AN INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE OF HIGHER EDUCATION MERGERS.

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CHAPTER TWO LITERATURE REVIEW 

INTRODUCTION

The purpose of this chapter is to present and to discuss higher education mergers from the perspectives of both primary and secondary sources, in order to contextualize the topicality of the research problem, as well as on-going debates and practices associated with higher education mergers within the ambit of policy development and policy implementation. In this regard, the chapter eclectically traverses both the pre- and post-merger higher education landscape. Furthermore, the review of literature was intended to examine the level of existing scholarship on the research topic and its attendant research problem. The latter aspect assisted the researcher in the development of an understanding regarding other experts’ and scholars’ efforts and initiatives intended to broaden general and specific understanding on the research topic (Mouton, 2001:87; Blumberg, Cooper & Schindler, 2005:160). The discussions in this chapter provide a solid base for further discussions, and create a logical juxtaposition with subsequent chapters. It is also worth mentioning that the emerging themes and concepts discussed herein are only a microcosm in the larger macrocosm of mergers as an organisational phenomenon. For that reason, only the existing literature relevant to higher education mergers was selected, assessed and synthesized

AN INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE OF HIGHER EDUCATION MERGERS

Mergers in higher education are broadly viewed as being of private or corporate sector origin (Currie, 2001:21-21). The isolated cases of mergers in higher education broadly leaned on the commercial aspects of mergers –according to which companies or firms would voluntarily or involuntarily amalgamate their resources for a mutual competitive advantage. Merging entities ought to have a clear definition ensuring a convergent interaction of higher education institutions on a common concept.
Several of the international trends in this thesis revealed some useful traits and elements in response to the research problem under discussion in this study. In his investigation of transformation practices in the USA (United States of America) between 1960 and 1980, Kerr (1991:3) observed that transformation was not meant to bring about an elitist system of education based on language and other perceived human factors (such as race, creed, gender, and so on), but was based on bringing about an inclusive egalitarian education landscape aimed at benefiting society in its entirety. It is therefore not inconceivable to examine merger successes and failures with a view to understanding and describing whether or not the policy goals of government were realized, in respect of the very reasons and intentions that necessitated the implementation of mergers in the first place.
The USA approach to mergers was initially intended to ensure that the market share of merging entities is increased by cutting costs and improving service delivery (Nguyen & Kleiner, 2003:447). Furthermore, Mok (2005:282) mentions that in the case of Hong Kong, the merger was meant to identify and bring smaller institutions together for the purpose of creating institutions capable of competing at the highest international levels.
Since higher education transformation is an international phenomenon (Giddens, 1990: 174-175), an international perspective of higher education mergers has afforded this study a context from which the local South African variant of mergers could be compared with trends and practices in HE mergers elsewhere in the world. On the other hand, Mathabe (2004:16) counters that it should also be noted that mergers of South African higher education institutions took place without local and international ‘best fit’, but still managed to yield remarkable success. However, assertions such as those by Mathabe and others do not imply that the South African government did not learn from other international mergers. Sehoole (2005:159) confirms that South Africa (SA) did study other international variants of mergers and drew broad principled lessons from some of the established nations such as Norway, Australia, England and the USA. Among the lessons learnt was that the forms and outcomes of mergers were dependent on interactions between governmental macro-politics and institutional micro-politics within specific merger contexts.
The international comparability and context of HEI transformation is corroborated further by Altbach et al. (1999:13), who assert:
“Universities share a common culture and reality. In many basic ways, there is a convergence of institutional models and norms. At the same time, there are significant national differences that will continue to affect the development of academic systems and institutions. It is unlikely that the basic structures of academic institutions will change dramatically…patterns will, of course, vary worldwide. Some academic systems, especially those in the newly industrializing countries, will continue to grow. In parts of the world affected by significant political and economic change, the coming decades will be ones of reconstruction [researcher’s italics for emphasis]”.
The Western model of higher education development is arguably the most recognizable precursor to modern and post-modern HE development (Altbach, 2002:1-3). The nature, scope, and pace of Western higher education development has historically determined the kind of both internal and external change(s) taking place in higher education development; that is, whether the change is rapid/radical (revolutionary/transformational and turbulent), or incremental/developmental (evolutionary/reformatory and controlled). The historical relationship and relevance of institutions of higher learning with society have had a tremendous impact on the overall development of society. By equal measure, overall societal development has historically had an impact on HEIs’ internal and external functioning. Internal and external HE functioning includes factors such as curriculum/programmatic organisation; research quality and output; governance mechanisms/ management; influence of ICT; globalization and international capital flow; funding mechanisms and higher education institutional orientation to the demands of the world of work; as well as the nature of students – whether access is open for a heterogeneous or homogenous student population only (Altbach, 2002:1-3).
Change and transformation in higher education have most notably been characterized by both epistemological and geographical factors. Considering the historical provenance of HEIs as the most pristine centres of knowledge production, dissemination, and validation in society, the particular location or ‘country of origin’ of an HEI has tended to influence the ‘weight’/value or worth of the form or type of knowledge produced. To this end, Ekong and Cloete (1997:5) caution thus:
“Institutions will in particular also need to be able critically to evaluate whether, as is often claimed in transformation debates, certain bodies of knowledge in a discipline are global (usually referring to aspects of a discipline that relate to Western society and values) while others are local and therefore presumably of lower intellectual status [authors’ parentheses]”.
Scott (1997:13) concurs with the view (of epistemological-geographical hegemony/monopoly/ imbalances) propounded by Ekong and Cloete (1997:5) above, and states:
“…Western knowledge traditions were produced, and reproduced, by elites, socio-economic, cultural and political. As those elites have been dissolved by democratisation and their value systems have been eroded by the advances of mass culture, alternative knowledge traditions have (re?) emerged. Within the West, ‘local’ knowledge traditions – black history or women’s writing – increasingly challenge ‘metropolitan’ intellectual cultures”.
A critical message entailed writ large in Scott’s statement above is that epistemological hegemony as a factor of higher education transformation or reform is decisively determined by factors such as: what is to be taught (curriculum content); how it is to be taught (methods of delivery), and who wields the power to decide both content and its methodologies and processes.
Fielden and Markham (1997:3) analysed a survey conducted by Gillian Rowley regarding the mergers of 30 (thirty) United Kingdom (UK) institutions and found that mergers – despite the uneasiness and uncertainties they present at their conceptual and early implementation stages – have the unintended potential to yield results which are often greater than the intended and anticipated expectations. Amongst the identified unintended gains are the enhanced academic portfolios; smaller merger partners suddenly finding themselves exposed as providers of some of the essential programmes in quality ways; the university community suddenly becoming a platform from which employees draw from a dynamic hybrid of cultures; training opportunities emerging to the benefit of many; and greater transparency in the management processes becoming essential. How much of this has been the attitude and experience of the South African university sector, remains to be seen. South Africa has an opportunity to draw from its post-2004 ‘unity in diversity’ merger experiences

