Commercialisation of Higher Education in South Africa

Introduction and Literature Review

South African education policies place priority on addressing historical education imbalances, but should also be sensitive to the demands of an ever-increasing global knowledge-driven environment. The educational system cannot be dominated by the needs of the domestic educational system of South Africa ignoring the trends exerted by the global world (OEDC Annual Report, 2004:44). Higher education in South Africa should realize that they operate and function in a knowledge-driven global environment in which both domestic and foreign students demand access to the best quality education at the best reputable institutions of higher education in the world.

In this regard, most definitions of internationalization of higher education include the following: “Internationalisation is a process that prepares the community for successful participation in an increasingly interdependent world … The process infuse all facets of the post-secondary education system, fostering global understanding and developing skills for effective living and working in a diverse world” (Francis, 1993 cited by Patrick, 1997).

The position of higher education in South Africa should be evaluated considering the re-integration of South Africa into the global community. South Africa was rapidly re-integrated into the world community by obtaining almost immediate membership of influential international organisations after 1994. Kishun (1998:59) indicated that South Africa became a member of among others the following international institutions: United Nations; Organisation of African Unity; Commonwealth; International Olympic Committee; Federation of International Football Associations; and Lome Convention. Integration of influential international institutions is a necessary but not sufficient pre-condition for internationalization of higher education. Sustainable internationalization should be closely aligned to the emerging global trends and events in the education sector.

An analysis of the basis on which internationalization of higher education occurs is needed as well as the benefits of the internationalization process. This research is conducted against this background.

Problem Statement

Whilst South Africa is in a process of transition regarding higher education to address the imbalances of the past, the question arises whether the South African educational sector is able to compete in the global economy which regard knowledge as a commercialised commodity.


A sample size of 781 respondents from six institutions of higher education in South Africa was selected. Senior students were randomly selected using the convenience sampling technique. A semi-structured questionnaire was developed to measure the perceived competitive profile of institutions of higher education in South Africa. The questionnaire constitutes five measuring foci, namely:

· Section A: Institutional information regarding the location where the respondent is enrolled.

· Section B: Biographical information in terms of gender, type of student and country of origin.

· Section C: Decision criteria used to select an institution of higher education.

· Section D: Four competitive dimensions of higher education institutions, including strategic competitiveness, institutional competitiveness, product competitiveness, and tactical competitiveness.

· Section E: Open-ended questions, aimed to identify the reasons why respondents choose a specific institution of higher education, their opinion on the institution’s competitive reputation, and the factors that may influence the international competitiveness of the particular institution.

The data was transformed into two opposite categories, namely those who agreed with the statements and those who disagreed, enabling the researchers to derive a hypothesized agreement-disagreement distribution. Those who neither agreed nor disagreed were allocated to the disagreement group set giving and expected disagreement response set of 57% (p=0.57) and an agreement response set of 43% (q=0.43). The Binomial test was employed to determine whether the observed distribution correspond with the hypothesized distribution using a significance test level of 0.05. Furthermore, the level of agreement or disagreement with the selected competitive statements and the extend of agreements between the respondents from the different institutions on the various statements were determined by executing four statistical procedures, namely: ANOVA to compare the means of respondents from the different institutions; determining how much of the perception variation could be accounted for by the influence of the different institutions of higher education; determining the averages for each strategic dimension to obtain an indication of the level of agreement with the competitive statements; and determining the standard deviations to obtain an indication of the extend to which consensus exists within the sample.


With regard to the strategic competitiveness of South African institutions of higher education to engage in a seamless network the respondents were of the opinion that South African institutions of higher education give low priority to attract foreign students, are not well known for attracting foreign students, are not actively involved in exchange programmes of students and lecturers, and do not have active engagements or agreements with other tertiary institutions, businesses and communities.

On the issue of institutional competitiveness, the majority of respondents were of the opinion that institutions of higher education in South Africa have the ability to attract quality students, does not have an international student culture, offers qualifications that are internationally accepted, can claim international reputability on post-graduate level, offers competitive tuition fees, deliver research outputs that are internationally recognized, and are not easily accessible.

