamplemousses Campus; (2) Ramloll Bhooshan Renovation & Building Ltd for the construction of Réduit Campus, and (3) Luxconsult (Mtius) Ltd for Consultancy and Design Services
As regards part (a) (ii), the expected completion date of the projects at the three sites is December 2015.
As regards part (b), I am informed that SLDC does not fall under the purview of the Public Procurement Act (PPA). However, for this project, the employer is the Knowledge Parks Ltd which does fall under the PPA, and consequently, I am informed that all procurement exercises had been carried out through the Central Procurement Board (CPB).
Mr Rughoobur: With regard to the budgetary problem that we are having these days with the University of Mauritius, may we know from the hon. Minister, even if these projects are not her doing, whether there has been a forecast of what are the resources in terms of manpower and finances that will be required for implementing these projects in the months and years to come?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, the question relates to the Knowledge Park of Mauritius and, as far as these three campuses are concerned, the funds are available for the completion of this project.
Madam Speaker: Next question, hon. Rughoobur!
UNIVERSITY OF MAURITIUS - CRASH COURSES (24/05/16)
(No. B/491) Mr R. Uteem (First Member for Port Louis South & Port Louis Central) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research whether, in regard to the grant by Government of about Rs80,000 per student per year to cover the cost of tailor made crash courses offered at the University of Mauritius in fields with high job prospects, as announced in the Budget Speech 2015-2016, she will state the amount of money disbursed in relation thereto as at to date -
(a) indicating the number of students who have benefitted therefrom, and
(b) giving details of the crash courses offered.
Reply: Following the 2015-2016 Budget Speech, Government put up a Graduate Training Scheme (GTES), with the main objective of enhancing the employment prospects of the unemployed graduates, by providing them with skills according to the requirements of the evolving job markets.
In this context, a Joint Working Group, co-chaired by my Ministry and Business Mauritius has been set up to oversee the project, with the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) as the implementing arm.
In respect of the Scheme, employers provide inputs for the mounting of appropriate courses based on their particular skills needs. Upon successful completion of the courses, the trainees are employed by the partner industries.
As at 19 May 2016, a total amount of MUR 5,023,660 has been disbursed for seven (7) projects, out of which six (6) are being dispensed in-house by the partner industries and one (1) by the University of Technology, Mauritius. A ‘Post Graduate Diploma in Digital Technologies’ will be offered by the University of Mauritius as from June of this year in collaboration with relevant industry partners.
With regard to part (a) of the question, I am informed that 76 graduates have benefited from the programme.
In respect of part (b), I am tabling the relevant information.
UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY OF MAURITIUS –
DIRECTOR GENERAL – INVESTIGATIONS (07/06/16)
(No. B/535) Mr S. Mohamed (First Member for Port Louis Maritime & Port Louis East) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research whether, in regard to the Director General of the University of Technology of Mauritius (UTM), she will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the UTM, information as to the number of investigations initiated by the Independent Commission against Corruption against the incumbent thereof, indicating the matters to which the investigations relate.
Reply (Prime Minister): I am advised that as the Independent Commission against Corruption operates strictly in a confidential manner, the University of Technology is not in a position to know whether or not the Independent Commission against Corruption has initiated any investigation against its Director. Moreover, by virtue of section 81 of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PoCA), no information relating to any investigation being carried out by the Independent Commission against Corruption can be divulged.
TERTIARY EDUCATION – AUDIT & INSTITUTIONS (05/07/16)
(No. B/697) Mr D. Sesungkur (First Member for Montagne Blanche & GRSE) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research whether, in regard to the Tertiary Education Commission, she will, for the benefit of the House, obtain therefrom, information as to –
(a) the composition of the Board of Management thereof;
(b) if an audit of the tertiary education sector has recently been carried out and, if so, indicate the main observations thereof and, if not, why not;
(c) the number of approved tertiary institutions as at to date, and
(d) since January 2015 to date, the names of the institutions in respect of which the licences have –
(i) been revoked, and
(ii) been issued.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, the Board of the Tertiary Education Commission has last been constituted in March 2015 with Mr Surendra Bissoondoyal as the Chairman and Mrs Nema Devi Goorah, Permanent Secretary at my Ministry as my representative on the Board. I am tabling the current composition of the Board.
With regard to part (b) of the question, Madam Speaker, I am informed by the Commission that there has been no sector wise audit of the tertiary education sector. However, the Tertiary Education Commission has carried out periodic academic audits at the University of Technology, Mauritius (UTM), the University of Mauritius, the MIE and the MGI in 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively.
It is planning a second cycle of audit at the UTM as well as the first cycle of audit at the Open University of Mauritius and l’Université des Mascareignes in 2017. This is in line with section 4A of the Tertiary Education Commission Act which states that and I quote –
“(1) In furtherance of its objects, the Commission shall-
(h) undertake periodic academic audits of institutions offering postsecondary education in Mauritius (…).”
Madam Speaker, as to part (c) of the question, I am further informed that today there are 54 registered tertiary education institutions which are operational.
In regard to part (d) (i) of the question, I am informed that the registration of the London Graduate School, as a tertiary educational institution, was revoked on 26 April 2016.
As to part (d) (ii) of the question, Madam Speaker, I am also advised that since January 2015, five institutions have been granted registration to operate as Tertiary Education Institutions, and these are –
(i) Greenwich University Pakistan;
(ii) Atlantis Business School;
(iii) African Leadership College;
(iv) Amity Global Business School, and
(v) The Ceridian Learning Centre Ltd.
Mr Sesungkur: Madam Speaker, can I know from the hon. Minister how many foreign students are currently studying in Mauritius and how are we progressing with the plan to make Mauritius a knowledge hub of reputation?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I am afraid I do not have this particular information as it is not related to the question.
Mr Uteem: Madam Speaker, with respect to education institutions which were offering courses and taking money from the public when, in fact, they did not have the necessary authorisation from India and elsewhere, can I know from the hon. Minister whether any legal action had been taken against these institutions by the TEC?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I would like to have exact information regarding which institution in particular the hon. Member is referring to because I do not have this particular information right now.
Mr Baloomoody: Some of these institutions have closed down. Have there been any students who have been penalised in the process or have they been transferred in other intuitions to carry on their course?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, we do not have any such record at the TEC regarding students who have been penalised. Normally, when such things happen, the students are conveyed to other institutions.
UNIVERSITY OF MAURITIUS - RESEARCH PAPERS – PUBLICATION (22/11/16)
(No. B/965) Mr S. Rughoobur (Second Member for Grand’ Baie & Poudre d’Or) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research whether, in regard to the research papers, she will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the University of Mauritius, information as to the number thereof published by the University over the past twenty-four months, including by the Academia of the University for the years 2015 and 2016 respectively, indicating the –
(a) incentives provided therefor, and
(b) findings that have been beneficial to the economy.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I am informed by the University of
Mauritius that all publications at the University are done either by the academic staff alone as single author or in collaboration with other colleagues or with students as co-authors. Thus, the number of publications by the academia of the University is equal to the total number of publications by the University.
The University has further informed that, over the past 24 months, that is, from
November 2014 to date, 401 research papers have been published. 275 were published during the period November 2014 to November 2015 and 126 from November 2015 to date.
Madam Speaker, research goes a long way towards contributing to wealth creation, transfer of technology and for environmental, social and cultural development of Mauritius.
I am further informed that incentives for research at the University of Mauritius
include stipends to MPhil and PhD students, documentation, provision of lab expenses, book allowances and Internet allowances amongst others. Moreover, staff members are allowed sabbatical leaves during their tenure at the University of Mauritius. The University of Mauritius has also proposed a Research Credit Scheme which is presently being studied at the level of the Tertiary Education Commission.
Madam Speaker, research leads to the creation of knowledge and dissemination and application of this knowledge is what brings benefit to society. Over and above the funds of the University of Mauritius and international agencies for the purpose of research, the Mauritius Research Council has funds to the tune of Rs80 m. for the conduct of research provided it is relevant to economy, industry and society at large.
In regard to part (b) of the question, I am informed that applied research conducted at the University of Mauritius in the fields of engineering, agriculture, tourism, law, medicine, slavery and indenture, computing, environmental science, marine and ocean sciences amongst others have proved useful for the public and private sectors. The University of Mauritius has recently put up a Knowledge Transfer Office which will make results of research more accessible to industry and society at large.
As far as engineering is concerned, the Institution of Engineers Mauritius has shown an interest in promoting the practical aspects of research carried out at the University of Mauritius.
Madam Speaker: Yes, hon. Rughoobur!
Mr Rughoobur: Let me thank the hon. Minister for her reply. The hon. Minister will recall that only last year the Plan of Action defined for the University 2015-2020, as she rightly pointed out, defined the introduction of the Research Credit Scheme (RCS). May I ask the hon. Minister the reasons for which today the Tertiary Education Commission has kept in abeyance so much so that - I must table this letter - the Vice-Chancellor has written a long letter to the Tertiary Education Commission as if to convince the Tertiary Education Commission to please approve the funds?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: As I have just mentioned, Madam Speaker, the
University of Mauritius has come up with a Research Credit Programme which has been submitted to the Tertiary Education Commission and the new Director at the level of the Tertiary Education Commission is presently studying the project and will certainly provide funds for research as long as it is within the relevance required.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Osman Mahomed!
Mr Mahomed: Thank you, Madam Speaker. May I ask the hon. Minister to enlighten the House as to the mechanism that is available at the level of her Ministry still in optimizing resources for the benefit of the country? How do we avoid duplication of research being done at the level of the University of Mauritius and other universities and the one being conducted at the Mauritius Research Council which still falls under her Ministry if I believe?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: In fact, the Tertiary Education Commission has to look at the research projects submitted but each university operates on its own. It is true that there may be cases of duplication but, normally, the supervisor of the student carrying out the research or the researcher will have to make sure that there is no duplication and also avoid cases of plagiat.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Rughoobur!
Mr Rughoobur: The hon. Minister would agree that this whole issue of research
component is very important in the ranking of universities. May I request the hon. Minister if she can enlighten the House as to the status with regard to ranking because when we refer to the report - there was a report on this whole issue of ranking of the University in 2014 – in 2012 from the 22nd position in the whole African continent, the rating fell in 2014 to 88th?