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Some Lessons from the International Merger Perspectives

d’Ambrosio and Ehrenberg (2007:1) undertook a study which also focused on transformation in society. The study found that higher education transformation could not be separated from the dictates of societal demands. The ever-increasing expansion in scope of people’s needs and expectations from governments needed to be considered when re-thinking and/or reviewing the landscape of a nation’s education system. Clearly, the apartheid-era South African higher education system was conceived with nothing or very little to do with the aspirations and needs of black people in general or African students in particular. Conclusively, the Apartheid government had to endure diverse forms of resistance from whenever laws and policies were introduced because there was no healthy link between the State and the majority of the people in the society. The State of the time ended up resorting to undue pressure, almost leading by threat and power in order to advance its own agenda.
Li, Whalley, Zhang and Zhao (2008:28) undertook a study to document major transformation of higher education in China since 1999, evaluating its potential global impact. The transformation focused on resource commitments to tertiary education and significant changes in organisational form as opposed to the focus of other countries on primary and secondary education. Although South African higher education or the country was not part of this study then, it was argued earlier that capacity and infrastructural development was one of the evident inequalities from the apartheid system, for historically disadvantaged universities and technikons.

THE SOUTH AFRICAN CONTEXT OF HIGHER EDUCATION MERGERS

It should be reiterated that change was mandatory for South Africa. It should be stated that despite the phenomenal nature of mergers, there was no evidence during the period under review, of a country in the world which suffered discrimination of the kind that South Africa suffered in the hands of its own government2. As a result, there was no fitting benchmark or philosophy or model for the SA merger.
Current and future university councils and vice chancellors should consciously draw lessons from the past SA higher education history and take transformation, which took place in the form of mergers, seriously and patriotically undertake to continually:

  • Examine their leadership approaches and styles with a view to ensure the delivery of relevant leadership and service to the society;
  • Examine the relevance of university services to the needs and aspirations of the societies they are serving.
  • Ensure that universities appeal to ordinary citizens, inspiring them (citizens) to acknowledge universities as homes of hope, innovation, solutions, liberating truth and wisdom.
  • Quest for projecting university leaders as intellectual mouth pieces for workers, the poor in particular and society in general;
  • Inspire the government to envision the future of the country through the lens not of the poor and working class, as well as through research work from universities, propelling government to proudly head-hunt astute innovators from universities into the civil service;
  • Lead not out of envy and rivalry, but out of goodwill for society’s advancement, inspiring greatness among staff members, unleashing talent, encouraging out-of-the ordinary thinking and innovation;
  • Discern the future with boldness and humility, professing and communicating the future with action and causing many to believe in possibilities which have the capability to revive a third world or developing economy and catapult it into the terrain of first world countries; and
  • Point critically and boldly at obstacles which may destroy the gains of democracy and the nation.
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In this manner, the nation could somewhat be at ease that higher education is not only in the hands of academic rhetoric who will champion research that does not contribute to the broader transformation and improvement of people’s lives, but a calibre of people who are patriotic to their nation.
The SA merger process was not harmoniously received both within and without the HE sector. However, its implementation survived due to the government’s resolute determination to effect radical changes in the performance of higher education institutions in the country. Central to some of the resistance were fears of the unknown, and the thought that the very notion of merging HEIs with disparate academic and intellectual cultures was a hitherto untested and novel phenomenon in South Africa.

The Pre-merger Context of South African Higher Education: Legacy of the Past

The merger of South African higher education institutions was essentially a politically driven project (Makgoba & Mubangizi, 2010:1). In order to transform these erstwhile geo-politically structured HEIs, a concomitant politically driven policy and regulatory framework was inevitable, in order to redress the educational legacy and inequalities of the past. Asmal (2002:1) argued that “the pre-1994 structure of the higher education system could be traced to the geo-political imagination of apartheid’s master planner, Hendrik Verwoerd and his reactionary ideological vision of separate development”. Verwoerd’s ideology-steeped vision was entrenched by the Nationalist Party (NP) government with the enactment of the Universities Extension Act in 1959, which, “instead of extending access to higher education on the basis of universal values intrinsic to higher education, restricted access on race and ethnic lines”. It was the explicit intention of the afore-cited Act “to ensure that the historic white institutions served the educational, ideological, political, cultural, social and economic needs of white South Africa”, and “to establish institutions that would produce a pliant and subservient class of educated black people to service the fictional homelands of apartheid’s imagination” (Asmal 2002:1). Welsh and Savage (1997: 131) provide some insight on the nexus between education, ideology, and race on the one hand; as well as power and socio-economic development on the other hand

CHAPTER ONE: OVERVIEW OF THE STUDY
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 BACKGROUND/CONTEXT OF THE RESEARCH PROBLEM
1.3 STATEMENT OF THE RESEARCH PROBLEM
1.4 THE RESEARCH AIM/PURPOSE, RESEARCH OBJECTIVES AND RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1.5 JUSTIFICATION/SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
1.6 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
1.8 ETHICS COMPLIANCE
1.9 ORGANISATION OF CHAPTERS
1.10 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 AN INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE OF HIGHER EDUCATION MERGERS.
2.4 THE MERGER CONTEXT OF DIFFERENTIATED SOUTH AFRICANHIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS
2.5 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER THREE: RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 THE RESEARCH DESIGN OF THE STUDY
3.3 DATA COLLECTION AND DATA COLLECTION METHODS
3.4 DATA PRESENTATION AND INTERPRETATION/ANALYSIS
3.5 DATA ANALYSIS
3.6 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS AND ISSUES
3.7 CONCLUSION
4. CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS AND DISCUSSIONS
PART A: CONTEXTUALISATION OF THE FINDINGS
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 THE ANALYTIC FRAMEWORK OF THE FINDINGS
PART B: FINDINGS AND DISCUSSIONS
4.3 FINDINGS PERTAINING TO LITERATURE REVIEW
4.4 FINDINGS PERTAINING TO GOVERNMENT POLICY DOCUMENTS
4.5 FINDINGS PERTAINING TO THE EMPIRICAL PHASE
4.6 FINDINGS PERTAINING TO THE RESPONDENTS’ PERSPECTIVES.
4.7 CONCLUSION
5. CHAPTER FIVE: CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS.
5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.2 CONCLUSION
5.2 REALISATION OF THE RESEARCH AIM AND OBJECTIVES
5.3 CONCLUSIONS
5.4 RECOMMENDATIONS
5.5 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
LIST OF SOURCES
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT

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