n South African Journal of Higher Education - In defence of institutional autonomy and academic freedom : contesting state regulation of higher education

Volume 19, Issue 6
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



In this article, we offer four arguments against excessive state involvement in, and regulation of, higher education institutions in South Africa. We argue, firstly, that state 'regulation' is inextricably connected with the practice of exercising 'power-over' institutions, a trend which could undermine institutional autonomy and academic freedom. Secondly, we maintain that higher education institutions lack autonomy since they are controlled by the state through subsidies. Such funding provisions for higher education institutions in effect place a significant limit on professional judgement and the pursuit of standards of excellence in academic work. Thirdly, we point out why excessive state regulation could catastrophically harm free scientific inquiry. And finally, we contend that excessive or intrusive state regulation can result in a kind of <I>laissez faire&lt;/I&gt; situation characterized by a passive or cynical compliance vis-à-vis performativity.

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