May I know what is the status today?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, the rating of a university does not
depend on a sole factor. It depends on a range of factors and, at one point in time, there was a mention made about the amount of research carried out at the University but the University is taking the steps required to upgrade and increase the amount of research done. Furthermore, the Mauritius Research Council has put at the disposition of researchers in Mauritius and the various universities funds for carrying out research. So, there are two things that we have to bear in mind: research for the purpose of industry, now that a link has been established between University and the industry, we hope that this will get promoted and then also
research which is run because of the interest of the researcher. So, we have to consider all that and the ranking is not solely dependent on research work carried out at the University.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Baloomoody!
Mr Baloomoody: Can I ask the hon. Minister whether there is a set criteria used at the University for giving incentives or certain facilities for those who want to do research and, if so, will she be prepared to lay on the Table of the Assembly the criteria that one needs to benefit from these facilities?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I have just mentioned in my answer that there are stipends given, there are expenses for documentation, Internet…
Students wishing to carry research are normally given the required support. There are no criteria for that. A student studying and carrying out his research or doing his PhD will obviously be going for research!
Mr Baloomoody: Is the hon. Minister saying that each and every student who wants to do a research will benefit from financial assistance from the University in his or her department?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: We don’t talk about financial assistance for research. We have funds for a research depending on the field of study and there is a selection obviously of research and the researchers are provided support.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Uteem!
Mr Uteem: Thank you, Madam Speaker. The hon. Minister mentioned 400 papers.
Is he aware of the number of papers published by the Lecturers of the Law Department because there is absolutely no record of any comments made by the Law Department on any law legislation passed by this House or any judgment given by the Supreme Court?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, from my records here, I find that from the Faculty of Law and Management, I have got a total of 56 papers that have been published between the period of January 2013 to November 2016.
Madam Speaker: The Table has been advised that PQs B/1005 and B/1008 have
been withdrawn. I suspend the sitting for one and half hours.
At 1.01 p.m. the sitting was suspended.
On resuming at 2.34 p.m. with Madam Speaker in the Chair.
KNOWLEDGE PARKS - UNIVERSITY CAMPUSES – CONSTRUCTION (25/04/17)
(No. B/313) Mr B. Jahangeer (Third Member for Rivière des Anguilles &
Souillac) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research whether, in regard to the construction of the three new university campuses completed in 2016, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from Knowledge Parks Ltd./Polytechnics Mauritius Ltd., information as to the –
(a) name of the contractor thereof, and
(b) contract value thereof.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I am informed that the Knowledge
Parks Ltd., as a fully owned Government company, was set up as a Special Purpose Vehicle, to own and manage the three new university campuses at Pamplemousses, Montagne Blanche and Reduit.
The State Land Development Company Ltd. acted as the main project implementation agency of the three campuses and Luxconsult (Mtius) Ltd. provided consultancy services for the planning, design and construction of the three campuses.
Madam Speaker, bids for the construction of the main buildings at the three main sites were launched through the Central Procurement Board in October 2013 following which, awards of contracts were made to the following bidders –
(a) Hyvec Partners for the amount of Rs325 m. (VAT exempt) for the
Pamplemousses Campus and Rs304,958,786 (VAT exempt) for the Montagne
Blanche Campus, and
(b) Ramloll Bhooshan Renovation and Building Ltd. for the amount of
Rs72,318,843 for the Reduit campus.
Mr Jahangeer: Can the hon. Minister confirm if there have been delays in the
execution of these projects and thus any penalty applied?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I am informed that there has been no
delay and no cost overrun.
Dr. Sorefan: Regarding the campus at Montagne Blanche, could the hon. Minister
inform the House whether it has been completed - I think it is, because there has been a university. May we know from the hon. Minister what procedures have been followed to award this place to that university?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: I am sorry, Madam Speaker, the Montagne Blanche
campus has not been allocated to any university. It is going to be used as Polytechnics Mauritius and will be running courses for hospitability and tourism by the Government.
Mr Mohamed: I thank the hon. Minister for saying that the project started by the
previous Government. At least, she is honest enough to admit that; there has been no delay and no cost overrun. How does she reconcile the fact that this has been really put up so well by the previous Government, ended up with three beautiful buildings and with the analysis of the National Director of Audit report that criticises this actual Government for leaving resources of that nature to lay idle and not to make good use for such important resource to the nation?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, let me inform the House that the former Government had decided to put up these campuses to be leased to universities coming from abroad and to recollect money spent on these buildings, whereas this Government is coming up with a new policy of setting up polytechnics to ensure that we get the manpower required for the Vision 2030 for the country.
Mr Baloomoody: One of the concerns expressed by the Director of Audit is that now Government intends to have – what is called – the Knowledge Park Limited. This Knowledge Park Limited will be a private company where Parliament will have an absence of control. There will be no parliamentary control of that private company. This is the concern of the Audit. Can I ask the hon. Minister whether she will give an undertaking that questions will be answered in this Parliament regarding the management of the building under the Knowledge Park Limited?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, Knowledge Park Limited has been put up to ensure the rapid setting up of the polytechnics and the management of these institutions.
As far as transparency is concerned, this Government will make sure that everything is done in a proper, transparent and clean manner.
Madam Speaker: The Table has been advised that PQs B/323, B/316, B/320 have
been withdrawn. Time is over!
UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY OF MAURITIUS - INFRASTRUCTURE (09/05/17)
(No. B/389) Mr V. Baloomoody (Third Member for GRNW & Port Louis West) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research whether, in regard to the University of Technology of Mauritius, she will, for the benefit of the House, obtain therefrom, information as to the actions taken to ensure that –
(a) the students thereof are allowed to study in a perfect environment on the campus thereof, and
(b) prompt actions are taken on the issues raised by the students.
(Vide Reply to PNQ)
ORAL ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
UTM – RECRUITMENT & INFRASTRUCTURE (09/05/17)
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr X. L. Duval) (by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research whether, in regard to the University of Technology Mauritius, she will state if she has taken cognizance of the –
(a) dismal academic performance thereat;
(b) deteriorating morale of the teaching and non-teaching staff thereof;
(c) deteriorating state of infrastructure and equipment thereof;
(d) urgent need to improve the management thereof, and
(e) University’s request for an increase in the student fees and, if so, indicate the actions taken by her Ministry in relation thereto, if any.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, with your permission, I will answer to PQ B/389 along with the PNQ, as they relate to the same issue.
Madam Speaker, the UTM is a public university set up in year 2000 by an Act of
Parliament. UTM recruits students as per entry requirements as approved by the Academic Council and its Board. UTM has revised its programmes and reviewed the courses which now also include work placements.
It currently offers courses at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels. The University currently offers around 60 courses, 40 courses at undergraduate level and 20 at post-graduate level. Over the last 3 years, the University has consistently produced over 1000 graduates yearly.
Moreover, the UTM has set up its School of Health Sciences in October 2015 and since December 2016, the University is on the list of recognised medical institutions of the Medical Council of Mauritius.
With regard to part (a) of the question, I wish to inform the House that, in 2016, UTM obtained the Africa Education Leadership Award that further reflects the quality of Higher Education dispensed by the University.
Moreover, from 2015 to date, UTM has consistently obtained a third of the MPhil/ PhD scholarships awarded by the Tertiary Education Commission (6 out of 19), indicating the quality of the programme of studies at the University.
All the above indicate that it is unfair and inaccurate to say that the academic performance at UTM is dismal.
However, that being said, the academic quality is a core concern for any tertiary education institution and the aim is to constantly improve on quality. The UTM has a Quality Assurance Unit which was set up in 2005. The University also undergoes cyclic Quality Audit, commissioned by the Tertiary Education Commission and carried out by international practitioners. UTM is to submit an evaluation report on the level of its quality in August 2017 and its next External Quality Audit will be carried out by the Tertiary Education Commission in November 2017.
Also, the Tertiary Education Commission is creating capacity building exercises in all tertiary education institutions through workshops and seminars on quality assurance in higher education institutions.
Moreover, a VC and Director General Committee has been set up to discuss national higher educational issues and to ensure systematic implementation of policies and processes.
The Government is also promoting research in higher education institutions and UTM is also being encouraged to improve its research capabilities.
The new Tertiary Education Commission Director is also personally sitting on the Academic Council meetings to ensure that quality of programmes are being adhered to.
Madam Speaker, with regard to part (b) of the question, the UTM has a staff of 152 persons, and the fact that the University has obtained the Africa Education Leadership award is reflective of the state of affairs and quality delivery at the University.
Madam Speaker, let us be honest with ourselves. In any large organisation, there are bound to be some staffing issues. This applies as well to the UTM, and the House can rest assured that the University management is looking into these on a case-to case basis, and in a spirit of dialogue with all parties concerned.
One of the issues raised relates to the shortage of staff. It is, in this context, important to note that the UTM management has already initiated actions to fill in vacant positions on a priority basis. As for senior staffing positions such as Human Resource Management Officers, Health and Safety Officers and the Head of School of the Health Sciences, these have already been filled. Action is also being taken by the UTM for the filling of 45 other posts at the level of the University.
In light of the above, claiming that there is a deterioration of the morale at the institution would be extreme and unfair.
Madam Speaker, with regard to part (c) of the PNQ, I am informed that, at the origin, the University of Technology Mauritius, in the year 2000, consisted of essentially 2 buildings, that is, the ex-MIPAM and the ex-SITRAC buildings. These are Ground+1 and Ground+2 buildings respectively, situated adjacent to one another.
These buildings had initially been built as training centres, with classrooms only and had as such not been designed to serve as university infrastructure.
In 2007, a Ground+1 Plaza was constructed as complement to these buildings to enable students to have a proper working environment.
Other infrastructural improvement and maintenance works carried out this year were waterproofing works on the building, housing the central administration and the School of Innovative Technologies, painting works, in addition to the setting up of a new canteen for students and staff.
Further, with regard to the premises of the University, action is being taken by the Administration of the University to repair lighting system in the playground as well as fog lights, etc on the premises.
Health and Science laboratory equipment have also been purchased. Arrangements have been made for the purchase of office materials, printers, office furniture, smoke detectors and also sport equipments.
Madam Speaker, the capital budget of Rs11m. was made available to the University for the financial year 2016/2017 for infrastructure improvement and upgrading works, as well as the purchase of additional equipment to improve the working and study environment of the students and staff. Given the scope of the necessary infrastructural works identified, the capital budgets allocated these past few years have not been sufficient.
Since last year, several meetings have been held with students pertaining to infrastructure. UTM has made a request for funds in connection with the following -
(1) Extension of the students’ common room;
(2) The second and third phases of the University Integrated Information System;
(3) Improvement to existing building and purchase of equipment and furniture;
(4) Construction of a UTM tower on the land vested by the Ministry. My Ministry has already put at the disposal of the UTM a plot of land at La Tour Koenig for this purpose. This will be an educational building which will house facilities for university students.
