HE Stakeholder Summit: Declaration 2


This summit recognises this extraordinary opportunity for a re-examination of our understanding of the post-apartheid South African university 15 years after our democracy; embraces the opportunity to reposition this sector in a reconfigured post-school education and training system to pursue key national development goals; and we commit ourselves to address the challenges raised in the report of the Ministerial committee on discrimination.

We re-affirm the fundamental principles of the White Paper in Higher Education adopted in 1997 after extensive and inclusive processes of consultation with the sector:

· Equity and redress:

· Democratisation:

· Development:

· Quality

· Effectiveness and efficiency

· Academic freedom

· Institutional autonomy

· Public accountability

We recognize the challenges of:

· Sustaining responsive and engaged knowledge institutions which are fit for the purpose of transformation and development in South Africa and in particular to respond to regional social and economic needs and HRD

· Producing socially responsible graduates conscious of their role in contributing to the national development effort and social transformation.

· Developing a well-organised, vibrant research and development system which integrates the research and training capacity of higher education with the needs of industry and of social reconstruction

· Deepening robust and inclusive democratic processes at system and institutional level

· Increasing access to, and articulation within, post-school education and training, particularly to the poor

· Developing a framework for a continuum of institutions which are differentiated in relation to their strengths and purposes and linked to regional/local economic networks; and facilitate portability of students, academics and knowledge across the sector

· The pressures of commodification and commercialisation in higher education which have privileged business efficiencies over academic concerns.

· The many factors impacting on the quality of the academic project

· The poor conditions under which many students learn and live

We affirm:

· Academic freedom and institutional autonomy as necessary freedoms that enable our universities to effectively address the imperatives and developmental challenges of our society. At the same time we recognize that there are duties and responsibilities that inhere in these freedoms: the duties include our commitment to transform our universities so that they become more equitable, inclusive and just.

· The need for strong governance for Universities to be publicly accountable,

· The contribution of this sector to the broad system of education, and its specific contribution to strengthening basic education

· Our commitment to ongoing and robust engagement


1. Establish a permanent Stakeholder Forum. The department must lead a broad consultative process immediately after the summit to define the role and functions of this forum and a process for it to be established

2. Convene an annual summit to review progress in the sector (the sector being accountable to itself). Annual summits should keep institutional progress in relation to the recommendations of the Soudien report on the agenda

3. A working group should be urgently convened to take forward the framework for institutional differentiation developed in the Summit and develop recommendations in consultation with the sector

4. Develop mechanisms to promote student-centeredness and caring universities

5. Develop a charter on learning and teaching

6. Seek a focused recapitalisation of HDIs

7. Strengthen emphasis on post-graduate studies and research

8. Revitalize the academic profession including the development a coordinated plan to increase the number of younger researchers,

9. Ensure stronger intra-institutional capacity-building & knowledge sharing in order to foster inter-institutional sectoral solidarity and collaboration

10. Ensure commitment to good corporate governance

11. Address the decent work requirements or academics and support staff

12. A national framework for development of student leadership.

13. There is a need to develop programmes aimed at improving opportunities for young African academics particularly women.

14. HEI’s must contribute to the development of African languages as academic languages, understanding language development play in development and education. This includes the development of African language based post graduate outputs across disciplinary areas.

15. We need a curriculum oriented toward social relevance and which supports students to become socially engaged citizens and leaders

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2 thoughts on “HE Stakeholder Summit: Declaration

  • Chris Reay

    All these items so eruditely stated are great. The question we need to ask is are we missing them all now? Have we decided that all educational processes that were in existence in 1994 for example needed to be changed for the sake of change driven by the fixation on transformation? Were some of them not working and producing employable and skilled persons? Where are the qualified artisans, tool makers for the manufacturing industry, and Certificated Engineers to provide the competence, execution and planning for safe and working infrastructure, just as one lot of examples that actually are necessary conditions for a growing and competitive economy and reducing unemployment?
    I believe that the root cause of our present inability to produce a populace that is educated to not only be employable but to have an attitude of constuctive contribution instead of entitlement to a job and support, is that the education processes were and are so distorted by unproven experimentation (OBE, learnerships that were believed could achieve skills in a quick-win method, appointment via ethnic metrics, not level of skills). We have achieved a dumbed down society with limited competitive skills, thinking processes and work ethic.
    We will rue this day for a long time until, and if, we can reverse the entrenched damage which I guess the above key recommendations are attempting to achieve. When tertiary institutions are measured by the number of graduates they can produce as the goal for obtaining funding, and the academic standards are adjusted to achieve this, then we are in big trouble. In the engineering world, we have learned that standards have to remain. You cannot mess with the laws of science. No one has yet been able to modify Ohms Law so that it meets a political objective. Until one addresses root cause, then all efforts are wasted in treating symptoms.

  • Klaas Riemann

    A beautifully worded document of intent. The basics driving higher education performance are probably
    1)A society where students seek a professional career and not only Big Bucks. 2)A society which respects and rewards professional performance. 3)Institutions which deliver confident graduates who can do the job.
    4)Inspirational teachers. 5)A system which gives every citizen a chance to become a professor.
    I don’t believe any window dressing, passing the buck or red herrings can substitute those fundamentals.

    Given that society will not change easily for the sake of some international academic performance rating,
    I would like to suggest a revisit to that difficult concept, the (South)African Rennaissance. One has to be brave, but what an opportunity! If one keeps missing the goal, move the goal. And it’s not about dropping standards. It has to be about an alignment of needs and training in the economic, cultural and societal spheres based on a vision less materialistic, more cultural, more in tune with simple wants and pleasures than our present efforts.
    We have a unique advantage because we are energy self sufficient (lots of cheap coal), plus have minerals everybody else needs, which really makes us the master of our own destiny.