In any country, education reflects and is shaped by the political, economic, and cultural interests of the dominant ideology. Education under apartheid was no exception. After eight years of democratic rule, higher education continues to reflect the indelible imprint of the geopolitical imagination of apartheid designers. This is manifest in the systemic underdevelopment of black institutions of higher learning. It is trite knowledge - albeit often conveniently ignored - that historically white institutions benefited greatly from the over-allocation of resources (human and capital) and government support in diverse areas. In time, these institutions developed into high quality, elitist and well-established institutions. In turn, they provided the 'scientific' support for apartheid by legitimizing existing social, economic and political power relations 1. Despite frequent assertions (by historically white institutions) to the contrary, all institutions of higher learning, whether historically white or the younger historically black institutions, have played their part in the maintenance of the previous regime.
The design and location of institutions was consistent with apartheid ideology of separate development. The University of Stellenbosch was designed to cater for middle class Afrikaners, the University of the Witwatersrand for the English-speaking middle class 'liberals' and business elite, Rand Afrikaans University for the urban working class Afrikaners, Vista University for the working class urban Africans and the University of Venda for the rural, poor Africans. They provide examples of the stratification of society into racial, linguistic and class groups. In addition, locating black institutions of higher learning in the so-called Bantustans or homelands was part of the plan to reinforce ethnicity and the rural-urban divide. Social division and geographical isolation was an integral part of the apartheid system. Despite the real and imagined differences between institutions, all the Historically Black Universities (HBU's) were affected and expected to pursue apartheid’s ideological agenda. Their features included offering a narrow range of progammes concentrated mainly in the humanities, social sciences and education; under-prepared students; rapid increases in admissions during the late 1980's and early 1990's; discriminatory allocation of resources which also reduced their capacity to attract funding from private donors; repressive internal and external governance; under- and poorly-qualified academic staff; underdeveloped facilities, infrastructure and administrative capacity; and a low research output. 2
Within a large number of possibilities of effecting change and transformation, the Minister of Education prioritized changing the outward structure of the educational system as the first step in the implementation of the National Plan on Higher Education (February 2001). Mergers and unbundling of existing institutions were identified as the face of transformation. The reduction of tertiary institutions (universities and technikons) from 36 to 21 was announced in the Report of the National Working Group on the Restructuring of Higher Education (February 2002). With some changes this was confirmed by the Department of Education in its proposal: Transformation and Restructuring: A New Institutional Landscape for Higher Education (June 2002)3. Cabinet approved the plans at the end of May and after the expiry of the statutory period for comment the implementation process was said to begin immediately 4. This, it is envisaged, would set the stage for the most far-reaching reform of the tertiary education sector in South Africa hitherto. In the words of Minister Kader Asmal "…Cabinet approved the Government's groundbreaking proposals for the transformation and reconstruction of higher education. This marks an exciting turning point for higher education in our country, away from the shameful apartheid past to a confident future…. It is clear to Government that the status quo could not be maintained and that radical steps would be needed if the system were to play its pivotal role in responding to the many challenges that our country faces…A blue print for the transformation of the system has been developed" 5.
The article attempts to assess whether this reform will lead to a fundamental transformation of higher education in line with ideals of the liberation struggle and the objectives set out in the educational policy documents.
Part I identifies the challenges facing post-apartheid higher education and the policy responses.
Part II interrogates the connection between the proposed measures and the objectives.
Part III considers various aspects of the impact of globalization on higher education.
I CHALLENGES IN HIGHER EDUCATION AND THE POLICY RESPONSES
The transformation of higher education is part of the broader process of South Africa's transition to overcome the legacy of the apartheid past. On the political level this transition has been completed, but the social, economic and cultural challenges remain paramount. Poverty eradication, job creation and HIV/AIDS stand out as the key challenges facing South Africa at the beginning of the 21st century. Economic transition requires increasing African enrolment in commerce, the natural sciences and technology and for Africans to start taking charge of the economy. In addition to black economic empowerment, a broad economic development should result in ensuring that those at the periphery are brought to the center of economic activity. It should address and change the 'grossly skewed nature of business and industrial development' that accompanied apartheid.
Higher education is critical to addressing these developmental needs. It must provide the labor market with high-level competencies and expertise. Aside from meeting the demands of a modern economy through innovation and creation of knowledge, higher education should respond to the intellectual needs and aspirations of individuals. It must lay the foundation for a critical and socially responsible citizenry. Similarly, the impact of higher education reaches beyond national borders. The success of the African Renaissance and the extent of South Africa's participation in a highly competitive global economy depend on the quality of education and its ability to produce a critical mass of intellectuals.
