Nation-building without mortar? Public participation in higher education policy-making in South Africa

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This article tests a case study of public participation in the decision-making about restructuring South Africa's large cohort of higher education institutions, as inherited in 1994, against theories of South Africa's new democracy. It shows that people formally outside the higher education policy sector - students, academics, parents and the public in general - have been able to play only increasingly circumscribed roles in restructuring processes. Public participation has reached a stage termed "symbolic participation" in which selected institutional leaders are deemed to somehow embody the public: an antithesis of principles set down during the final years of the popular anti-apartheid struggle. The article reviews trends of participation in the production of the major post-1994 higher education policy documents and initiatives, such as the establishment of the Council on Higher Education. It also reviews the ways that some decisions on institutional closure and mergers were changed under pressure - not through open or transparent processes - but behind closed doors. The article ends by asking what the wider implications of these developments in higher education might be for South Africa's emerging democracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalPerspectives in Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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