The Council on Higher Education (CHE) was of the view that the tenth anniversary of South Africa’s democratic dispensation created a unique and timely opportunity for reflection on a decade of policy
making and policy implementation towards the goal of transforming South African higher education. The specific goals of the colloquium were:
- Critically identifying and discussing national and institutional weaknesses and shortcomings and issues and trends of concern, and the reasons for these;
- Defining ongoing systemic, institutional research and development challenges, cognizant of constraints but also the bounds of possibility;
- Celebrating, appropriately, progress and achievements;
- Renewing commitment to higher education transformation.
The intended emphasis was on critical intellectual engagement that highlights current paradoxes, ambiguities and tensions in the higher education transformation process and facilitates the effective pursuit of the higher education transformation agenda.
The agenda for the colloquium was developed and enriched through a period of consultation and discussion with key actors in the sector. A thematic dialogue thus began well before the colloquium.
In a stark challenge to the sector in her opening address, Education Minister Naledi Pandor observed that higher education stood “at the precipice of weighty decision-making. It could take a leap into a
strong revival of all institutions and a firm role in influencing and shaping the process of transition in South Africa. Or it could choose to reside in isolated mediocrity, satisfied with a few star performers, and a majority that refuses to accept a mantle of change.”
Colin Bundy observed that the colloquium provided “an extraordinary space for discussion” between policy-makers, managers, scholars, government, students and other stakeholders that was quite unique. This report on the colloquium is intended to reflect major themes of debate, as well as to allow an opportunity to continue to engage with the issues. It will reflect trends, areas of agreement and disagreement as well as suggestions for further debate. To this end, it will draw from the discussions at the colloquium rather than serving as a summary of all discussion and papers delivered.