In the light of the purposes of higher education the shortcomings of the present system become apparent. The founding policy document, Education White Paper of 1997: A Programme for the Transformation of Higher Education, identified some of the deficiencies of the system. They include the following:
The above points to a shift from the macro-policy level to a micro-institutional policy level in which individual institutions were assessed on their performance and capacity to deliver. This was not only a matter of moving from a foundational policy document based on a new post-apartheid educational vision to more concrete policy plans, but it also reflected a deliberate shift in priorities.
As early as 1998 there were fears that the guiding principles for transformation redress, democratization, development and quality, would be replaced or eclipsed by the narrative of effectiveness and efficiency and a restricted (if not restrictive) notion of equity. Divergent reasons have been advanced to justify or explain this policy shift. For instance, it is argued that the policy process in higher education is "less of a linear, rational process", but rather a "complex interplay between political priorities, educational requirements, personal and organizational interests, proactive planning and reactive backlashes, and a changing distribution of power in time and place" 6. While correct and applicable to all policy making, this approach tends to underrate the primacy of the dictates of political economy.
In its annual Report the Council on Higher Education (CHE) of 1998/1999 indicated that the macro-economic policy framework since the White Paper on Higher Education had changed. Without any question the changing environment was accepted and regarded as legitimizing the move away from the White Paper. It is in this context that the Chairperson of the Association of Vice-Chancellors of Historically Disadvantaged Tertiary Institutions (ASHADI), Itumeleng Mosala's call to go back to the White Paper must be seen. In a strongly worded response, and describing the recommendations by the National Working Group as a declaration of war against black people, Mosala had this to say:
"[The NWG report] is an intellectual disgrace, a political disaster, and an educational catastrophe, especially with regard to the rights to higher education of black people in general and African people in particular." He continued: "Above all, though, the report is a betrayal of the struggle for a truly and genuinely transformed higher education system in terms of the goals, objectives, principles and challenges identified by the White Paper on Higher Education" 7.
It is pertinent to mention that the NWG report comes in the wake of an advisory report of the Council on Higher Education on the size and shape in higher education; Towards a New Higher Education Landscape: Meeting the Equity, Quality and Social Development Imperatives of South Africa in the 21st century (2000). The report recommended a highly differentiated system consisting of (i) bedrock institutions providing undergraduate programmes, (ii) extensive masters and selective doctoral institutions and (iii) comprehensive research and postgraduate institutions. But the three-tier system was generally rejected. Its most objectionable feature was the reproduction of the present race and class based hierarchy of institutions. The proposed rigid differentiation also contradicted the White Paper's recommendation for a programme-based system 8. Mindful of the critique on the CHE's recommendations, the Ministry released the National Plan on Higher Education (2001).
The Ministry in the National Plan on Higher Education (2001) argues that the restructuring of the institutional landscape was long overdue and necessitated by "the reluctance of all concerned to confront the difficult realities inherited from the apartheid past". This then formed the basis for the decision to investigate "the feasibility of reducing the number of institutions through more rational arrangement" 9.
II THE POLITICS OF A DISCOURSE
Transformation and Restructuring: A New Institutional Landscape for Higher Education (June 2002) adopts institutional mergers and programme rationalization as the tools for the implementation of the National Plan on Higher Education. The design of the new institutional landscape comprises eleven Universities, six Technikons, four Comprehensive Institutions and two National Institutions.
The National Plan on Higher Education identified the five key policy goals and strategic objectives of :
When engaging the proposals we need to ask the following two intersecting types of questions. One, questions relating to the broader educational-political context of transformation, and two, questions relating to the efficacy of the mergers as an instrument to achieve educational policy goals, such as:
Without going into detail, the release of the NWG’s report was greeted with a great deal of sound and fury, indicative of the fact that it raises more questions than answers. While acknowledging that it is likely to usher in a new landscape in higher education, many commentators concurred that the Plan falls short of being a viable platform for sustained, visible transformation in higher education. Even within government circles concern was expressed that the principle of transformation had been sidelined. Among the outspoken critics was Naledi Pandor, chair of the National Council of Provinces in Parliament 10. Most significantly, the Plan fails to robustly confront the systemic disadvantage faced by black institutions and black students. Instead, systemic problems are simply reduced to lack of efficiency, cost-effectiveness, accountability and coherence.