In terms of product competitiveness the majority of respondents indicated that institutions of higher education in South Africa have active orientation programmes to familiarise foreign and domestic students with the institutions, provide safe and secure learning environments, provide leading information technology for academic growth and excellence, do not easily adapt to the needs and wants of students, and provide convenient service packages to students.

With regard to tactical competitiveness institutions of higher education in South Africa have the ability to compile a diploma or degree offering that meets or exceeds international standards in terms of offering subject content of international standard, having internationally acclaimed staff, aggressively marketing its qualifications internationally, claiming international acceptable through-put, and having acceptable grant and loan schemes accessible to students.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The majority of respondents are in agreement that institutions of higher education in South Africa are able to compete internationally on the four competitive dimensions (strategic, institutional, tactical and product). Internationalisation requires that institutions of higher education in South Africa should emphasise a somewhat loosening of the relationship with Government, despite the paradoxical need to create new transformational bodies to address the imbalances of the past. Internationalisation of higher education implies that internationalised institutions operate on new super ordinate levels which has its own legal, administrative and revenue-raising powers.

In terms of strategic direction institutions of higher education might consider at least one of the following internationalization approaches:

· “Would-be internationalization”: Applies to academics and institutions wanting to be involved in internationalization but facing problems in being considered on equal terms.

· “Life or death internationalization”: Countries, their academics and institutions, which view internationalization cooperation as indispensable for their status and role in the global world.

· “Two areas”: Academics and institutions have the option of striving for either more national or more international status and orientation. The academic field in which one is operating often determines this.

· “Internationalisation by import”: Countries and institutions that treat internationalization only as coming from outside, by hosting foreign students and publishing research. It should not represent a separate strategy towards internationalisation.


Kishun, R. 1998. Internationalization in South Africa. In The globalization of Higher Education. Scott, P. ed. Buckingham: Open University Press.

OECD Annual Report. 2004. Education. p.41-45.

Patrick, K. 1997. CSDF project full report: Internationalising the University. Melbourne: RMIT.

The Role of Skill Development and Higher Education in Economic Growth

For shaping the future of state, government is promoting skill development centers and higher education centers. Some major expansion has been done by state government in the field of higher education. Engineering colleges have become the prime center for nurturing talent. Top engineering colleges are busy in producing talented engineers year after year.

Role of Higher Education: Higher education plays a key role in the development of any country, state or region. The chance of economic growth of any state is as good as the pool of their skilled people. No plan of economic development can succeed without skilled people, as economic development depends a lot on the quality of resources they have.

When it comes to higher education shaping the economic development in any state, engineers play a key role. Since infrastructure development is a key thing for economic boost of the state; hence, engineers become vital as they play key role in the construction of roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, railway tracks and many other things.

Higher education also helps in shaping the future of people as skilled people not only get good employment opportunities they also create employment for other as well. Skill development program has helped people to become self-reliant and financially independent.

Roles of Higher Education Institutions: Role of educational institution has changed a lot over the years, unlike the earlier years where most colleges and universities focused on traditional courses, nowadays these higher education institutions offer different programs which not only help them develop certain skill sets but also these programs are designed according to the need of corporate sector, the aim is to groom youngsters in such a way that they become industry ready.

For years Indian educational system was considered as a system which could only produces clerks and it has changed a lot. Nowadays engineering and management has become the preferred choice of the youngsters. Higher education institutions also focusing in developing more entrepreneurs these days in this way they help state government to resolve the issue of unemployment. Skilled people create their own employment rather than someone who holds a degree and wait for someone else to provide him or herself employment.

The number of educational institutions is growing every year with private institutions and universities making their impact as well. With growing demand of quality engineers and management graduates number of institution and universities has started mushrooming. One needs to be very careful while selecting from engineering colleges.

The Big Squeeze – The Coming Crisis in American Higher Education

Most Americans already know that a crisis is happening in American higher education.

