n South African Journal of Higher Education - A Caledonian college in Cape Town and beyond : an investigation into the foundation(s) of the South African university system : perspectives on higher education

Volume 17, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



Adopting a historical approach, this article traces the origins of key features of the South African university system, namely the general nature of its undergraduate degrees, its heavy reliance on lectures to convey information and its extensive use of examinations to assess levels of student achievement. This historical investigation finds the roots of these features in the unreformed Scottish university system which was enthusiastically embraced by South Africa's first two teaching universities, the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Stellenbosch, in 1918, and which then was adopted by those universities which were set up in their image during the next 70 years. The article suggests that any attempt to reform the country's university system today must take account of the historical circumstances which produced it originally.

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