Other concerns relate to lack of clarity on how the Plan’s envisaged institutional mergers would be achieved. Related to this is a concern that these mergers appear to be informed by the existing racialised structure and are perceived to award status of excellence to white institutions. Black institutions are either reduced to teaching institutions and/or appendages of historically white institutions. Thus the proposals have the effect, as Sipho Seepe suggests, of entrenching the racial stereotype that "white is good and west is best"11. Not surprisingly, they have been roundly condemned within the higher education sector. 12
A definitive statement of rejection, cataloguing opinions of prominent educationists, is perhaps captured in the July 2002 edition of the Quarterly Review of Education & Training in South Africa. 13 Some of the common concerns expressed were the following:
While the rhetoric of transformation is not absent in the Ministry of Education's proposals, it is clear that the plan does not sufficiently grapple with the historical and systemic disadvantage faced by black institutions and black students. The regional disparity in the provision of higher education affects predominantly African students in the rural provinces. As Nkondo points out: the Northern Province with a population of 5.3 million and the highest fertility rate in the country has to be satisfied with one comprehensive institution, while the Western Cape with a total population of only 4.1 million has three fully-fledged Universities and one Technikon 16. Three of the four designated comprehensive institutions are located in the former homelands. It is difficult to escape the impression that the typology of the CHE, creating a hierarchy of institutions of higher learning, has entered through the backdoor with the lowest status - once again - awarded to historically black institutions. Furthermore, the binary divide between Universities and Technikons is retained for the time being, in accordance with the National Plan, but at the same time the proposals create comprehensive institutions that offer vocationally-based undergraduate programmes. In the Northern Province, the University of the North and the University of Venda are merged into a single organisational structure "to make possible the introduction of the radically new suite of academic programmes that the Province requires." 17
It is apparent that the Ministry assumes that poor provinces do not need universities, thereby perpetuating the 'two-nations' conceptualisation of the country. Besides, reshaping academic programmes into vocationally-based programmes has its own pitfalls. Adams emphasises the difficulties facing those universities that are being 'downgraded' to comprehensive institutions offering technikon type courses. Despite perceptions to the contrary, changing from university to technikon offerings will be highly challenging and resource-intensive, making enormous demands on those affected institutions with few financial and limited staffing resources 18. Similarly, George Subotzky alludes to the danger of perpetuating the historical divide between advantaged and disadvantaged institutions. The complexity of the merger process will preoccupy institutions for years to come and "deflect them from their ongoing strategic planning and development processes". The burden of the real change will mainly be carried by historically black institutions, "while the 'untouched' (mainly historically advantaged) institutions enjoy the comparative advantage of business as usual." 19
Unless these matters are addressed, African students will continue to be marginalised and the creation of a critical mass of black intellectuals and researchers will continue to elude the country. It has been said that the politics of a discourse 'arises in the way it articulates and silences relations between subjects'. The discourse in the educational system follows the lines laid down by social and economic differences, conflicts and struggles, both local and global. Indeed, what has been articulated and silenced in the present discourse is very much a reflection of power relations in higher education and national and global priorities.
To appreciate the policy shifts, it is important to reflect on past commitments. Early in the 1990's it was understood that the role of education in the construction of post-apartheid South Africa had "to be framed in relation to political and economic development strategies" 20. In line with the ideals of the national democratic revolution significance was attached to the vital role of the social base to support and effect social transformation together with the state. At the time human resource development was not de-linked from political and economic development strategies.
However, it is evident that the educational sphere - locally and globally - increasingly makes use of systems-management procedures. More and more spheres of educational decision-making are perceived as technical problems requiring the instrumentalist strategies of 'neutral' experts. This effectively removes decisions from the field of political debate 21.
This concern is eloquently captured by Muxe Nkondo in Black Perspective(s) on Tertiary Institutional Transformation: "Finally as we attempt to implement our policies we should avoid the fundamental tendency of all bureaucratic thought to turn all problems of politics into problems of management. When faced with the eruption of collective energies in our revolution, we should meet the political situation on its own ground and not find a quick remedy by means of arbitrary decrees. We should regard such eruption as the leading expression of fundamental social forces on which the development of our society depends, and not treat it as an untoward event within an otherwise ordered system." 22
In a sense, the NWG appears to have been oblivious of this wisdom or has not sufficiently taken it on board. Had this been considered, a different set of recommendations that enjoys more support would have ensued. Soon the educational landscape will be reconfigured. The academic community has expressed its support for transformation and the principle of restructuring. However, the process that is about to unfold will unfortunately not meet the expectations of equity and redress, improving quality, broadened participation, effectiveness and development. It should be clear that the objectives would not be met without the required additional investments. In order to understand the reasons underlying the present trajectory we need to situate the government's policies within the context of global pressures.
