University transformation will take 43 years, says study

Malegapuru Makgoba is the head of the transformation oversight committee. (Madelene Cronje, MG)

Malegapuru Makgoba is the head of the transformation oversight committee. (Madelene Cronje, MG)

It will take 43 years to transform the overall staff profile of South Africa's 23 universities to represent national demographics, a study by the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), released on Wednesday, found.

"The study shows that the previously advantaged institutions in South Africa, like Stellenbosch and the University of Cape Town have poor equity indices, however, these universities score well as high-level knowledge producers. On the other hand, the universities of technology and some formerly disadvantaged institutions produce little research but have a good equity profile," a statement by the university and the transformation oversight committee for public universities said.

UKZN created this equity index to measure the "distance between organisational demographics and national demographics and the period, unique to each institution, to attain ideal and complete transformation".

The Central University of Technology ranked first as having the most transformed student body with a 10.2 equity index and Stellenbosch University ranked last with an equity index of 93.1.

According to the statement, the findings show that no university in South Africa has reached the ideal overall equity index of zero or falls within a 5% tolerance of the national demographic data.

Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande launched the transformation committee in January, which he said would "monitor progress on transformation in public universities and advise the minister on policy to combat racism, sexism and other forms of unfair discrimination".

Nzimande appointed UKZN's vice-chancellor Malegapuru Makgoba as the committee head.

The study shows that it is "difficult to transform 'privilege', especially entrenched white privilege voluntarily" and suggests that "extraordinary measures are needed".

It said the statistics painted a dismal picture of the "painfully" and unacceptable "slow rate of transformation".

Recommendations in the study include universities setting "realistic targets for high-level knowledge production linked to equity" and that "20% of each institution's block grant must be reprioritised to address equity transformatiom [because] there is no cheap or mahala [free] transformation".

Victoria John

Victoria John

Victoria studied journalism, specialising in photojournalism, at Rhodes University from 2004 to 2007. After traveling around the US and a brief stint in the UK she did a year's internship at The Independent on Saturday in Durban. She then worked as a reporter for the South African Press Association for a year before joining the Mail & Guardian as an education reporter in August 2011. Read more from Victoria John

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