Madam Speaker, proposals are being made in the context of the Budget 2017/2018 for funds to be made available for infrastructure improvement under a dedicated fund. This will enable UTM to address the issue of infrastructural improvement on a fast track mode.
My Ministry has already engaged into discussions with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to pursue on these proposals in the context of the forthcoming Budget.
Madam Speaker, with a view to improving the state of affairs, the Ministry is, in fact, working with all public institutions of Higher Learning and has invested them with the task of working towards the provision of a workforce that will enable the overall development of Mauritius. And, in this context, the UTM Management is taking action to tackle all issues at the University, including the issue of shortage of staff.
The UTM has been taking relevant steps in the right direction and hence, recruitment has become effective for senior positions and others, as I have mentioned earlier, will be recruited in due time. The University has also managed last year to set up its School of Health Sciences and this has allowed its recognition at the level of the Medical Council.
Madam Speaker, with regard to part (e) of the question, I would like to draw the attention of the House that UTM operates as a fee charging institution and its main source of revenue are from student fees along with a subsidy from Government to the tune of Rs11m. for this financial year. I would like to highlight here that since the setting up of the UTM in year 2000, the fee structure has remained unchanged.
In view thereof, my Ministry has made a strong plea to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development for an increase in the subsidy to the UTM for the next financial year. In addition, the University is, through its Board of Governors, exploring all possibilities regarding external sources of revenue for the institution.
Mr X. L. Duval: Madam Speaker, my question was what has been done in view of, what I maintain, the dismal situation there, but I will come to that, Madam Speaker.
I would like to ask the Minister whether she is aware that this fantastic University that has won a bidon leadership award, is ranked 239th - not in the world, Madam Speaker - in Africa, behind University of Ouagadougou, behind whatever everywhere in Africa. This University is 7,700th worldwide and 239th in Africa! What is being done to upgrade this University?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I have just mentioned that all tertiary institutions should be aiming at improving the state of affairs as far as quality is concerned. University of Technology Mauritius has been set up some 17 years back. It is growing and it is doing fairly well.
Now, I have just mentioned all the measures that are being taken at the level of the Administration of the University and at the level of my Ministry to provide the necessary scaffolds for the University to continue upgrading its capacities.
Now, if we talk about ranking of universities, then we can go and try to look for each and every university that has been set up over the past 50 years, we will find that the ranking does not come up solely on output results, but also on facilities, research capabilities and a number of other items.
So, Madam Speaker, I still maintain that the University of Technology has still a long way to go, has still improvements to make, but still it is doing fairly well.
Mr X. L. Duval: In the same ranking, the University of Mauritius is 51st, so we can do better. Even in Africa, it is terrible. We are used to be first in Africa everywhere except for universities.
Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the Minister what is being proposed to reverse the fall in student enrolment which, I understand, has fallen by 20% in March 2017 compared to March 2016?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, in Mauritius we are having a demographic decline. We all know that the student population is declining and this is related to demography.
Secondly, we must say that, at the level of the UTM, they have taken measures to improve on their entry requirements and, in fact, even the Ministry has given instructions that, as from this year onwards, entry requirements have to be upgraded. So, normally when we take up such measures, we do expect that the number of entries would decline and we must not forget that the Tertiary Education landscape is changing in Mauritius. Today, we have about 60 tertiary education institutions and, obviously, there will be a sharing of the student population.
Mr X. L. Duval: With the fall in student enrolment, the university itself is in jeopardy. I would like to ask the hon. Minister - she has said the requirements are being upgraded, I understand that now the University is enrolling students with only one ‘A’ Level.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, as from this year we have already given instructions to all tertiary institutions to ensure that all degree courses enrol students having three GCE ‘A’ Levels or two ‘A’ Levels plus two subsidiaries or three ‘A’ Levels plus one subsidiary.
This is the case for all degree courses. As for diploma courses, two ‘A’ Levels or at times in certain cases less is accepted depending on the course being dispensed.
Mr X. L. Duval: This must be something new. Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. Minister whether she is aware that the University advertised six courses which had not been approved at all by the Academic Council, took the money of the unfortunate students who wanted to study, never gave the money back and of the six courses, only two were finally approved by the Academic Council.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, the Tertiary Education Commission is following the situation closely and they are taking necessary measures to ensure that no students are penalised in any way.
Mr X. L. Duval: Surely, Madam Speaker, this is not sufficient, this is not acceptable. These people have paid for the courses and disciplinary action should be taken against whoever is responsible for this maldonne.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I am advised that in reality all the programmes for the March 2017 intake have been approved by the Academic Council.
Mr X. L. Duval: Madam Speaker, I want to know whether the six courses in the Health Sciences - we can come back on this if the hon. Minister is being misled - were advertised, none of them had previously been approved by the Academic Council which is the requirement and only two were finally approved?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I am aware of this particular case and I have been told that there was, in fact, a technical problem in the procedures and eventually it was rectified.
Mr X. L. Duval: Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. Minister whether this must be one of the only Universities in the world with no actual Professor working at that University.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, to become a Professor there are certain requirements. You need a number of years of service, you need a number of papers that you have submitted and you need to have published certain papers. If as yet no one has done it, I cannot expect them to have Professors. There is a proper procedure to nominate Professors. So, I expect that the University under the guidance of the Tertiary Education Commission will do the same.
Mr X. L. Duval: Madam Speaker, may I ask the hon. Minister whether she is aware that there has been no promotion for academic staff for the last six years and no promotion for non-academic staff for the last nine years?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, the UTM administration has informed the Ministry about this and necessary measures are being taken to provide the UTM with necessary funds to carry out these nominations. As I have said, prior to promotions, officers need to acquire new qualifications. We are talking about a University, we cannot just nominate and promote people until and unless we are satisfied that they have the necessary qualifications.
Mr X. L. Duval: No surprise that staff morale is low, if you have not had any promotion exercise for the last nine years! Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. Minister …
… whether she is aware of the five cases of harassment of staff whereby there have been public insults and general harassment leading to two cases of people being hospitalised and two police cases.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I have not been informed of any cases of harassment and in case there are such industrial issues, I am sure that it should be reported to us and necessary actions would be taken. I would also like to inform the House that the Tertiary Education Commission does follow such issues with the tertiary institutions.
Mr X. L. Duval: I will come back to the TEC in a moment. Madam Speaker, coming to the infrastructure, I have taken the trouble of taking some pictures, myself, in fact, and you will see that this University is still using latrines. Old style latrines! (Interruptions) You can laugh in a moment!
Stray dogs everywhere! No WIFI for the last year! This is the University of Technology in Mauritius which has no WIFI for the last one year, Madam Speaker. Look at the benches! People are meant to sit in the mud. This is what is supposed to be the creation of the Education Hub in Mauritius. I will table these pictures, Madam Speaker.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I have just informed the House in what condition the UTM was set up and how gradually measures were taken to improve the infrastructure. Now, what we are doing is that we are ensuring that they are getting a plot of land and they will be coming up with a UTM Tower. So, we have to give time. I do agree that the conditions are not ideal, but then we are a young country and the UTM is a University that has been set up only 15 years back. So, I cannot expect everything to get perfect overnight. I would like to add, Madam Speaker, that all the improvements that have been brought to the UTM have been over the past two years and I cannot make for the 15 years.
Mr X. L. Duval: Madam Speaker, …
(Interruptions) Madam Speaker: Order, please! Order!
Mr X. L. Duval: Madam Speaker, I would like to bring ...
Madam Speaker: Order! Hon. Shakeel Mohamed!
Mr X. L. Duval: I would like to bring to the attention of the hon. Minister ...
Madam Speaker: Hon. Shakeel Mohamed, please, don’t make provocations, I said!
Mr X. L. Duval: ... that as at today’s date with only one month left to the end of the Budget year, only Rs2 m. of the Capital budget has been spent up to now. Is she aware of that?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, all infrastructural projects have to be done following procedures. If procedures sometimes take time, we have to abide by it.
Mr X. L. Duval: Is the hon. Minister aware that in five offices belonging to the staff of the UTM, there is no electricity, including the office of the Director General, herself, and they are using extension at the University of Technology.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Shakeel Mohamed, please! I am drawing your attention several times now.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, since we are talking about WIFI, I am informed that there are five new WIFI spots that will be operational this week at the University.
This week! So, the hon. Leader of the Opposition has the information!
Madam Speaker: Hon. Leader of the Opposition, you have asked your question.
From a sitting position, please, do not interrupt the hon. Minister!
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, as far as electrical supply is concerned, in fact, the UTM does have its electrical supply and as I have mentioned earlier, maintenance work has to be carried out.
(Interruptions) Madam Speaker: Hon. Jhugroo!
Mr X. L. Duval: I am happy to see that the WIFI is coming this week, thank God! Now, let me tell the hon. Minister something else. There are no printers, no photocopiers for students’ use. Concerning the equipment at the UTM, the software is so outdated that nobody can use it and it does not match with everything else. I have mentioned the stray dogs. The projectors are broken. It’s a disaster!
Madam Speaker: No. Ask your question, don’t provide information!
Mr X. L. Duval: Madam Speaker, it’s a complete disaster.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I have just mentioned in my answer that procurement procedures are being undertaken for procurement of office equipment for the office work as well as for students.
Mr X. L. Duval: Madam Speaker, if the hon. Minister who has never ...
Madam Speaker: Hon. Rutnah!
Mr X. L. Duval: If the hon. Minister …
Madam Speaker: I am sorry, hon. Leader of the Opposition!
Hon. Rutnah, did you make any remarks on the Chair? If you did, I will ask you kindly to withdraw it.
Mr Rutnah: Madam Speaker, I did not make any remarks on the Chair. I simply asked the hon. Leader of the Opposition to give way for backbenchers as well to ask questions.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Rutnah, let me just draw your attention to the Standing Orders that the Private Notice Question is the privilege of the Leader of the Opposition. I have seen several hon. Members from the Opposition side also who have asked the floor, but I cannot give them the floor unless and until the hon. Leader of the Opposition has exhausted his questions.
Mr X. L. Duval: Madam Speaker, the hon. Member does not know his front from his back because he seems to be sitting in the front. Madam Speaker, he should know the difference between front and back.
Madam Speaker, I want to ask the hon. Minister quite seriously. She should visit, she has not visited …
No, she went to a function there, she did not visit the premises.
(Interruptions) Madam Speaker: Ask your question!
