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South Africa: Consultation on the Draft Policy Framework for the Internationalisation of Higher Education

In late April this year, the Department of Higher Education and Training of South Africa (DHET) published a Draft Policy Framework for the Internationalisation of Higher Education in South Africa, a long-awaited strategy by higher education (HE) stakeholders in the country.  

The policy states the following three main rationales for internationalisation: 1) to position the higher education system to be competitive in a globalised world, 2) to advance the quality of higher education, and 3) to benefit society and enhance opportunities for higher education to contribute to the public good. With higher education institutions in the country as the drivers of internationalisation, the purpose of the Policy Framework is “to provide high-level principles and guidelines; to set broad parameters; and to provide a national framework for internationalisation of higher education within which higher education institutions can develop and align their institutional internationalisation policies and strategies”. As indicated in the policy, internationalisation of higher education is welcome and supported as long as a certain priority order is respected – firstly, to South Africa’s interests and then to the interests of SADC states, the rest of the African continent, the global South and emerging economies, and then the rest of the world, respectively.

The official endorsement given to the process of internationalisation of higher education in South Africa is relevant to and welcomed by the HE sector, as well as the guiding role of the government instead of direct steering. This, however, is accompanied by a lack of earmarked governmental funding for internationalisation – even though the policy framework does not explicitly rule out the possibility of public funding for activities on line with the goals and principles set in the document. The document outlines a number of other guidlines for institutional accountability in the process of internationalisation, and apart from the responsibility for income generation largely or entirely being on higher education institutions, it explicitly requires that each HEI must have an internationalisation strategy, and forbids the development of branch campuses and double degrees.

The proposed policy framework is the result of prior initiatives both by South African HEIs and IEASA (International Education Association of South Africa), the country’s major network for the advancement of internationalisation, as well as of a series of stakeholder consultations and efforts of a working group set up in 2014 for the development of the internationalisation policy. The adoption of the policy is preceded by a public consultation process that is to close soon. On this occasion, ACA supports colleagues from IEASA and South African HEIs in their internationalisation efforts and invites all interested ACA members to provide their contribution to the consultation process until 10 June 2017. 
ACA will forward all the feedback received by this directly to IEASA. For any inquiries, please contact Marija Mitic at

Department of Higher Education and Training South AfricaDraft policy framework for the internationalisation of higher education in South Africa