Tuition costs are surging, putting a college education out of reach for many Americans. College grads are defaulting on college loans. They cannot find jobs in the fields they trained for.

Those trends make the news every day. Yet they are only the most visible signs of deeper troubles that threaten to destabilize American higher education in the coming years. Let’s take a closer look.

Coming Crisis: Colleges Will Price themselves Further and Further Out of Reach

According to the U.S. Census, the median income of U.S. households in 1970 was $8,390. By 1989, it has risen to $28,910. And by 2005, it was $46,326. Those figures indicate that Americans today are earning about 5.5 the salaries that they earned 40 years ago.

How much have college costs grown? According to the Congressional Budget Office, the average yearly tuition at a four-year public American university in 1970 was $480. The average tuition at a four-year private college or university was a lot higher, at $1,980.

Today, according to data from The College Board, tuition and fees at four-year state universities currently average $7,020 per year for students who live in- state, and $11,528 for students who live out of state. And private four-year colleges charge an average or $26,273 per year in tuition and fees.

So tuition costs are rising at a rate that far outpaces the growth in income of the typical American household. While income has grown by a factor of 5.5 in the last 40 years, the cost of attending a state college has increased by a factor of 15 for in-state students and by a factor of about 24 for out-of-state students. And the cost of attending a private college has increased by a factor of more than 13.

And colleges are planning tuition increases for the coming years. It’s the big squeeze. For many American families, the dream of sending a child to college is slipping even further out of reach.

Crisis: American Colleges Will Close

Endowments at American colleges and universities have dropped dramatically during the current economic downturn. At the University of Delaware, the endowment shrank by 24.8%. Gettysburg College lost 25.3%, and the list goes on and on.

Top-tier, well-funded institutions will weather the crisis. But a growing number of smaller American private colleges and universities are already finding it difficult to attract enough tuition-paying undergraduates to keep their doors open. With increasing frequency, these schools are making their troubles known.

There’s another reason that colleges are in trouble. With the lack of jobs awaiting graduates, it is difficult to convince many American families that it is really worth paying $30,000, $40,000 or more a year to earn a college degree.

Crisis: American Students Will Be Unable to Train for Available Jobs

The days of the English major, the philosophy major, and the general studies major may be numbered, as more students seek training for jobs that they can actually find after graduation. They are training as medical technicians, computer programmers and air conditioning technicians. Yet just as students are looking for practical training, the sources of that training are harder to find, for a few reasons.

First, community colleges are no longer offering as much practical training as they once did. To attract more students, many have modified their course offerings to become more like private institutions. While President Obama has pledged to invest heavily in community colleges and upgrade their training programs, the changes are long overdue.

Second, for-profit colleges and universities are in trouble. A number of them are being investigated right now by Congress because of shady recruiting practices and abuse of government programs for funding higher education. It seems likely that a number of for-profit schools will shut their doors.

The result? American students will find it harder to find schools that offer the practical training they need to secure jobs.

And we all know what can happen when a country’s workers are under-trained, compared to workers in other countries. The result will likely be further damage to the American economy and business.

What Will Save American Higher Education?

The trends outlined above are grim. Yet the situation is far from hopeless. A number of positive trends are at work that point to the possibility that American higher education is not going away, but simply changing.

* America still has the strongest educational infrastructure in the world. We simply have more colleges and universities than any other country. Many of these institutions are already reinventing themselves by offering distance learning options, three-year degree programs and other incentives for modern learners.

* Americans’ desire for education remains strong. With so many of our citizens hungering for learning, there is ample incentive for colleges to develop new learning options for them.

* The timeline of education has changed. More Americans are returning to college at all stages of life. The result is that a larger pool of Americans who are interested in higher education.

* Distance learning is moving into the forefront of American higher education. As Bill Gates predicted on August 9 in his talk at the Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe, it is already possible to deliver a college education over the Internet for as little as $2,000.

In the end, we predict that American ingenuity will not only survive these crises, but turn America into a new kind of community of learners.