Mr X. L. Duval: I know. I don’t come with questions without knowing. Now, I would like to ask and invite the hon. Minister to visit because I think she is being given all sorts of information. Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. Minister whether it would not be essential, appropriate for this University to move to one of the new campuses that have been built, say in Pamplemousses and this, in fact, would be a solution to all the problems that are being witnessed.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, the University of Mauritius has just asked the Ministry support for it to come up with its UTM Tower. The building at Pamplemousses has got another mandate.
It is a polytechnic and if ever there is need for space, at the level of the Ministry and in consultation with the Tertiary Institution, we can envisage giving space. But then I understand from what I have received as request from the UTM that they are planning to come up with their own infrastructure, with their own building, so we will move in that direction.
Mr X. L. Duval: Madam Speaker, I would like to come to the grant from the Ministry of Finance. This UTM receives about a tenth, one-tenth of the grant that people going to University of Mauritius. I would like to ask the hon. Minister whether in view of the fact that there are poor families going there, some of these students maybe have not achieved as much, but they deserve a better fate than they are getting now.
I would like to really ask the Ministry of Finance, through the Ministry of Education, that this grant be substantially increased, doubled or trebled to give these poor children from poor families a chance.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I must say that the present Prime Minister and Minister of Finance has shown that he has at heart the future of the children of this country and will take necessary measures to support all the student community of this country. I have no doubt about it.
Mr X. L. Duval: Well, Madam Speaker, I would have expected a commitment, better commitment from the Minister. I would like to say, Madam Speaker, that everything points to one problem at that University and I do not know if she will agree. Everything points to the new Director General, Mrs Ghoorah, everything points to there. She is conflictual, she cannot get on with people, she does not lead anything, she puts in procedures which are so heavy that nobody can get any capital expenditure.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Leader of the Opposition, ask your question!
Mr X. L. Duval: I am going to ask the question.
Madam Speaker: Ask your question! Now, do not make remarks on somebody who is not in the House to defend herself. I have said that several times.
Mr X. L. Duval: Is the hon. Minister going to get rid of this person and appoint someone who is not a political appointee to that post?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, the Director of the UTM has been appointed on the basis of her qualifications and competencies. I must say that when I took over the Ministry, the UTM had for the past, let’s say, 12 years failed to come up with a proper Faculty of Health
Sciences and the present Director managed to do it.
Secondly, the present Director has managed to change the number of courses provided from 47 to 60 and, according to me, she is delivering.
Now, it would be unfair for me to stand in this House and to point a finger at one individual for all problems and issues that are at the UTM when she has been there for only two years and the problems listed by the hon. Leader of the Opposition date as far back as 10 to 15 years. So,
Madam Speaker, let us be fair and let us be true to ourselves. I think that such comments on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition on the Director of the UTM are totally unwarranted.
Mr X. L. Duval: I would like to ask the hon. Minister whether she is aware that this Director General comes to work at noon every day.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I am not aware of this.
(Interruptions) Madam Speaker: Hon. Baloomoody!
Mr Baloomoody: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I get the feeling that the papers which are sent to the hon. Minister by the staff are not correct. There are six courses which have been published. The Minister just mentioned the Faculty of Health. Is she aware that there is a course which is called Diploma in Pharmacy Technician which was advertised in December 2016 without the approval of the Academic Council? The Director of TEC had to intervene and reprimand the Director General for her action and this course was subsequently approved …
Madam Speaker: What is the hon. Member’s question?
Mr Baloomoody: But I have to make my point…
Madam Speaker: No, I have given the hon. Member time…
Mr Baloomoody: On 22 March and up to date, students have paid their fees, this course is not still being run.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Baloomoody, what is your question?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I have just mentioned, in my answer, that there was a procedural problem with regard to these courses.
The Tertiary Education Commission has done the necessary and this shows, as mentioned by the hon. Member, that the Director of TEC did intervene, which shows that we have a system, a regulatory body that is functioning properly, that whenever there is some maldonne, some mistake, the TEC will redress the situation.
Madam Speaker: Hon Ganoo!
Mr Ganoo: Is the hon. Minister aware that the UTM Act provides that the accounts of the UTM and a report must be laid annually on the Table of the Assembly and for years this has not been done?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: I thank the hon. Member for drawing my attention to that and I will make sure that this is done.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Shakeel Mohamed!
Mr Mohamed: Thank you, Madam Speaker, it is clear from all the answers that the hon. Minister has given, that the students of UTM are not benefitting and are not having a proper place where education is being dispensed neither in terms of equipment, neither in terms of quality.
Madam Speaker: Ask your question!
Mr Mohamed: In the light of such decrepit situation that is being described under her watch, would she consider that all those students who are not being given what they are being paying for, that they be refunded all the fees that they have paid in the light of not taking advantage and abusing those students, playing with their future and throwing their future aside which she is doing?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, then I would request the hon. Member to mention whether we should also ask to refund students for over the past 15 years!
Mr Rutnah: Madam Speaker, can the hon. Minister confirm that on 23 December 2016, the Cabinet took note that UTM would be added to the list of institutions that is going to be added and recognised by the Medical Council for dispensing high level courses in Health Sciences and if that is not an indication of success and prosperity, then what is it?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: I totally agree with the hon. Member.
Mr Baloomoody: Can I ask the hon. Minister whether she is aware that there is no communication whatsoever between the Student Unions and the Director General? So, can I ask the hon. Minister what actions she intends to take to improve communication between the Unions at the University? This is very important. Academic freedom is very important and we need that and this is totally absent due to the attitude of the Director General.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I am informed that the management of the UTM has had meetings with the Student Unions.
Madam Speaker: Last question, hon. Leader of the Opposition.
Mr X. L. Duval: Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. Minister, in view of the fact that they have about 3,500 students basically from poor families studying there. On this side, we agree that the situation is terrible, she is saying that the situation apparently is fine. The Prime Minister has the right under the law to appoint an inquiry...
Madam Speaker: Yes, hon. Leader of the Opposition, once again, I will ask you to ask your questions, please!
Mr X. L. Duval: The Prime Minister has the right to inquire, to appoint an inquiry. Will she, at least, agree - so that the future of these poor students are not jeopardised - on the Prime Minister setting up an inquiry to see who is telling the truth?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, whenever the need will arise, the Government will take the necessary decision.
Madam Speaker: Time is over. Hon. Members, the Table has been advised that PQ B/357, in regard to the Director of the Independent Broadcasting Authority will be replied by the hon. Minister of Technology, Communication and Innovation. PQ B/370 in regard to the members of the Commission of Inquiry on drugs will be replied by the hon. Prime Minister, time permitting.
Hon. Adrien Duval!
Mr Bhagwan: On a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam Speaker: Yes, can we take your point of order at the end of Question Time, please?
University of Mauritius/Dental College
UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY MAURITIUS - INFRASTRUCTURE – UPGRADING (24/04/18)
(No. B/272) Mr P. Armance (First Member for GRNW & Port Louis West) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research whether, in regard to the University of Technology Mauritius, she will state where matters stand as to the proposed –
(a) refurbishment work to be carried out thereat, and
(b) construction of a new campus therefor.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, for the past years, Government has been placing a sustained emphasis on upgrading the infrastructural conditions prevailing at the University of Technology, Mauritius (UTM) so that the students and staff may benefit from a more conducive environment.
When this Government took over in December 2014, the infrastructure at the UTM was in a deplorable state. Since then, Government has injected significant funds for infrastructure improvement and upgrading works at the UTM. For this financial year, an additional amount of Rs25 m. was made available to university for continued infrastructure improvement.
Accordingly, specifications and scope of works for the extension of the student’s common room are being prepared and tenders will be launched soon.
The estimated project cost is around Rs10 m. In parallel and in reply to part (b) of the question, the House may wish to note that the procedures have been initiated for the construction of a seven-floor tower, adjacent to the present premises. Owing to the scope of the project, which might be around some Rs900 m., relevant documents have been forwarded to the Public Investment
Management Unit (PIMU) of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development in March last. Financial clearance is now awaited and necessary budgetary provision will be made in the coming financial years.
Madam Speaker, having said so, I would like to highlight here, that since I took
office, a number of key infrastructural projects for the welfare of the students and the staff have been completed and are ongoing. Some of them are: renovation of the toilet blocks, upgrading of football and basketball pitches, land clearing and fencing works, paving of the premises, installation of two 6,000 litres fibre water tanks, upgrading of the electrical networking, including emergency lighting, installation of fire alarm system, purchase of IT equipment and lab consolidation of the security system, purchase of equipment for students and the establishment of a Health Science Laboratory.
Madam Speaker, my Ministry is working closely with the management of the UTM to see to it that the projects are on track and that the budget allocated are being used in the most efficient manner.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Armance!
Mr Armance: Thank you, Madam Speaker. In the current financial year, the hon. Prime Minister said that he was going to provide some funds for refurbishment work at the UTM. I would like to know from the hon. Minister what was the sum that was earmarked for the project and what is a sum that has been spent, so far?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I have just mentioned that the funds made available was Rs25 m. and that works are ongoing such as specification and work orders are being prepared and that the projects are going to be launched. As for the exact value of the sum, I don’t have it with me, but I can find it and give it to the hon. Member.
Mr Armance: What about the refurbishment works? The specific question is about refurbishment.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: The refurbishment work has been carried out, as I have mentioned. I can table the list of projects that have already been completed. But, as far as the amount of the budget is concerned, the amount spent, I don’t have the figure with me. I will be ready to submit it to the House.
Mr Armance: Madam Speaker, I want to know from the hon. Minister whether she is aware that on 29 March 2018, there was a letter addressed to the Prime Minister regarding the UTM and all the refurbishment works that have not been done properly there. I have a very long list from the Students’ Union. I can table a copy. I am sure that the hon. Minister got it already. The lifts are still not working. The lights are not working. There is no curtain in the classroom. The famous latrine is still there; benches are still broken. You can have a look.
The air conditioning is not working properly.
Madam Speaker: Okay!
Mr Armance: I have photos that I can give. I want to understand what refurbishment work they have been doing for the last one year. This was brought to the House by the hon. Leader of the Opposition in May last year and, up to now, nothing has been done. I fail to understand the point of the hon. Minister that now this has been done.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, let me inform the House that the photos that were presented by the hon. Leader of the Opposition at the time of the PNQ were photos taken of part of the University that was not used at that point in time.
Now, coming to the question …
Madam Speaker: Please!
