n South African Journal of Higher Education - Tracking enrolments and graduations in humanities education in South Africa : are we in crisis?

Volume 25, Issue 6
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



In this article we respond to the perceived crisis in humanities education in South Africa which posits firstly that large numbers of students are leaving this field and that secondly, the value of a humanities education has declined. To do this we track the enrolments and graduation rates in humanities at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels between 1999-2007. We disaggregate the data using the racial quantifiers identified in the HEMIS data base. We show that the small overall numeric decline of students in humanities education does not constitute a crisis in itself. Instead, it is disturbing that humanities education does not parallel the patterns of growth evident in higher education as a whole, particularly for historically disadvantaged groups. We use Waghid's ideas on the civic role and responsible citizenship roles of higher education to comment on the numeric trends we observe with respect to humanities education and argue that the second perceived crisis, namely that of the declining value of humanities education deserves national attention.

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