Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
WOLHUTER, CC; HIGGS, P; HIGGS, LG and NTSHOE, IM. The diminishing attractiveness of the academic profession in South Africa. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2010, vol.50, n.2, pp. 141-156. ISSN 2224-7912.
As the twenty-first century's knowledge society - that is societies/economies which have evolved from industrial production and services to the production of knowledge as driving axis - takes form, an ever-increasing value is attached to the higher education sector. Any higher education project stands or falls by the quality of its academic staff complement, which in turn depends on how attractive the academic profession is as a career. The aim of this article is to investigate the attractiveness of the South African academic profession, by means of the data of the CAP (Changing Academic Profession) international survey of the academic profession. Internationally the following factors are impacting on higher education and on the academic profession: globalisation; information-, the communication- and knowledge revolution, the neoliberal economic revolution and democratisation. On top of these world-wide trends, higher education in South Africa is both the scene of a radical make-over of the entire education system (change to outcomes-based education, introduction of a National Qualifications Framework, desegregation, equalisation of opportunities, multiculturalism, democratisation) and it is regarded as a major instrument to effect an ambitious series of societal goals: economic goals, cultural goals, social goals and political goals. The above have radical implications for all aspects of the professional lives of academics: their tuition activities, research, community service, administrative activities, relations with institutional governance, entrepreneurship, and physical facilities and remuneration. From the investigation it appears as if the South African academic profession is under big work pressure. They work longer hours than what South African labour legislation sets as norm. In comparison with other professions they are under remunerated. Moreover, they have been dispossessed of much of their freedom and autonomy that have historically been regarded as an essential part of the professional environment of the academic profession. On top of that they are experiencing other frustrations, such as the influx of academically inadequately prepared students, and a lack of sufficient research funds. Amidst these circumstances a substantial percentage of the academic profession consider leaving the profession. According to available evidence, the attraction of the South African academic profession is diminishing. As the higher education sector (and by implication the academic profession) is pivotal for the nascent knowledge society, the diminishing attractiveness of the academic profession in South Africa should, as a matter of urgent priority, receive attention.
Keywords : Academic profession; CAP investigation; higher education; university tuition; research; academic entrepreneurialism; managerialism; job satisfaction; knowledge society; education transformation.