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Now, coming to the question of hon. Armance, let me put on the Table of the National Assembly the list of projects that have been completed. May I go back, Madam Speaker, to the list of projects that I had mentioned at the time of the PNQ? I will just give, for the benefit of the hon. Member, the amount of work that has been completed –
• improvement of building and the extension of the common room - I have just
mentioned. The work orders are being prepared;
• upgrading of electrical network, including emergency lighting. The tender is
• installation of fire alarms system; tender has already been launched and the
installation of fire alarms system at the University of Technology (Mauritius)
has already been done;
• upgrading of security services;
• internal surveillance system. Installation of internal camera system has already been completed;
• external surveillance system. Preparation of scope of works and certification
for the installation has been finalised in collaboration with the Mauritius
Police Force and the tender is being launched;
• door access control has already been launched in March 2018, and
• lift - tenders have been launched on 14 February 2018 for the supply and
installation of a lift at the UTM. The evaluation procedures have been
completed and approval of award is under process.
So, Madam Speaker, whatever information given or has been given by hon. Armance are not correct.
Students’ classroom equipment have already been purchased; it included PCs,
whiteboard, projectors etc.
Health Science Lab equipment have been procured and are being delivered by
Studios and equipment for film production - purchase of materials has been initiated.
Multidisciplinary lab - provision has been made for PCs, computers, burglar proofing etc.
But this is what refurbishment is meant! Office equipment, IT equipment and furniture have already been purchased. Network infrastructure, repaired wireless network completed; commissioning is in process; upgrading works, renovation of toilets, waterproofing, burglar proofing, fencing and awards of contracts have been made.
Madam Speaker: Yes, last question!
Mr Armance: Yes. I have taken these pictures yesterday. So, this is the reality,
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Where?
Mr Armance: Yesterday, at the UTM.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Minister, please do not engage into any conversation with the hon. Member. Yes, address the Chair!
Mr Armance: This is the reality. I want to know from the hon. Minister when she last visited the UTM, because the condition the students are having there is terrible. We are today in 2018; when did she visit it?
Madam Speaker: The hon. Member has asked his question.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, it has to be made clear that the role of the Tertiary Education Commission is well stated and that there are officers who regularly visit the place. I have been to the University; I do not go there for inspection purposes.
Madam Speaker: Next question, hon. Ganoo!
RÉDUIT – PLANETARIUM PROJECT (08/05/18)
(No. B/312) Mr B. Jahangeer (Third Member for Rivière des Anguilles &
Souillac) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research whether, in regard to the proposed construction of a Planetarium at Réduit, she will state where matters stand.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, the Planetarium Project will be
implemented in partnership with the Government of India, and for that matter, a
Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between the Government of the Republic of India on behalf of the National Council of Science Museums and the Government of Mauritius on behalf of the Rajiv Gandhi Science Centre. Land at Réduit has already been earmarked for the implementation of the project and discussions are ongoing for its acquisition.
Moreover, discussions are also being held with the Indian authorities regarding the detailed implementation of the project.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Jahangeer!
Mr Jahangeer: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Indeed, it is a laudable initiative from the hon. Minister. But when do we expect the tender to be issued?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: In fact, Madam Speaker, this particular project is being done in collaboration with India. India has already identified a consultant, and the consultant has been appointed, Kothari Associates, if I am not mistaken. This was done after a due diligence exercise, and now we are still discussing about the cost of the project and soon implementation will be started, after the Indian side gives us the green light.
Madam Speaker: Next question, hon. Abbas Mamode!
ORAL ANSWER TO QUESTION
UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, MAURITIUS –
SECOND CYCLE QUALITY AUDIT REPORT (21/06/18)
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr X. L. Duval) (by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research whether she will state if she has taken cognizance of the Report of the Second Cycle Quality Audit of the University of Technology, Mauritius, dated November 2017, effected by an Audit Panel appointed by the Tertiary Education Commission and, if so, indicate –
(a) if she has sought and obtained the views of the Board of the University of Technology, Mauritius in relation thereto, and
(b) the measures, if any, her Ministry has taken and proposes to take in relation thereto.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, indeed, I have taken cognizance of the Report of the Second Cycle of Quality Audit conducted by an independent panel appointed by the TEC in November 2017.
I would like, right from the start, to enlighten the House on the importance of quality audits. Quality audits are an international practice which is generally put in place to test the functionality of key core processes at the institution and to ensure that accountability mechanisms are in place for continuous improvement of standards and practices.
Hence, the audit panel probes through an audit trail on the various criteria as given in the Audit Manual or handbook and triangulate with various interviewees to reach consensus on commendations and recommendations.
The general rule is that prior to the setting up of the audit exercise, TEC consults the concerned university to agree on a date for the conduct of the exercise and the themes are discussed and agreed upon at the Quality Assurance Committee of the Tertiary Education Commission or through consultative forums.
In this present case, UTM was apprised by the TEC in May 2017 that the audit exercise would be carried out in November 2017. It was requested to submit its self-evaluation report in the first week of August 2017 in line with practices.
In August 2017, UTM submitted its self-evaluation report and in October 2017, UTM was informed of the constitution of the Quality Audit Panel and it officially confirmed that no individual conflict of interest has been identified with respect to the panel composition which comprises –
· Professor Mark Hay, from Tshwane University of Technology of South Africa as Chairperson;
· Associate Professor Mahsood Shah, University of Australia;
· Associate Professor Dr. Rosidah Kuwah, University of North Carolina, Charlotte;
· Associate Professor Dr. Dinesh Hurreeram, University of Mauritius, and
· Mr Sen Ramsamy, Managing Director, Tourism Business Intelligence.
The draft audit report was submitted by the panel members on 24 January 2018 and contrary to what was reported in some newspapers the draft report was, as per international practices, submitted to the Director General of the UTM for comments relating strictly to factual inaccuracies and typographical errors.
She forwarded her comments back to the Tertiary Education Commission on 20 March 2018. The final audit report was submitted to the Tertiary Education Board for approval on 31 May 2018 and was placed on the Tertiary Education Commission’s website on 01 June 2018.
The House will recall that in reply to the PNQ put to me in May 2017 with regard to areas for improvement at the UTM, I provided the Members with a significant amount of information relating to academic performance, physical infrastructure, financial situation and governance structures amongst others at the UTM. I am pleased to announce here that since then there has been progress in those areas.
Madam Speaker, the House may recall that in my previous reply last year, I had said that there will be a quality audit conducted at the UTM and this was done as mentioned earlier in my answer. The recommendations submitted in the report are now being acted upon. The report highlighted three major challenges currently being faced by the UTM. The first relates to the legacy of underfunding which has over the years impacted negatively on the infrastructure and resources of the institution. The second one has more to do with the attraction and retention of staff and the third is the growth of the institution as a university with a focus on technology.
This is the second time, Madam Speaker, that the TEC is conducting a quality audit for the UTM. The first one was conducted in 2008 and, in fact, in 2008, the Tertiary Education Commission appointed a quality audit panel to undertake a quality audit. At the end of the 2008 exercise the panel members were of the view that although the UTM meets the general criteria of fitness to purpose, it must consider ways and means of addressing several areas of concern.
The report gave 15 recommendations to address in those areas….
The same recommendations came back.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Leader of the Opposition, you will have ample time to ask your question!
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: When this Government came to power, Madam Speaker, and the current management and the Board of UTM took it up from the recommendations contained in that audit report and started putting in place measures to address those areas, I must emphasise that since then the UTM has been actively working on those recommendations. An audit was, in fact, scheduled even in 2013 but it was not carried out.
So, Madam Speaker, I am informed that the report is now available on the TEC website and is in the public domain. I am also informed that the report has not yet been submitted to the UTM Board given that the management is already working on the commendations and recommendations as well as on the strategies to be carried out to improve based on the recommendations received.
Madam Speaker, the said Audit Report contains six commendations and 29 recommendations. Briefly, Madam Speaker, the commendations relate to –
· affirmation of the University as the University of Technology;
· commitment of academic staff;
· quality of teaching and support;
· close working relationships with industry;
· international professional accreditation, and
· work based learning.
Madam Speaker, the auditors have in the recent 2017 Report commended the UTM for the serious efforts made to address the chronic mismatch between academic qualifications of graduates and the specific requirements of the world of work as well as the integration of work-based learning in the programme.
Madam Speaker, quality audits cannot be looked in isolation as it is a continuous process. These audits are a learning tool for universities to improve their procedures and processes. For this reason, we need to look at what the 2008 Quality Audit Report have found and how such improvements have been put in place by the UTM. In terms of process, when a quality audit report is released universities then draw up an action with their Boards and these are presented to the Tertiary Education Commission.
The Tertiary Education Commission then monitors the actions through its sector-wide quality assurance committee where the quality assurance representative of the University reports on the progress achieved by the institution on the recommendations made by the Audit Report. Moreover, the Audit Panel in the next audit also reviews these actions to see if they have been addressed fully.
Madam Speaker, the 2008 Audit Report recommended that UTM should have greater visibility among its stakeholders. Since 2015…
… a number of strategic decisions have been taken by the UTM in that direction…
Madam Speaker: Hon. Leader of the Opposition, can I kindly request you not to make comments while…
Please sit down! You have got a point of order on what the hon. Minister is saying.
Mr X. L. Duval: The hon. Minister deliberately addresses the 2017 Report. We have half an hour and the Minister is going on and on about a 2008 Report, which has nothing to do with the 2017 Report. I will kindly request you to ask her to stick to the point.
Madam Speaker: I will just ask the hon. Minister to be brief on the 2008 Report and then to go lengthily on this one. But should the Minister take more time than required, I will give the hon. Leader of the Opposition additional time for his PNQ.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I have just explained that the Audit is a continuous process and relates to the other previous Audits. That is why I was giving some information. But if it is not required, I will try to avoid giving the information.
Madam Speaker: Because of time limit.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: That could have been helpful to the hon. Leader of the Opposition. It was specifically highlighted in the 2017 Report that the linkages formed by UTM with specific industry players have enabled the employability of its graduates in sectors related to technology and hospitality management.
The 2017 Report equally mentions the positive reaction of both staff and students who were interviewed on that issue and who confirmed that the early contact of students with employers as part of the work based learning, has resulted in students securing jobs prior to graduation. Compulsory work placement to improve employability of graduates is now part of all new and revised courses. Work placement is overseen by the Student Affairs Department through the Work Placement Committee and the School Work Placement Committee.
Madam Speaker, as regards academic leadership and administrative leadership, the panel recommended that the Board considers ways and means to strengthen the human resource aspects of the University to build consistency, continuity and stability.
Madam Speaker, I am informed that the University is making progress for the recruitment of staff to fill vacancies at various senior positions, which include Registrar, Head of Finance, Head of Information Services and Assistant Registrar.
