In this work, we contribute to the debate on the transformation of higher education institutions (HEIs) in post-apartheid South Africa by examining the changing demography of academic staff bodies at 25 South African HEIs from 2005 to 2015. We use empirical data to provide initial insights into the changing racial profiles of academic staff bodies across age, gender and rank and then summarise our findings into a transformation ‘scorecard’ which provides an indication of how all racial groups in the country are performing in terms of their representation in higher education. Initial results indicate that most academics in South Africa are middle-aged (between 35 and 54) but an ageing trend is evident, particularly among white academics. In terms of gender, males marginally outnumber females, although we estimate an equitable distribution to be attained within the next 5 years. Significantly, the data indicate that there is an upwards trajectory of black African academics across all rankings from 2005 to 2015 and a concomitant downward trajectory of white academics across all rankings. Both Indian and coloured academics most closely represent their national population representation. Our transformation ‘scorecard’ indicates that the demography of academic staff at higher education institutions in South Africa is changing and will continue to change in the future, particularly within the next 20 years if current trends continue.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
There were in fact 13 universities reserved for black African students but seven universities were located in the former the so-called TBVC states and were not considered here. These ‘states’, located within South Africa, were artificially formed by the National Party under apartheid and were considered ‘independent republics.’
There are now in fact 26 universities in South Africa. The most recent university, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, opened in April 2015 and was excluded in this analysis.
The South African population is still officially classified into racial groups. Black Africans represent the descendants of western and central African populations. The ‘white’ population group represent the descendants of mainly Western and Eastern European populations. The ‘Indian’ population group represent the descendants of south Asian populations. The ‘coloured’ group comprise a mixed population including the descendants of the indigenous Khoisan population, imported Malay slaves and people born out of mixed-race relations.
‘New and merged’ universities consist of universities that have been created since the democratic transition in 1994 as well as universities that have merged during the post-apartheid period. Mergers most often involved the merging of ‘traditionally white HEIs’ with ‘traditionally black Africa HEIs’ such as the merging of the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education (traditionally white) with the University of Bophuthatswana (traditionally black African) to form the North-West University in 2004. For a full list of the university categorisations, feel free to contact the authors.
Akoogee, S., & Nkomo, M. (2007). Access and quality in south African higher education: challenges of transformation. South African Journal of Higher Education, 21(3), 385–399.
Allen, W. R., Epps, E. G., Guillory, E. A., Suh, S. A., & Bonous-Hammarth, M. (2000). The black academic: faculty status among African Americans in U.S. higher education. Journal of Negro Education, 69(1/2), 112–127.
Anderson, M., Astin, A. W., Bell Jr., D. A., Cole, J. B., Etzioni, A., Gellhorn, W., Griffiths, P. A., Hacker, A., Hesburgh, T. M., Massey, W. E., & Wilson, R. (1993). Why the shortage of black professors? The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 1, 25–34.
Badat, S. (2003). Introductory address for the Master of Business Administration re-accreditation consultative workshop’. February 20th Council on Higher Education Office, Pretoria.
Badat, S., & Sayed, Y. (2014). Post-1994 South African education: the challenge of social justice. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 652(1), 127–148.
Breetzke, G. D., & Hedding, D. W. (2016). The changing racial profile of academic staff at South African higher education institutions (HEIs), 2005–2013. Africa Education Review, 13(2), 147–164.
Bunting, I. (2006). The higher education landscape under apartheid. In N. Cloete, P. Maassen, R. Fehnel, T. Moja, T. Gibbon, H. Perold, & M. A. Norwell (Eds.), Transformation in higher education (pp. 35–53). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Cloete, N. (2014). A new look at demographic transformation: comments on Govinder et al. (2013). South African Journal of Science, 110(1/2), 15–18.
Cloete, N. (2015). The PhD and the ideology of ‘no transformation’. Retrieved from http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20150827135017823.
Department of Education. (1997). Education White Paper 3: a programme for the transformation of higher education. Government Gazette No. 18207.
Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). (2014). White paper for post-school education and training: building an expanded, effective and integrated post-school system. Pretoria: DHET.
Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). (2011). Statistics on post-school education and training in South Africa: 2011. Retrieved from http://www.saqa.org.za/docs/papers/2013/stats2011.pdf.
Dunne, T. (2014). On taking the transformation discourse for a ride: rejoinder to a response (Govinder et al. 2014). South African Journal of Science, 110(5/6), 1–4.
Gibbon, T., & Kabaki, J. (2002). Staff and leadership. In N. Cloete, R. Fehnel, P. Maassen, T. Moja, H. Perold, & T. Gibbon (Eds.), Transformation in higher education: global pressures and local realities in South Africa (pp. 123–152). Lansdowne: Juta & Co..
Govinder, K. S., Zondo, N. P., & Makgoba, M. W. (2013). A new look at demographic transformation in South Africa. South African Journal of Science, 109(11/12), 86–96.
Higher Education South Africa. (2014). South African higher education in the 20th year of democracy: context, achievements and key challenges. HESA presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training Cape Town, 5 March 2014.
