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South Africa: Prominent role for higher education in new National Development Plan

Last month, the National Planning Commission of South Africa unveiled its National Development Plan: Vision for 2030. The 444-page document contains a comprehensive education chapter (“Chapter 9: Improving education, innovation and training”), setting milestones for the country’s future development in this area. Generally, the plan addresses three key roles to be played by South African universities in society: educating and training highly-skilled people; producing new knowledge; and creating opportunities for social mobility, equity and justice. In addition to making specific reference to the importance of higher education for knowledge production and national development – whereas previously it was considered much more narrowly as an equity instrument in the South African context – several major policy goals and specific benchmarks for higher education are presented, including: 

  • access to higher education, as well as graduation and participation rates, should be further improved and expanded (e.g. the participation rate should rise from the current 17% to 30% by 2030), with special attention to be paid to better gender and racial diversity (e.g. women and Africans each should make up more than 50% of research and teaching staff ); 
  • private education institutions should play a greater and better-defined role across the higher education landscape; 
  • performance and qualifications of academic staff need to be drastically improved (by 2030, 75% of academic staff should hold PhDs compared to the 34% currently seen); and 
  • the country’s attractiveness for foreign academics needs to be boosted (e.g. immigration requirements could be relaxed for highly-skilled researchers through such measures as granting 7-year work permits to all graduates from foreign countries).

After a four-month period of public consultation and refinement, the President will initiate a process whereby the Cabinet considers a revised plan for final adoption.

National Development Plan University World News