Madam Speaker, with regard to good governance, after the issue of the 2017 Audit Report, I had a meeting with the Director General and the Chairman of the UTM Board to ensure a complete review of the corporate and academic governance structures, with a view to identifying the lacunae and the shortcomings of those structures.
This exercise will assist in coming up with clear demarcation of responsibilities and will, for accountability purposes, ensure that appropriate lines of reporting be established with the organisation.
I wish to highlight here, Madam Speaker, that Audited Certified Financial Statements for years 2000-2009 have now been incorporated in the Annual Reports and have been tabled at the National Assembly in May last. As regards Audited Certified Financial Statements for period July 2009 to December 2010, these have been received in …
Madam Speaker: I am really sorry. I have to once more draw the attention of the hon. Leader of the Opposition not to interrupt the hon. Minister. I told you that you would have ample time to ask your questions. I said, and I am going to repeat it, that should the hon. Minister take more time than required, I will give you additional time for your questions. So, be patient, because I think you should be in good temper and you should be moderate in what you are doing. Please!
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Thank you, Madam Speaker. So, Madam Speaker, I was saying that as regards the Audited Certified Financial Statements for period July 2009 to December 2010, these have been received in 2017 and will be tabled in the National Assembly soon. The Annual Report for 2010 is being finalised and will be submitted for printing next week. The House will appreciate that the current management is now catching up on more than a decade of backlog.
Financial situation - in terms of funding, the Audit Report of 2008 noted a heavy reliance on student fees and recommended that the UTM considers alternative sources of funding. The 2017 Audit Panel does acknowledge…
Mr X. L. Duval: Madam Speaker, on a point of order again, if I may. The TEC Report does not deal at all with financial figures. Not at all! And so, again, the hon. Minister is wasting our time dealing this time with Audit Report dating back 10 years ago. So, I will ask you to call her to order so that we can stick to the question that is being asked; otherwise, it makes a mockery of the PNQ.
Madam Speaker: Can I give a ruling on this? I have studied, in fact, the question that the hon. Leader of the Opposition has asked, and I see in (b) that he has asked ‘the measures, if any, her Ministry has taken and proposes to take in relation thereto.’ So, I understand it is in relation to this report. So, if ever there has to be any reference to previous reports, I will just ask the hon. Minister - because sometimes she has to make reference to previous reports to say what is being done now; this is what I understand from her reply - to be very brief because of the time limit that we have for the PNQ.
Mr X. L. Duval: Madam Speaker, if I may insist, this is a second quality audit on the academic and management. Nothing to do at all with financial performance!
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Having taken cognizance of this significant funding issue, this Government has gone the extra mile to gradually increase the grant allocated to UTM over the past few years. It is interesting to note, Madam Speaker, that the recurrent grant provided by the previous Government for the period January to December 2012 was only Rs1 m. compared to the grants of Rs11 m. and Rs20 m. provided by this Government for the past and current financial years, while a grant of Rs28 m. has been earmarked for the next Budget. As for capital grants, the amount provided in 2012 by the previous Government was of Rs4 m. only, compared to the figure of Rs7 m. and Rs32 m. provided for the last and current financial years respectively. For the coming financial year, the amount of Rs32 m. will be maintained. This is a clear indication, Madam Speaker, of the commitment, this Government has, to meet the tertiary education mandate and assist the public tertiary educational institutions to provide quality education and research in line with the national 2030 economic, social and educational objective.
In terms of revenue generated by UTM, the amount stood on an average of Rs167 m. for years 2012-2014 compared to an average of Rs173 m. for the past three financial years. This includes revenue from sources other than student fees, which stands at Rs20 m. for 2017-2018 compared to a figure of only Rs7.2 m. for 2012. This increase in revenue has been possible because of new collaborations with private institutions.
As regards Quality Assurance, a Board’s decision taken in August 2015 now enables the Quality Assurance Officer to sit on the Academic Council as a co-opted member. Other committees such as the Research Degrees Committee and Disciplinary Committee already make provision for Quality Assurance Officers to be a full-fledged member of these committees. All new and revised programmes are now mandatorily vetted by the Quality Assurance Officer prior to submission to the Academic Council for consideration.
I am informed, Madam Speaker, that the Quality Assurance Framework, including benchmarking is being enhanced in respect of both academic and infrastructural support, as recommended by the Panel members in their 2017 Report. The UTM is actively working on this recommendation.
Madam Speaker, the aim of Government is to position Mauritius as a quality education hub in the region and, for that matter, measures have recently been taken by my Ministry to raise the admission requirement for students willing to join public universities. As such, the Ministry took the decision in March 2017 to enrol students with a minimum requirement of three ‘A’ Levels, one subsidiary or two ‘A’ Levels and two subsidiaries for undergraduate degree programmes.
To do away with the ‘nivellement par le bas’, this Government has, in addition, taken the decision to phase out Foundation Courses run by public institutions. In spite of the fact that the decision has been endorsed and is now fully implemented, the number of students enrolled at the UTM has not decreased. We have increased the entry requirements and still there has been no decrease in the students’ intake. This is a clear indication of the sustained interest of students to enrol for studies at the UTM.
Taking into account the worldwide concept of late developers and the official mandate of the University to recognise prior learning and experience, the University has also formalised the requirements for stepwise entry through the APL/APEL route into undergraduate programmes. Students are now required to clear Certificate and Diploma levels, prior to progressing through the undergraduate programme, in order to ensure the suitability for the programmes of study.
It is worth noting here, Madam Speaker, that in the 2008 Audit Report, the TEC noted with concern a decision of the Academic Council taken under the previous regime, allowing applicants with three “O” levels at School Certificate to join a Foundation Course for undergraduate programmes.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Minister, can I know for how long you have for your reply because we have already taken 20 minutes from Question Time and I would have wished to know? I can give a certain leeway, additional time for additional questions, but then, according to the Standing Orders, Question Time is limited to 30 minutes. Can I just ask you to try to be very brief and wrap up your reply, so that we can respect the time limit?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: It is worth noting, Madam Speaker, that TEC noted with concern a decision of the Academic Council, as I have just said, where students were allowed into the University with only “O” levels. Now, this is the past; we are no longer accepting this.
Regarding the review of Regulations related to plagiarism, supervision of dissertations and responsibilities of Supervisors, the report recommended that these Relegations be reviewed and mention has been made of such a review in the recent audit report. So, the review has already been made.
The House may wish to note, Madam Speaker, that the review of Regulations with regard to plagiarism was initiated in 2017 and have been reviewed in February 2018. The approval of the Academic Council was thereafter obtained for the renewal of the Turn-It-in and anti-plagiarism software. With regard to the duties and responsibilities of Supervisors, this falls under the regulations for MPhil/PhD studies which have been under review at the level of the Research & Development Committee since 2017 and the revised version is now under consideration at the level of the Academic Council. With respect to the supervision of undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations, administrative supervisors have been introduced since 2016 to improve quality of supervision by part-time staff.
Since 2015, the UTM has been taking measures to constantly review the examination regulations and policies to improve security measures. The oath of confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement as well as declaration of interest forms are now in full use. Examination booklets will now be stamped with the date, upon issue to students for examinations. Regulations regarding cheating cases have been reinforced and the penalties are strictly implemented. The number of cheating cases have decreased from 63 in 2012 to 36 in 2016.
Madam Speaker, I now come to the aspect of Research, which is not only critical to the economic and social development of our society, but is also critical to the mission of our University. If we aim at positioning our Universities...
Madam Speaker: Hon. Minister, I am really sorry, and here I will make an appeal, once again, to those who draft replies also. PNQs are limited to 30 minutes. I give certain leeway to Ministers to reply to their questions, but then, I have a certain leeway and I cannot give more than that. Now, we have already taken almost 30 minutes. The whole time devoted to the PNQ has been in the reply of the Minister.
I will have to give you additional time.
I am sorry, hon. Minister, I asked you to wrap up, but then, I will have to ask the hon. Leader of the Opposition to ask his questions now.
Mr X. L. Duval: I do hope that you will give adequate additional time otherwise I will go home because this makes a mess, a complete mockery of the PNQ system.
Madam Speaker, I am very, very disappointed at the reply of the hon. Minister. Very disappointed! Un gouvernement nivelé par le bas, Madam Speaker, nothing more than that.
The hon. Minister has told us apparently that the report has been addressed in some way. This is the worst report I have seen in my career on any public institution. I will ask the Minister first, whether the Board of Governors has not got a right to discuss this report - now you know, it’s November 2017, seven months later. Is she aware that the Board of Governors has not been allowed to discuss this report?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I have just explained that the panel was set up in November 2017, but the final report was submitted only on 31 May and we received it on 31 May. Now, it is the usual procedure for the institution to work under recommendations made and then to present it to its Board. So, the work is on. They will have to discuss with the Board, but now the management is working on the recommendations and are coming with strategies, which will be presented to the Board and it is obvious that it has to be discussed with the Board.
Mr X. L. Duval: Madam Speaker, the draft report was submitted in February and good governance would have dictated that it was shown to the Board. Is the hon. Minister aware that the Acting Registrar of UTM refused to call a Board meeting at the request of the President of the Board? And this is the email here asking the Acting Registrar who is the Secretary to the Board of Governors, and he did not convene the meeting for Tuesday 19 June as requested. And, in fact, only this morning, Madam Speaker, the email sent from the President to one Mr Aukbur who is the Chairman of the Staff Committee, and it says here –
“Several emails were sent to him and he elected not to communicate with me on this issue. Subsequently, the Board could not take place. The Acting Registrar is Secretary to the Board and his failure to convene an official Board following firm instructions by the President has impeded upon the business of the Board.”
And he is asking for immediate disciplinary action to be taken against the Acting Registrar. Are you aware, therefore, that the Board has been prevented all along from looking at this damning report by the Tertiary Education Commission?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, the Chairman of the Board did talk to me and told me that he wanted to have a meeting which was not scheduled. When we went for the information, I was told that the Chairman was informed that the work was still on and that the Management wanted to complete the work being done on the recommendations before presenting it to the Board. So, they wanted time and they had asked to postpone the meeting and they did not refuse to have a meeting, as far as I understand.
Mr X. L. Duval: Madam Speaker, is it that the Chairman has gone bonkers or what, has he gone mad, he would write a letter asking for immediate disciplinary action, when it is up, apparently, to the Director General to decide when there will be a Board meeting? Madam Speaker, the truth is …
The hon. Minister has spoken enough. Let me ask the question now!
