Restructuring And Mergers Of The South African Post-Apartheid Tertiary System (1994-2011): A Critical Analysis

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Nelda Mouton
G.P. Louw
G.L. Strydom


South Africa, Apartheid, Tertiary Education, Restructuring, Transformation, Neoliberalism


Socio-economic and vocational needs of communities, governments and individuals change over the years and these discourses served as a compass for restructuring of higher institutions in South Africa from 1994. Before 1994, the claim to legitimacy for government policies in higher education rested on meeting primarily the interests of the white minority. From 1996 onwards, the newly established government considered education a major vehicle of societal transformation. The main objective had been to focus on reducing inequality and fostering internationalisation. Therefore, the rationale for the restructuring of South African universities included a shift from science systems to global science networks. Various challenges are associated with restructuring and include access, diversity, equity and equality. Thus, the restructuring and mergers between former technikons and traditional universities were probably the most difficult to achieve in terms of establishing a common academic platform, as transitional conditions also had to be taken into account and had a twin logic: It was not only the legacy of apartheid that had to be overcome but the incorporation of South Africa into the globalised world was equally important as globalisation transforms the economic, political, social and environmental dimensions of countries and their place in the world. Initially, the post-apartheid higher education transformation started with the founding policy document on higher education, the Report of the National Commission on Higher Education and this report laid the foundation for the 1997 Education White Paper 3 on Higher Education in which a transformed higher education system is described. Restructuring and mergers also had a far-reaching impact, positive and negative, on the various tertiary institutions. This article also reflects on the impact of restructuring and mergers of higher education and reaches the conclusion that higher education faces many more challenges than initially anticipated prior to transformation.


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