III GLOBALISATION AND ITS IMPACT ON HIGHER EDUCATION
The Education White Paper - drafted with assistance of the World Bank – locates itself within the demands of globalization. The widespread impact of the economic and technological changes, specifically in the information and communications revolution, the growth of transnational scientific networks, the accelerating integration of the world economy, intense competition among the nations for markets and the pressures of the 'knowledge society' provide the operational context 23.
Considering that the country is confronted with the challenges of overcoming the legacy of apartheid in social and economic relations at the national level it is not hard to appreciate the contending or conflicting national imperatives. The first one declares that we have to submit to the logic of global capital and financial markets. For higher education that entails rationalization, privatization and decreasing public expenditure. The second one argues that national developmental needs are given priority. The latter is not an isolationist approach but allows for negotiating the terms and pace of interdependence with the rest of the global economy. The first approach rests on the premise of an interface between the interests of corporate globalization with that of the marginalized urban and rural poor. In this worldview greater marketization leads to 'trickle down' development. In reality, however, the two are not entirely compatible as is proclaimed, but privatization and rationalization exacerbates the travails of those on the periphery 24.
The second approach, on the other hand, takes as it starting point the need of the community and locates the university within the regional needs as development universities. It is based on a reconciliation of the interdependence implied by globalization and the needs of the economic and social powerless, who remain on the periphery of decision-making. This approach recognizes the irreversible nature of the trajectory of an interdependent and global world. It does not reject globalization per se, but only those non-negotiated forms that are super-imposed from the top. It favors the construction of polycentric decision-making capacities within national and international society aimed at empowering those without voice. It takes seriously - in real terms rather than in seductive 'transformation’ language - the demands of the poor rural and working class masses. It situates the university within the conditions and challenges in the disadvantaged communities surrounding them. Through integrated, community-oriented undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, research and community outreach, these universities can contribute to fulfilling the needs of social and economic reconstruction and development.
Given the historical and geographical linkages to disadvantaged urban and rural communities, historically black institutions are well situated to support reconstruction and development programmes. By reason of their locality these universities are well suited to be involved in "socially distributed knowledge" and Mode 2 knowledge production 25.
It provides an alternative trajectory in higher education, keeping in line with the ideals of the liberation struggle. It re-focuses on empowerment of marginalized communities and disentangles from the (globally) prevailing obsession with management issues and its selective approach to the use of data and a 'tunnel vision of reality'. Issues of 'governance’ as Samir Amin indicates in the broader economic context are rather issues of 'governability' of a situation 26. This is pertinent when these issues are not based on a solution to a structural crisis, but only as a means of managing a crisis. The same applies to the crisis in higher education. The crisis is not addressed in any structural way by creating new governance structures through mergers. If not addressed students will continue to come from ill-prepared high schools and poor, increasingly unemployed families who have to provide the necessary finances for tertiary education. This context is not conducive towards the goals of democratization and increasing access to higher education from 15 to 20øa additional 200.000 students) as indicated by the Minister of Education in Transformation and Restructuring: A New Institutional Landscape for Higher Education 27.
According to the Spanish sociologist, Manuel Castells, one of the leading authorities on globalisation, 28 globalisation is the biggest challenge universities have faced for more than a century and a half. It effects on universities will be more drastic than industrialization, urbanization and secularization combined. Also, and most significantly, the impact of globalization will be uneven. Whereas the advanced economies had time to face up to the challenges, the developing countries will have to have to deal with "the quickening pulse of international exchange" while simultaneously dealing with reforms on many other fronts. 29 This invariably leads not only to widening the gap between the connected and 'unconnected' societies. It may also lead to a situation in which societies are split into two types of people: those at the social core and those at the social periphery - even within the richest economies. Guy Neave refers to a recent estimate that suggest that no more than 20 percent of students currently in higher education will be at the core of the rising 'Knowledge Economy', with the remainder 'a subordinate social layer'. Seen from this perspective, it could be argued that the Ministry’s proposals are likely to exacerbate the historical and systemic inequalities.