Madam Speaker: Don’t make a statement, Leader of the Opposition!
Mr X. L. Duval: The truth is that there is a trio infernal at the UTM qui fait la pluie et le beau temps, Madam Speaker. Therefore, I would ask the hon. Minister what is it that this trio infernal has, that they have so much power on you, as a Minister, on everyone...
Madam Speaker: Don’t make allegations, please!
Mr X. L. Duval: ... at the UTM, so that, in fact, the hon. Minister fails to see that whatever actions she is taking are against the interest of 3,000 poor, and relatively poor, low-income children, despite what the Budget has put and everything? These children, their whole future is being denied - good future - because of the actions of herself and the trio infernal!
Madam Speaker: Hon. Leader of the Opposition, I just want to draw your attention to the fact that you should try to see how you frame your question in such a way as not to make allegations on the hon. Minister.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I would like to stress on one point. If a Board is not held and the date is postponed, we cannot say that there has been refusal for setting up a Board. Secondly, if ever a Chairperson has any problem with the Registrar, it is to the Board that he has to refer the matter. I don’t understand that too. The Registrar cannot decide upon the date without talking to the Administration. So, one thing is clear, that there has never been any refusal.
As far as having control on me or any other person is concerned, I am happy to note that if the Director General has control over her staff, I think it would be a positive point in her favour.
Mr X. L. Duval: Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. Minister whether she has taken cognizance of page 19 of the report, all over actually, where it says that the Director General has attempted to interfere with the audit process through her actions to manipulate, to audit process, to derail the audit process and to intimidate staff.
Did she read that part of the report?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I must state that in the same report it is noted down that the panel thanks the Director General for having been extremely cooperative during the whole session. So, I would like the hon. Leader of the Opposition to let me know which part of the paragraph of the Audit Report, he finds correct and which part he does not find correct.
Mr X. L. Duval: I am referring to page 19. Madam Speaker, the hon. Minister mentioned the commendations. Did she read the commendations and to see that all the commendations are for the academic staff? And all through the report, the management staff, the senior management, are severely blamed by this report.
And, Madam Speaker, that even in her last reply she made to this House to hon. Patrice Armance, she was misled into telling us that so much work has been done, in particular, that the toilet blocks have been renovated. This is taken this morning. Maybe the MBC can take it. Toilet block renovated, that the football pitch had been renovated, it had been upgraded. This is the football pitch, Madam Speaker. So, even she is being misled into misleading this House as to what has been done. It is a very serious thing when you mislead the House, Madam Speaker.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I would like to stress upon the point that when we take photographs and pictures, I can also submit photographs and pictures. We have a whole set of photographs and pictures taken at the UTM upon the request of the hon. Leader of the Opposition and I would like, Madam Speaker, to go back on what the hon. Leader of the Opposition has just mentioned. He is stating that the panel had been terribly against the administration there. I would like to take page 10 of the report which states that –
· “the Panel commends UTM for the imagination and aspiration in its Strategic Plan 2016-2020;
· the Panel commends the commitment, passion and enthusiasm of the academic staff, full-time and part-time, in facilitating quality education;
· the Panel commends the academic community for quality teaching;
· the Panel commends the efforts of the UTM academic staff to build close working relationships;
· the Panel commends UTM for receiving international professional accreditation.”
So, if you are getting professional international accreditation for the programmes, you cannot say that the UTM is not working for the good of the students.
Mr X. L. Duval: Madam Speaker, the Minister has confirmed exactly what I said, thank you, that the TEC is commending very much the academic staff, but has been damning against senior management. Madam Speaker, I would like to ask one thing. Everyone in Government, including every staff, including the Permanent Secretary, when they come in to work, they clock in and they clock out.
Even the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Mauritius when he goes to work, he clocks in and he clocks out. Can I ask the hon. Minister why the Director General of the UTM does not clock in, does not clock out and comes to work about 11 a.m. in the morning and often leaves at 2.00 p.m. in the afternoon? Can you ask her why she is one of the only persons who does not clock in in the Civil Service and the Public Service?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I would like to know if such a question could be asked to the Minister. Does the Leader of the Opposition think that I will go and check the clocking in and the clocking out list of the UTM staff? I think there is a Director for that over there.
Mr X. L. Duval: She is the Director. Madam Speaker, I asked this question a year ago. A year ago, I told her this and it is still the same and still not clocking in. So, the hon. Minister is responsible, she has been made aware.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: No question?
Mr X. L. Duval: What did you do about it?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: No question, Madam Speaker?
Madam Speaker: Next question!
Mr X. L. Duval: Madam Speaker, the question is, she was told a year ago that the Director General comes in at 11.00 a.m. and leaves at 2.00 p.m. What has she done about it in the interest of the students?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I think we have already informed the UTM, the management, that they have to go according to procedures set by the UTM itself and I expect the Director to be doing the same.
Mr X. L. Duval: Les bonnes intentions ! Madam Speaker, the University is getting worse. Is she aware that the ranking of the University, as from international websites, Madam Speaker, has deteriorated from 7,000 in rank under her guidance, her control, her supervision - 7,000 a year ago - to 10,000 today?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I would like to stress on one point. When we take a particular ranking, we have to know for what purpose the ranking was done. The particular ranking being mentioned by the hon. Leader of the Opposition is on the amount of visibility you have of its website. I do agree UTM still has to improve on its website visibility, but this does not mean that we take one particular element regarding the visibility of an institution and we say that it has come down on the ranking list.
I think this is not serious and we need to be very careful while talking about ranking of universities. There is a wide range of ranking criteria that we have to take into account. The one that is being used by the hon. Leader of the Opposition refers to visibility on websites.
Mr X. L. Duval: Give us a better one, she is the Minister! Madam Speaker, we have been told about this University, the School of Health Sciences. Is the Minister aware that out of 15 courses offered in intake 2018, 12 courses found nobody to take and only 3 courses found 6 persons only, the other one, 11 persons, the other one, 18 persons? Is she aware that this is the case and the intake has fallen from 81 in 2017 to only 35 this year?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, when we talk about new courses being launched, it is quite normal that you start and you start getting students coming in. When we talk about health sciences, they are not huge courses, they are small modular courses and short courses. So, obviously. it will take some time, they have just been launched. We need to give time. Now, we are talking of a university which is only 18 years old and by all standards across the world for Universities it is considered to be a very young University. We have to give time to UTM and we must not keep on pointing a finger at our public tertiary institutions because they are doing a good job. I am not saying that everything is right. We need to keep on improving. This is the very idea of having quality audit, what is the importance of quality audit. And I think, Madam Speaker, we have to be careful.
When we are talking about a University, we are talking about Tertiary Education, we have hopes to make of Mauritius a knowledge hub. Now, if we keep on personalising attacks against an individual and trying to bring down an institution because we have a grudge against one person, I think it is totally irresponsible of the Leader of the Opposition!
Mr X. L. Duval: Let me remind the Minister, Madam Speaker, that she is denying her own tertiary education report. Madam Speaker, the situation at the University is getting worse and this is confirmed by the Tertiary Education Report. At page 16 it talks of ‘erosion of quality culture’, it talks of the Board of University being dysfunctional. It talks about usage of outdated software and pirated software.
Madam Speaker: Yes, so your question is asking the Minister…
Mr X. L. Duval: I am going to have to, Madam Speaker, unfortunately, because she cannot read. I have to read it for her. Madam Speaker, it talks about…
Madam Speaker: You should not be…
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker,…
On a point of order, Madam Speaker! I want the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw. I have read my report.
Madam Speaker: Leader of the Opposition!
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: I want him to withdraw this.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun, please sit down. At the beginning of this question time, I have told you that you have as the Leader of the Opposition to keep your temper, to be moderate in what you ask and not to be insolent, please.
Mr X. L. Duval: Madam Speaker, usually I am very good, but today I am shocked at the reply that the Minister has given. It has shocked me, Madam Speaker. I am disgusted, Madam Speaker, by the way that the reply has been given, but I withdraw, I do not have to be personal.
Madam Speaker, the Tertiary Education Report talks about infrastructure, teaching, research, being allowed to deteriorate on page 22. It talks about low staff morale. It talks about no promotion from 2013 or 2008 for non-academic staff. It talks about falling number of students, Madam Speaker. This is the situation at the University. And the least that the poor children could have expected is not for the Minister to protect political cronies.
Madam Speaker: Don’t make statements, hon. Leader of the Opposition!
Mr X. L. Duval: I am maintaining this!
Madam Speaker: Hon. Leader of the Opposition, don’t make statements. Ask your question!
Mr X. L. Duval: It is not for her to protect political cronies, but to take actions to protect these 3,000 poor children who are there and who are paying money and are being served…
Madam Speaker: So, this is your question!
Mr X. L. Duval: …with at least a third class management of University.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the hon. Leader of the Opposition on page 8 of the report which states that the TEC expresses its appreciation to the UTM for the cooperative manner in which it has participated in the audit process. TEC also thanks the UTM for providing additional information and access to key documents to the Audit panel during the course of the Audit. The Audit panel would like to thank Dr. Seetulsigh Goorah, Director General, Dr Venethethan, Head of Quality Assurance and other staff of UTM for their cooperation in the audit process. This is for what he had stated earlier. Now, talking about research, I would like to draw the attention of House, Madam Speaker, that research is an aspect which is extremely important. It is not only critical to the economic and the social development of the society, but it is also critical to the mission of a University. If we aim at positioning our universities in the region and attract foreign students, we have got to promote research. And I would like to say, Madam Speaker, that UTM has made a lot of efforts in this line. The UTM has come up with its research strategy approved by the Board in 2015. And I understand that since 2015, fresh areas for research have been developed for various schools at the UTM and UTM has successfully attracted more than 15 research grants worth more than Rs7.7 m. over the last three years.
Mr X. L. Duval: Madam Speaker, I would like to remind the hon. Minister, at least, she has not read it, that is the only thing that I can say, maybe someone has read it for her because …
Madam Speaker: Don’t make statements!
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I would like the hon. Leader of the Opposition to withdraw this.
I would like him to withdraw this! He cannot keep on …
Madam Speaker: Hon. Leader of the Opposition, please! I think you will have to withdraw this because you cannot say whether she has read or she has not read it. It is not for you to say. Please, withdraw! Withdraw what you have said!
Mr X. L. Duval: It is for her to say whether she has read it or not, Madam Speaker. I am not withdrawing anything.
Madam Speaker: You cannot say this! You have to withdraw that!
Mr X. L. Duval: I am not withdrawing. It is obvious that she has not read it.
