After eight years of democratic rule, higher education in South Africa continues to face a myriad of systemic challenges. The challenges include those that relate to development, skills, quality, equity, redress, greater access, redistribution of resources and diversification of knowledge production. In response to these challenges, the Department of Education unveiled the National Plan on Higher Education. It is envisaged that the Plan will reconfigure the institutional landscape and respond to the challenges of the 21st century. In pursuance of these objectives, the National Working Group, appointed by the Minister to advise on the implementation of the Plan, has recommended the restructuring of higher education through merging institutions. The Cabinet has since endorsed the NWG recommendations. This paper focuses on these developments by engaging with the relevant policy documents and arguing that the educational policies and practices have not created a framework for substantive transformation capable of meeting the higher education challenges.
The paper observes that the proposals are largely influenced by the dictates of the prevailing macro-economic policy framework in South Africa and the demands of the global economic order. Not surprisingly, equity and redress have been eclipsed by the discourse usually associated with the market forces: rationalization, mergers, efficiency and managerialism. As a result, the proposals fail to transform and overcome the fault lines created by the geo-political imagination of the apartheid planners.