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Reflections of South African University Leaders: 1981 to 2014

The inspiration for this collection arose in late 2013 in the Council on Higher Education’s (CHE) Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate, the directorate responsible for conducting research on the higher education landscape and monitoring the state of the sector over time. They noted that conditions besetting universities had grown increasingly complex, both globally but more especially locally, and the question arose – how had this altered the challenges to university leadership over the period, say, between the new political dispensation ushered in in 1994 and the second decade of the new millennium? More particularly, how had leaders with a proven track record of visionary and strong leadership during this period faced these challenges? How did they see the main changes that needed dealing with? What challenges did these changes pose and how were they successfully overcome? What did they think, looking back, were the main constituents of successful leadership and management? What wisdom could be distilled for posterity? The Directorate decided to invite a range of vice-chancellors and senior academic leaders who had completed their terms of office to contribute to a project that set out to gather such reflections and compile them into a publication.

Much has been written about the ever-growing demands on university leadership worldwide in the face of increasingly complex changes and challenges from within the academy and beyond. However, as we are reminded by Johan Muller in the Introduction to this book, “there are particular features of time and place that also throw up unique problems”. It is precisely ‘time and place’ that make this set of reflections by university leaders quite remarkable and distinguishes it from the many biographies to be found in the literature on higher education leadership. … In the main, this collection spans two decades, the 1990s and 2000s, of unprecedented levels of change in South African higher education. Leaders in universities, as well as those responsible for higher education policy in the government and associated statutory bodies, had no neat script to work off, nor ‘manuals’ or prescripts of ‘good’ leadership or practice. Instead, there was palpable excitement about collectively imagining and nurturing a new post-apartheid higher education system, which would contribute to the social and economic development needs of the country, the deepening of democracy and which would also be globally relevant.

Most reflections touch on the coalface of leadership, which is the face-to-face interactional dimension, dealing with staff, with students, with council chairs. What comes through clearly, is the importance of what are sometimes called ‘people skills’. In these accounts this is not simply presented as a human relations aptitude, for a number of reasons, first of which is the special nature of universities and their occupants. More than one points out the special challenge of managing the talented people that are academics, and their inbuilt distaste for bureaucracy, their reluctance to be managed or told what to do. The message here is consistently one of needing to be completely open with academics, the importance of maintaining the distinction between ‘collegial’ and ‘executive’ management (avoiding ‘managerialism’), and the critical importance of winning and holding their trust.

Student Politics in Africa: Representation and Activism

The second volume of the African Higher Education Dynamics Series brings together the research of an international network of higher education scholars with interest in higher education and student politics in Africa. Most authors are early career academics who teach and conduct research in universities across the continent and came together for a research project, and related workshops and a symposium on student representation in African higher education governance.

The book includes theoretical chapters on student organising, student activism and representation; chapters on historical and current developments in student politics in Anglophone and Francophone Africa, and in-depth case studies on student representation and activism in a cross-section of universities and countries.

The book provides a unique resource for academics, university leaders and student affairs professionals as well as student leaders and policy-makers in Africa and elsewhere.

Doctoral Education in South Africa

Worldwide, in Africa and in South Africa, the importance of the doctorate has increased disproportionately in relation to its share of the overall graduate output over the last decade. This heightened attention has not only been concerned with the traditional role of the PhD, namely the provision of a future supply of academics. Rather, it has focused on the increasingly important role that higher education – particularly high-level skills – is perceived to play in national development and the knowledge economy.

This book is unique in the area of research into doctoral studies because it draws on a large number of studies conducted by the Centre of Higher Education Trust (CHET) and the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) over the past decade. In addition to these historical studies, new quantitative and qualitative research was undertaken to produce the evidence base for the anbalyses presented in the book. The studies focused on a range of issues related to the growth, efficiency, quality and transformation of doctoral education, doctoral supervision, doctoral tracer studies as well as drawing on studies from the rest of Africa and the world.

The book makes recommendations about strengthening traditional doctoral education, and proposes a paradigm shift. It concludes by raising three policy issues: reaching the National Development Plan 2030 target of 5 000 graduates per annum, South Africa as a PhD hub for Africa and differentiation among different groups of doctorate-producing institutions.

Boundaries of the Educational Imagination

The educational imagination is the capacity to think critically beyond our located, daily experiences of education. It breaks away from the immediacy of personal understanding by placing education within wider, deeper and longer contexts. Boundaries of the Educational Imagination develops the educational imagination by answering six questions:

What happens when we expand continuously outwards from one school to all the schools of the world?
What happens if we go inside a school and explore how its material equipment has changed over the past 300 years?
What is the smallest educational unit in our brain and how does it allow an almost infinite expansion of knowledge?
What is the highest level of individual development we can teach students to aspire towards?
What role does education play in a world that is producing more and more complex knowledge increasingly quickly?
How do small knowledge elements combine to produce increasingly complex knowledge forms?
Each question goes on a journey towards limit points in education so that educational processes can be placed within a bigger framework that allows new possibilities, fresh options and more critical engagement. These questions are then pulled together into a structuring framework enabling the reader to grasp how this complex subject works.

Leadership and Management: Case Studies in Training in Higher Education in Africa

There has been a resurgence of interest in training programmes for higher education leaders and management (HELM) at African universities in recent times. Although there have been a few cases of evaluation studies of such programmes in Africa, a more systematic review of the lessons learnt through these programmes has not been done.

This book aims to document and reflect on the learnings from intervention programmes at three African higher education councils. It is clear that university leaders face many leadership and management challenges. This is the starting point of the book. More specific questions that are addressed include:

Have the challenges for leadership in higher education management been documented: Not only the shifts in education but the challenges and how leaders at universities have responded to them?
There has been an increase in the number of interventions but little evidence of lessons learnt. What lessons have we learnt from the three training programmes?
The book commences with an introduction that sets the historical context for this initiative. The remainder of the book is divided into three main parts:

Part One consists of two chapters: A review of African scholarship on university leadership and management and the history and landscape of HELM training in Africa.
Part Two presents the ‘documentation and lessons learnt’ from the three country initiatives.
Part Three consists of two chapters: the first describes in detail the monitoring and evaluation process that ran concurrently with the implementation of the country training programmes; the second reviews the uptake and impact of these programmes.
The following stakeholder groupings will find the book useful: HE councils (especially in Africa) and other bodies that are in the business of designing and implementing interventions; senior leadership and management at African universities; international donor agencies and other agencies; and evaluators and scholars in the field of higher education.

Twenty Years of Education Transformation in Gauteng 1994 to 2014

Twenty Years of Education Transformation in Gauteng 1994 to 2014: An Independent Review presents a collection of 15 important essays on different aspects of education in Gauteng since the advent of democracy in 1994. These essays talk to what a provincial education department does and how and why it does these things – whether it be about policy, resourcing or implementing projects. Each essay is written by one or more specialist in the relevant focus area.

The book is written to be accessible to the general reader as well as being informative and an essential resource for the specialist reader. It sheds light on aspects of how a provincial department operates and why and with what consequences certain decisions have been made in education over the last 20 turbulent years, both nationally and provincially.

There has been no attempt to fit the book’s chapters into a particular ideological or educational paradigm, and as a result the reader will find differing views on various aspects of the Gauteng Department of Education’s present and past. We leave the reader to decide to what extent the GDE has fulfilled its educational mandate over the last 20 years.