HEQCIS Year-end Arrangements
Friday, December 6, 2019

We will be taking a break from 20 December 2019 to 01 January 2020 (inclusive), returning on 02 January 2020.



The South African university staffing profile is still a product of the pre-1994 dispensation. Historically, the vast majority of academics and senior managers were white males, and it was hard for other race groups and women to progress in academic careers. This legacy has been slow to change over as can be seen by looking at the current staffing data as obtained from HEMIS.

Overall Staff

The overall staffing profile of the South African higher education sector in 2013 includes all racial groups, while differences by seniority continue. African staff members represent 45% of the total staff within the South African university sector and Whites represent 38%. Temporary staff account for 64% of staff members to the 36% permanent staff. The increase in the employment of temporary staff over permanent staff is not a new phenomenon in the sector neither is it unique to South Africa. It is common practice to appoint more staff on a temporary basis. The ratio of 1:1.8 between permanent and temporary staff has remained constant over the last few years.

Figure 1 Overall Staff Employment Status by Race 2013

Source: HEMIS 2013

The sector employs significantly more women than men. Women employed in the higher education sector constituted 53% of overall staff members in 2013, although this does not indicate their level of employment. The same proportion (53%) also holds for women employed in both temporary and permanent positions, which is exactly the same proportions as 2012.


Figure 2 Overall Staff Employment for 2013

Source: HEMIS 2013

As can be seen from the graph below most staff members are employed as non-professional administrative staff, mainly in temporary posts. Academic staff members account for the second highest number of employees. There are more permanent academic staff members than permanent employees in other individual categories.

Figure 3 Overall Staff Employment Status by Personnel Category for 2013


Source: HEMIS 2013

Senior Management Staff

Senior Management staff members are responsible for high level planning and the execution of the strategic goals of universities. These members are considered to have extensive experience in higher education and their contribution to the sustainability of the sector is invaluable. Given the high level at which they work, senior management staff members are required to have extensive experience and high-level expertise. Considering South Africa’s history of racial segregation, many of those with the required experience, are white and male. It is, therefore, not surprising that the graph below shows that white senior management staff members constitute 53% of the total number of senior management staff. Transformation at this level is required as expertise is developed in the sector.

At senior management level a majority of the staff members are permanently employed and only 24% are in temporary positions.

Figure 4 Executive Staff by Employment Staff by Race for 2013

Source: HEMIS 2013

The next graph shows the gender profile of senior management staff members. Both men and women have the 76% permanent to 24% temporary senior management staff. However, substantially more men than women are employed at this level.

Figure 5 Executive Staff Employment Status by Gender for 2013

Source: HEMIS 2013

Academic Staff

The core functions of universities – namely teaching, research and community engagement – are predominantly carried out by academic staff members. As such, they are vital for the effective running of the institution. This section considers the demographics of academic staff members in the South African public higher education sector.

The graph below shows the racial demographics of the sector. White academics makes up 51% and African academics 34% of the academic staffing sector with fewer Indian (8%) and Coloured (5%) staff members. There is little difference in employment status by race, and the ratio of approximately 1:2 (permanent: temporary) applies throughout with the exception of Coloured academics where the ratio is 1:1.5.

Figure 6 Academic Staff Employment Status by Race for 2013

Source: HEMIS 2013

Regarding the gender profile of academic staff, slightly more men are employed than women. However, when only considering permanent staff, the difference is more pronounced in favour of men.

Figure 7 Academic Staff Employment Status by Gender for 2013

Source: HEMIS 2013

It is interesting to see the difference in the employment status of academics by age grouping. The highest number of academics is under 30 years old, but 89% of these are temporarily employed, resulting in the lowest number of permanently employed academic staff being under 30 years old.  

Figure 8 Academic Staff Employment Status by Age Group for 2013

Source: HEMIS 2013

As can be seen in the graph below, the majority of academic’s qualifications are captured as ‘other’. This is particularly the case for temporary staff members. Academics with Masters and Doctoral qualifications are the second highest categories, and they have the highest proportions of permanently employed personnel.

Figure 9 Academic Staff Employment Status by Qualification Type for 2013

Source: HEMIS 2013

The graph below shows the qualifications academics hold disaggregated by their racial group. White academics hold the highest percentage of the postgraduate qualifications (58%) and more specifically the Masters (53%) and Doctoral (66%) qualifications. 

Figure 10 Academic Staff Race Profile by Qualification Type for 2013

Source: HEMIS 2013

When it comes to qualifications by gender, there is little deference except at Doctoral level where 62% of the academics that have a Doctorate are men.  

Figure 11 Academic Staff Gender Profile by Qualification Type for 2012

Source: HEMIS 2013

The following graph shows the ranking of academics by racial group. The legacy of apartheid still shows in that most of the Professors (76%), Associate Professors (67%) and Senior lecturers (59%) are white. As non-white lecturers and junior lecturers move into more senior positions and new academics enter the system, in time changes in the demographics are foreseeable. 

Figure 12 Academic Staff Race Profile by Ranking for 2013

Source: HEMIS 2013

As can be seen from the graph below, men dominate in higher ranking academic positions. The ratio of male Professors to female Professors is 3 : 1 and for Associate Professors the ratio is 2:1.

Overall the ratio of men to women in academia is one to one. It is from the Senior lecturer level upwards where the inequalities start. This trend strongly correlates to the qualification levels of academic staff, where more men hold Masters and Doctoral qualifications.

Figure 13 Academic Staff Gender Profile by Ranking for 2013

Source: HEMIS 2013


Student to Staff Ratio

The table below reflects the Full-time Equivalent (FTE) data for students and academic staff. FTE student enrolments are calculated (a) by assigning to each course a fraction representing the weighting it has in the curriculum of a qualification, and (b) by multiplying the headcount enrolment of that course by this fraction. FTE staff numbers are calculated in a similar way.

Table 1 Student to Staff Ratio by CESM category for 2013


Source: HEMIS 2013

The ratio of student per FTE academic staff member overall is 27 to 1. The figures are more interesting when taken by field of study. It would be interesting to compare this data with the success rates.


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