n Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe - Die akademiese professie in Suid-Afrika se belewing van die huidige rekonstruksie van die samelewing en die hoër onderwys : research article

Volume 47, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 0041-4751


Omdat Afrika oor die hoof gesien is in die oorspronklike Carnegie-ondersoek (verslag gedateer 1996) betreffende die situasie en ervaringe van die akademiese professie in veertien verskillende lande van die wêreld, en ook omdat navorsing oor hierdie aangeleentheid tot op daardie tydstip nie in Suid-Afrika hoë prioriteit geniet het nie, is dieselfde Carnegie-ondersoeksinstrument in 2002 toegepas op 'n verteenwoordigende steekproef Suid-Afrikaanse akademici. Die doel van die ondersoek was om te bepaal hoe hulle die voortgaande rekonstruksie of transformasie van die Suid-Afrikaanse samelewing en in die besonder van die hoëronderwys-sektor sedert die verdwyning van apartheid in 1994 ervaar het. Die Carnegie-ondersoek (aangevul met resente navorsingsresultate uit ander lande) het aan die lig gebring dat hoewel Suid-Afrikaanse akademici sekere van die onlangse ontwikkelinge inderdaad as struikelblokke ervaar het in die uitvoering van hulle akademiese pligte, hulle oor die algemeen nie van mening was dat die veranderinge hulle en hulle werk so negatief geraak het as hulle kollegas in ander lande waar soortgelyke omstandighede geheers het nie.

Since 1994 South African society in general and higher education in particular has been the terrain of radical change and reconstruction. Research, for example Altbach's (1997) comparison between the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Russia, has shown that the more extensive and the more radical societal change is, the more the academic profession is placed under pressure. The adaptability of the academic profession is not without limit. For example the post-1990 societal reconstruction turned academe in Russia into "... a dramatic picture of decline and deterioration... the conditions of research and advanced scholarship no longer exist" (Altbach 1997:339).
The aim of this research was to determine how the academic profession in South Africa experiences the current reconstruction of society and of higher education. The authors applied the questionnaire of the Carnegie International Investigation of the Academic Profession, which was conducted in 14 other countries and which led to the publication by Altbach (ed.) (1996), to a sample of South African academics.
Currently the South African academic profession finds itself amidst the following contextual factors:
government's educational policies, the principles of which are : equal educational opportunities, desegregation, multiculturalism and democratization
international trends in higher education : accountability, quality control, business principles, performativity and managerialism, all of which mean a significant erosion of the autonomy traditionally enjoyed by universities and by the academic profession.
The empirical study found that the percentage of female academics (47%) is of the highest in the world. This, together with the fact that female academics generally have been employed for fewer years than their male counterparts, and are more concentrated in the lower academic ranks than male academics, are an indication of how vigorous affirmative action with respect to the recruitment and appointment of female academics have been in recent years. The average age of respondents was 43 years. This means that the academic profession in South Africa is relatively young. In England, the United States of America and Japan, for example, the average ages of academics were respectively 47, 48 and 51 years. Respondents spent, on average, 12.9 hours per week lecturing. This is low compared to the international norm. On the other hand, the classes taught by South Africa academics are quite large. The democratisation and equalization of opportunities led to a large influx of students from previously disadvantaged communities. According to respondents, many students entering university are not academically equipped for university study, and are not committed to their studies.
Compared to the results obtained in the other 14 countries, the research output of South African academics is low. South African academics are not involved in community service activities either. Although respondents were of the view that government should not be responsible for higher education policy, they did not feel that there is too much governmental interference in university affairs. Respondents were of the view that respect for academics in South Africa is low, and is declining. Responses on the question measuring the morale of academics indicated that the morale of the South African academic profession is not particularly high. On the other hand, the morale is higher than the international average.
Finally on counts of internationalisation (such as the attendance of international conferences), the South African academic profession scored much higher than the academics of the other 14 countries which took part in the survey.

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