Madam Speaker: No, but you are saying, you are making…
This is not for you to decide whether she has read or not!
Please! Just withdraw this!
Mr X. L. Duval: On what Standing Order, Madam Speaker, are you asking me to withdraw?
Madam Speaker: There is nothing wrong in withdrawing something which you have said.
Mr X. L. Duval: You are asking me kindly to withdraw. I will withdraw it kindly. I have no problem. But it is my choice to withdraw it.
Madam Speaker: Good!
Mr X. L. Duval: …and not anyone telling me. Madam Speaker, it is damning against this Director General. I don’t want to mention her, but it is there, that she has tried to derail the audit process. Whether at the end, they have thanked UTM, that is another issue, Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, I want to finish on this.
Yes, derail! The Minister wants me to show her where!
Madam Speaker: Don’t crosstalk, please! Ask your question!
Mr X. L. Duval: Because otherwise I will say she has not read it if she has not seen that bit.
Madam Speaker: Ask your question!
Mr X. L. Duval: I am sure she has seen it! Now, Madam Speaker, the hon. Minister is saying the 2008 Report, now 10 years later, some of it has been done, some has not been done. But, unfortunately, for her and for the senior management, the report does talk about urgent action being required. If the hon. Minister has not read it, it is in there. It talks about infrastructure. It talks about urgent action on climate of trust, transparency, conflict resolution, human capital issues – urgent all this - filling vacant positions, staff promotions. And it also, Madam Speaker – I will finish on that one – talks about serious lapse in effective and efficient administration. It talks about disciplinary action should be taken in case of inaction, non-responsiveness of staff and management, Madam Speaker.
Madam Speaker: Okay! Allow the hon. Minister to reply, please!
Mr X. L. Duval: And it urgently asks to improve administrative system. So, this is, Madam Speaker, the urgent situation of the UTM. I am sorry if I have been disgusted about this because I am truly disgusted about that how the Ministry is treating this issue.
Madam Speaker: That is your question! Whether you are disgusted or not it is another question.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, while talking about being disgusted, I think we have got a very short memory.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Rutnah!
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: It is this very UTM that has saved about 22 doctors who had gone, during the previous regime, to the DY Patil.
And they have just completed their work.
Secondly, I think talking about disgust, we should have felt disgusted for EIILM University.
Let me now come, Madam Speaker, to what has been mentioned by the hon. Leader of the Opposition to which I totally agree. Whenever there is inaction, there should be disciplinary action. And this is what the UTM is doing right now. There are certain officers at the University who have been blocking processes to slow down the rate of progress at the University and a Disciplinary Committee is being set up to tackle this. And I agree with him. These are actions that we need to take urgently.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Leader of the Opposition, this is it! Okay. Time is over!
UNIVERSITY OF MAURITIUS - STAFF AND STUDENT UNION – COMPLAINTS
(No. B/656) Mr V. Baloomoody (Third Member for GRNW & Port Louis West) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research whether, in regard to the University of Mauritius, she will state if she is aware of the complaints of the Staff Union and of the Student Union, respectively, regarding the manner in which the University is being administered and managed and, if so, indicate the measures her Ministry proposes to take in relation thereto, including if consideration will be given for the Tertiary Education Commission to be requested to carry out a full audit thereat.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I am informed that complaints were made by the Staff and Student Union at a press conference held on 04 July 2018.
The complaints with thereat concerned the following issues -
· examination in the gymnasium;
· holding of graduation ceremonies;
· collaboration with the University of Arizona;
· allocation of funds, research projects, and
· lack of consultation.
We will appreciate, Madam Speaker, that all these issues are of an administrative nature and they are being handled by the management of the University. Nevertheless, I will provide some details with regard to each of the issues raised by the Student and Staff Unions. I will start, Madam Speaker, with the recent decision taken by the University to hold examinations in the gymnasium.
This decision was taken with a view to shorten examination period, reduce invigilation costs and enable the release of examination results earlier, as per the students’ requests. It is an international practice for simultaneous examinations for various cohorts in a number of fields to be carried out in large halls or gymnasia.
Madam Speaker, I wish to highlight here that last year, the results were out at the end of July and, as a result of this new practice this year, the results were released on 04 July.
Madam Speaker, I am informed that the senior management of the University is currently reviewing the conduct of examinations in general. A comprehensive report of the matter will be submitted to the Council shortly. As for the graduation ceremony, I have been informed by the UoM that no decision has been taken so far regarding the venue.
Currently, graduation ceremonies span over a month because of the limited amount of space. In a bid to improve upon overall process and bring more efficiency to the system, a Committee has been set up following a recommendation of the UoM Board Council. The Committee has a mandate to assess, analyse and make recommendations for the overall improvement of the process.
Madam Speaker, I would like to highlight here that two representatives of the Students’ Union, namely, the President and the Council Representative are members of that Committee which has sat twice, so far. Several options are being considered for the venue, namely, SVICC, J&J Auditorium, amongst others. A decision is yet to be taken by the relevant stakeholders.
Regarding the issue of collaboration with the University of Arizona, I am informed that the cost revenue analysis has been carried out by the University. I am satisfied that the collaboration with the University of Arizona is being undertaken as one of the innovative projects in the context of the universities internationalisation strategy, as well as enhancing teaching, learning and research. This is also in line with our objective of attracting foreign students to Mauritius and turning our island into a regional education hub.
Concerning the matter of allocation of funds for research projects, I have been informed, Madam Speaker, that seven Research Funding Schemes have been approved by the Council in August 2017. Following two calls for proposal, some 87 projects of a total sum of Rs16 m. have been approved. The list of beneficiaries is on the intranet of the University and is accessible to all staff. A feedback process has also been put in place for all applicants.
As far as the issue of lack of consultations is concerned, I would like to point out, Madam Speaker, that the Vice-Chancellor, who is the CEO of the University has a mandate to implement and convey council decisions to all parties concerned. In addition, the University of Mauritius is governed by the provisions of the UoM Act and Statutes which provide all the governance and structures, namely the Board of Faculties, Senate, the Council and the University Court. The Membership of all the above-mentioned includes one representative of each union as a full member.
Madam Speaker, the University of Mauritius is taking a number of initiatives which are impacting positively on its image and this goes to the credit of the senior management.
Madam Speaker, I would like to highlight that the TEC is mandated to carry out quality audits which are more related to the course content and delivery. Quality audits do not relate to industrial relations issues. I wish to inform the House that the next quality audit of the University of Mauritius is scheduled in the last week of August 2018.
Mr Baloomoody: One of the main reproaches that both the Students’ Unions and the Staff Unions is the one-man show of the running of the University of Mauritius. In order for us not to reach the same consequence we had with the University of Technology, can I ask the hon. Minister to see to it that there is proper consultation prior to taking, especially decisions which will affect the students, be it the exams, be it where they would be graduated, that there is proper consultation with these Unions?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I have just mentioned in my reply that there are structures within the University that ensure that all the Union Members are taken on Board. The very fact that in the Press conference it was mentioned that their opinions were not taken on board, shows that their opinions were, in fact, voiced out. However, it is for the VC and for the Council to decide upon which direction to take. It is the role of the CEO, the VC to take the proper decisions in spite of the fact that he should listen to the opinions of others. I do agree.
Mr Baloomoody: Before coming to the TEC, can I ask the hon. Minister whether there have been proper preparation and consultation with all those concerned before joining venture with the University of Arizona, and how much does this cost the University?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I have been informed by the University of Mauritius that a feasibility study has been carried out and that all the cost issues have been dealt with at the level of the Council. In fact, if ever the hon. Member requires figures regarding the cost, I will definitely submit the information to the House.
Mr Baloomoody: Coming to the issue of TEC, I do not think it is right to say that TEC audit does not look about Human Resources relation because we have just seen the recent Beesoodoyal Report with regard to the University of Technology which has made several recommendations. It was very critical to the Industrial Relation or Human Resources Management of the University. In fact, the last TEC audit of the University of Mauritius, which was in 2012, did make recommendations. Recommendation 9 says –
“9. It is recommended that the University of Mauritius develops a professional human resources function, (…).”
So, they look at human resources function. Five years later, we still have the same problem of human resources. So, can I ask the hon. Minister to look into the matter?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, this is what I have just stated. When the audit is carried out, it is a quality audit and they do make recommendations. However, industrial relation issues are not taken on board. When the audit is carried out, they do listen to the different partners within the system, different stakeholders and they do make recommendations. However, industrial relation matters are not taken up by the quality audit.
UNIVERSITY OF MAURITIUS - DENTAL COLLEGE
UNIVERSITY OF MAURITIUS - LAW EXAMINATION PAPERS –
(No. B/665) Mr V. Baloomoody (Third Member for GRNW & Port Louis West) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research whether, in regard to the University of Mauritius, she will, for the benefit of the House, obtain therefrom, information as to if a leakage in the recent Law examination papers at the Law Department thereof has been reported and, if so, indicate the actions taken in relation thereto.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I am informed that the paper for Civil Procedures Examination for year three students carried four questions out of which three were to be attempted. The question paper was set by two part-time lecturers in the Faculty of Law and Management for two groups of students, namely the Réduit and the Ébène branches respectively.
Complaints were received to the fact that three questions discussed in class at the Ébène branch bore close similarity to those set in the examination, a matter which could be prejudicial to students at the Réduit Campus. The Department of Law carried out an internal enquiry following complaints received from some of the students and submitted its report to the management of the University in June last. The matter was referred to the Board of Examiners which submitted a report to the Examination Results Committee. The latter ultimately recommended to the Senate, the institution of a Fact-Finding Committee as it would appear that there may have been some irregularities.
Madam Speaker, I am informed that the Senate has agreed on 13 July 2018 to the setting up of the Fact-Finding Committee to fully investigate the matter and its recommendations will be submitted for consideration during the next Senate meeting on Friday 20 July 2018.
Mr Baloomoody: Can I know from the hon. Minister now what will happen to the students with regard to that examination?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, we will have to wait for the deliberations of the Fact-Finding Committee to see what the report states and from thereon decisions will be taken by the University of Mauritius.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Uteem!
Mr Uteem: Thank you, Madam Speaker. May I know from the hon. Minister whether the Board of the Examiners or anyone else at the University of Mauritius has carried out any investigation to find out whether the marks obtained by the students from the Ébène Campus were much higher than the students from the Réduit Campus?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: In fact, Madam Speaker, this is why the Board of the Results and Examinations has asked for the setting up of the Fact-Finding Committee and the Fact-Finding Committee will be submitting its report on July 20th.