Institutional research in higher education in South Africa : Looking Ahead

Webber, Karen ; Muller, Nicole ; Botha, Jan (2016)

CITATION: Webber, K., Muller, N. & Botha, J. 2016. Institutional Research in Higher Education in South Africa: Looking Ahead, in J. Botha & N. J. Muller (eds.). Institutional Research in South African Higher Education: Intersecting Contexts and Practices. Stellenboach: SUN PRESS. 361-367. doi:10.18820/9781928357186/18.

The original publication is available from AFRICAN SUNMeDIA.

Chapters in Books

The fact that the Southern African Association (SAAIR) is nearing its 25th year, is evidence that Institutional Research (IR) has built a strong presence in South African higher education. Unfortunately, this is not yet evident in other countries in the region. The professional practice that has become known as “institutional research” is, of course, much older than the Association that was established by IR practitioners. Similarly, IR encompasses much more in South and Southern Africa than the activities of the Association. IR continues to widen its areas of influence and support, and IR practitioners are called upon to assist in a myriad of decision-support tasks that will help to make higher education in South Africa and the region only stronger. IR practitioners are valued for their analytic and technical skills and their higher education practices and processes. They are also valued because of their ability to place the issues within the context of the specific institution, cognisant of unique student, staff, or historical and cultural issues that must be considered. As we reflect on the formation and current status of IR in South Africa as evidenced in this book, it is notable that the SAAIR was established in 1994, the year in which the first democratic elections in the country took place. South African society, including the higher education system, changed significantly in the first two decades of democracy. Despite these changes, the student protests in South Africa that erupted in 2015 and that continue in 2016, can be attributed to the students’ experience and their belief that much more remains to be done: huge inequalities remain in the system and in institutions, the demand for study opportunities outpaces the available opportunities, student fees have become unaffordable for most students, and at a deeper level, the curriculum and the ethos of higher education institutions still predominantly reflect Western values, traditions and practices. The transformation agenda that was inaugurated in 1994 remains unfinished. The story of IR in South Africa is closely intertwined with the transformation agenda, both in terms of the gains of the past twenty years, and also of the many changes that lie ahead.

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