Higher education dept to release report on recruitment, progression of black SA academics

  • The full report will be made available on the department's website.
  • The task team has made 20 recommendations, according to Minister Blade Nzimande.
  • Among some of the identified issues is an inadequate postgraduate pipeline.

The South African postgraduate pipeline is "woefully inadequate" to support the aspirations of a developing and transformed South Africa.

This was one of the issues which a task team identified when it looked into the recruitment, retention and progression of black South African academics, according to Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Blade Nzimande.

Nzimande said the ministerial task team, chaired by former deputy vice-chancellor of the University of South Africa Professor David Mosoma, had concluded it work and would submit a report on its findings soon.

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The minister announced the release of the report, which will also be available on the department's website, while briefing the nation on Wednesday on measures the sector took amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The task team was appointed to investigate issues relating to blockages underpinning the slow pace of academic staff transformation at universities.

The blockages identified could be grouped into five categories, according to Nzimande.

The first category looked at the South African postgraduate pipeline and whether it was inadequate in size and continued to be inequitable in terms of participation and the success of South African black and female students.

Nzimande said:

What is extremely worrying is that while overall postgraduate numbers are growing, the proportional share of South African postgraduate students is steadily declining. If the postgraduate pipeline challenges are not decisively addressed, it will become very difficult to address the staff recruitment challenge.

In 2015, Nzimande convened the Higher Education Transformation Summit, which highlighted national concerns regarding the slow rate of transformation at institutions. 

In 2017, he also raised concerns about the scarcity of black professors in South Africa. 


At the time, ahead of his department's budget vote for 2017/2018, Nzimande said 83% of the country's university professors, were white. He added that, until the skewed demographics were fixed, there would be no decolonisation in higher education, News24 previously reported. 

The task team also identified that despite some progress, black academics, more especially African, coloured and female academics remained underrepresented. 

Nzimande said it appeared that some universities were seeking to address staff transformation imperatives through the recruitment of black academics from the continent. 

According to the minister, other identified categories from the task team's report were
  • That institutional cultures that were working in overtly and covertly racist and sexist ways to maintain the postgraduate student profile and/or the staffing status quo in certain spaces, as well as competing academic responsibilities, the lack of appropriate role models and mentors and the inability to embark on a research trajectory, were significant barriers to the recruitment, retention and progression of black and female academics;
  • That in regard to staff transformation at universities, a policy-strategy disjuncture appeared to exist in some spaces;
  • That resource impediments continued to impact on the pace at which the postgraduate pipeline and the staffing pipeline could be transformed.

"Whilst universities are implementing a number of strategies to transform the staff profile, these appear to be executed in the absence of clear, well-defined policy, and in the absence of time-bound staff transformation plans that seek to achieve specific targets," Nzimande said.

The task team has made 20 recommendations to point out the highlighted blockages, the minister added.

Nzimande said he also intended to submit the report, along with its recommendations and actions, to Cabinet for consideration and approval once stakeholders in the sector have made their proposals on the recommendations after a period of two months.

"In releasing this report today, I am requesting that the sector engages seriously with the report, and with its recommendations, with a view to identifying concrete actions that can be implemented at multiple levels of the system to give effect to the recommendations. I look forward to receiving proposals for action," Nzimande said.

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