Journal of Blacks in Higher Education Foundation. (2008). The snail-like progress of blacks in faculty ranks of higher education. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 62, 24–25.
Kamanzi, B. (2016). Decolonising the curriculum—a student call in context. Retrieved from http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20160527145138375.
Makholwa, A. (2015). Campuses changing slowly—and unevenly. Retrieve from https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/national/education/2015-05-18-campuses-changing-slowly--and-unevenly/.
Mangcu, X. (2014). Ripping the veil off UCT’s whiter shades of pale. Retrieve from http://www.uct.ac.za/dailynews/?id=8891.
Mihesuah, D. A. (2004). Academic gatekeepers. In D. A. Mihesuah & A. C. Wilson (Eds.), Indigenizing the academy transforming scholarship and empowering communities (pp. 31–47). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Moody, J.-A. (2000). Tenure and diversity: some different voices. Academe, 86(3), 30–34.
Moultrie, T. A., & Dorrington, R. E. (2014). Flaws in the approach and application of the Equity Index: comments on Govinder et al. (2013). South African Journal of Science, 110(1/2), 25–29.
Msila, V. (2016). #FeesMustFall is just the start of change. Retrieved from http://mg.co.za/article/2016-01-20-fees-are-just-the-start-of-change.
National Commission on Higher Education (NCHE). (1996). A framework for transformation. Pretoria: NCHE.
National Planning Commission (NPC). (2012). National Development Plan 2030—chapter 9: improving education, training and innovation. Pretoria: The Presidency.
New Zealand Ministry of Education. (2005). Nga Haeata Mātauranga annual report on Māori education. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
Nkomo, M. (1992). Democratizing higher education: imperatives of quality and equality for development, quality and equality in higher education. In: Proceedings of the Eighth Biennial Congress of the South African Association for Research and Development in Higher Education (pp. 68–85). University of the Orange Free State.
Nkomo, S. M. (2015). Challenges for management and business education in a “developmental” state: the case of South Africa. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 14(2), 242–258.
Nzimande, B. (2015). Foreword by the Minister’. Retrieve from http://www.dhet.gov.za/ssauf/home.html.
Perna, L. W., Milem, J. F., Gerald, G., Baum, E., Rowan, H., & Hutchens, N. (2006). The status of equity for black undergraduates in public higher education in the south. Research in Higher Education, 47, 197–228.
Phakeng, M. (2015). Leadership: the invisibility of African women and the masculinity of power. South African Journal of Science, 111(11/12), 1–2.
Price, M. (2014). Addressing the shortage of black and women professors. Retrieved from http://www.uct.ac.za/dailynews/?id=8891.
Sadler, E. (2002). A profile and the work environment of black chartered accountants in South Africa. Meditari Accountancy Research, 10, 159–185.
Seabi, J., Seedat, J., Khoza-Shangase, K., & Sullivan, L. (2014). Experiences of university students regarding transformation in South Africa. International Journal of Educational Management, 28(1), 66–81.
Soudien, C., Michaels, W., Mthembi-Mahanyele, S., Nkomo, M., Nyanda, G., Nyoka, N., et al. (2008). Report of the Ministerial Committee on Transformation and Social Cohesion and the Elimination of Discrimination in Public Higher Education Institutions. Pretoria: Department of Education.
South African Institute of Chartered Accountants. (2017). Membership statistics. Retrieved from https://www.saica.co.za/Members/AboutMembers/MembershipStatistics/tabid/502/language/en-ZA/Default.aspx.
Spaull, N. (2016). Black graduate numbers are up. Retrieved from http://mg.co.za/article/2016-05-17-black-graduate-numbers-are-up.
Statistics South Africa. (2011). Statistics in brief. Retrieved from http://www.statssa.gov.za/census/census_2011/census_products/Census_2011_Census_in_brief.pdf.
U.S. Department of Education. (2016). The Condition of education 2016 (NCES 2016-144), Characteristics of postsecondary faculty.
Vorster, J., & Quinn, L. (2017). The ‘decolonial turn’: what does it mean for academic staff development? Education as Change. 10.17159/1947-9417/2017/853.
Weinberg, S. L. (2008). Monitoring faculty diversity: the need for a more granular approach. The Journal of Higher Education, 79, 365–387.
Williams, B. N., & Williams, S. M. (2006). Perceptions of African American male junior faculty on promotion and tenure: implications for community building and social capital. Teacher College Record, 108, 287–315.
Worger, W. H. (2014). The tricameral academy: personal reflections on universities and history departments in “post-apartheid” South Africa. Ufahamu: A Journal of African Studies, 38(1), 193–216.
Wulff, D. H., & Austin, A. E. (2004). Paths to the professoriate: strategies for enriching the preparation of future faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publisher.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Breetzke, G.D., Hedding, D.W. The changing demography of academic staff at higher education institutions (HEIs) in South Africa. High Educ 76, 145–161 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-017-0203-4
- South Africa
- Higher education institutions (HEIs)