n South African Journal of Higher Education - A critical overview of trends and practices in performance management in the South African higher educational environment : research in higher education

Volume 17, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



The transformation from an industrial society to a postmodern knowledge society has given rise to a new set of values that are manifesting to varying degrees in modern organisations. Besides quality orientation, these include focus on teamwork and cooperation, democratisation of the workplace, fairness and equity in labour relations, and a respect for diversity. In South Africa, many of these values have been amplified by the political transformation that the country has been undergoing since the early 1990s. Organisations are obliged to promote these values and build new cultures through strong leadership, changed strategies, and ensure buyin and compliance by means of performance management and reward systems. Higher Education, particularly in South Africa, has been reluctant to adopt performance management systems and practices, especially insofar as it pertains to the management and appraisal of academic staff at institutions of Higher Learning. The reasons for the reluctance seem to revolve mostly around an exaggerated deference to the idea of "academic freedom" and more operationally, the difficulties associated with "measuring" excellence in academic pursuits. This article will give an overview of prevalent trends and practices in managing academic performance and will attempt to explore the possible reasons for the apparent reluctance of academic staff and academic administrators to develop or adopt systems and procedures for managing academic performance.

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