III - I 'PRIVATISING' HIGHER EDUCATION
Expectations were that with the new dispensation, more doors in higher education would be opened for the historically disadvantaged. It is apparent that this is not to be. In line with international trends the relative amount or percentage subsidized by the national government has decreased during the past decade. In March 2001 the Ministry released a draft framework for a new funding formula. In the medium to long term higher education will increasingly have to rely on private donors, as public expenditure will be cut. This trend is apparent in many developed states as well, where it is commonly expected that massification of higher education must be achieved without significantly increasing the present levels of total public investment. South Africa’s macroeconomic policy of Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) has appropriated the same global language. The United Kingdom (the Dearing Review), Australia (the West Review), New Zealand (Government White Paper), Germany, Italy, France, Korea and many other nations in the developed and developing world have proposed major reforms of higher education. They all agree that higher education "will not be provided on a universal or near universal basis on anything approaching the current level of taxpayer costs per graduate". 30
Rationalizations, mergers and new managerialism, are part of an international discourse of 'privatizing' public higher education – this language takes the form of limiting public expenditure and placing greater reliance on private donors and higher tuition fees. In addition, the private sector is expanding with 'for profit' universities. Contrary to the ideals of democratization and massification of higher education, the impact of privatization on access will be devastating. Larger segments of the population (disproportionally affecting black students) will not be able to pursue higher education, whereas the need for a critical mass of intellectuals and productive employment is rapidly increasing. The global economy demands unprecedented levels of knowledge and skills of an expanding productive workforce. But the new proposal will not contribute to ensuring access. It also does not provide strategies to deal with the dangers that come with profit driven private 'service providers'.
In short, the plan does not explain how both expansion and quality improvement can be effected within the present climate of limiting public expenditure.
While South Africa admittedly spends a considerable amount of its national budget on education (22,3Œ a case can be made for temporal and consolidated increases in certain areas as a beneficial long-term social and economic investment. Budget choices are predominately political, they are not pre-given, nor should they be made entirely subject to the faddish discourse of monetarism.
III - II THE COMMODIFICATION OF KNOWLEDGE
In concluding, it is perhaps appropriate to allude to a disturbing feature that is linked to globalization – the commodification of knowledge. This is a consequence of mercantilism associated with the imperatives of the market. Commodification is the use of knowledge as a purchasable and saleable good. Instead of ensuring access to knowledge as a public good, commodication of knowledge "displaces the creation and passing on of knowledge from the social sphere to the sphere of production" 31. The dangers of mercantilism in education are still to be appreciated, let alone felt. It should be of grave concern when the increasingly omnipotent World Trade Organization extends the 'terms of trade' to cover ‘education services’. It is for this reason that the American Council on Education, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and the European University Association, the Consortium for Higher Education Accreditation of the United States, the International Association of Universities, jointly expressed their concern and opposition to the inclusion of higher education services in the General Agreement on Trade Services (GATS) 32. The European University Association warned against the effects of globalisation and strong encouragement of market forces in higher education which may lead to undue stress on competition and undermines the idea of higher education as a public good 33.
It illustrates another instance of losing control over educational matters, a shift from the public sphere and educational institutions into the hands of the global market. This does not stand in isolation. On the contrary, it is part of a discourse of greater marketisation of education such as the reduction of learning and knowledge to marketable commodities 34, appraising universities as businesses, where students then become consumers of a product produced by a service provider and controlled by managers.
Ironically, the opening up of spaces - a positive spin-off of globalisation - becomes at the same time a reduction of possibilities. The conditions under which alternative discourses can flourish are not widely present without power, because knowledge has its conditions of possibility in power relations35. This may lead to a monopolisation of knowledge production and dominance by established powerful institutions in setting the research agenda and producing knowledge.
In summary, the paper argues that the Plan limits the role of those in the margins with regard to knowledge formation, legitimation and contestation. Notwithstanding its grandstanding hype on reconfiguring the landscape and finding a new imagination, the Plan is little more than a response to the dictates of the market, a 'self-imposed structural adjustment programme', likely to perpetuate the inequalities in higher education. We should not allow ourselves to be 'seduced' by the rhetoric promising transformation. Change will only come when those on the periphery take charge of their future. Change is always a result of struggle and 'permanent provocation'. Unless and until educational policies are situated within historical conditions and the material specificity of the national and global context, our educational programmes and agenda will continue to resort to the fallacy of the 'free play of individual initiative'.