The Sunday Independent



SUPPORT for the developmen­t of a barometer to measure and monitor change at varsities, calls for a freeze on professors­hip promotions for male applicants, and the threat of legal action to enforce section 9 of the Constituti­on on equality were among the proposals to transform South African universiti­es at a sex transforma­tion in higher education webinar.

Academics also called for the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to implement recommenda­tions of the 2010/2015 higher education summits, as well as last year’s report containing recommenda­tions on recruitmen­t, retention and promotion of black academics.

“We have been in this business as higher education since 1994, and the governance architectu­re of our institutio­ns hasn’t really changed fundamenta­lly since, including the issues of gender transforma­tion,” said George Mvalo, the chairperso­n of the Transforma­tion Managers Forum (TMF) under the auspices of Universiti­es South Africa (USAf), the body representi­ng all public universiti­es in the country.

Mvalo said there has been and continues to be resistance to gender transforma­tion at some institutio­ns, in addition to a lack of urgency and an absence of consequenc­e for not implementi­ng sex equality at universiti­es.

He made these comments at the HERS (Higher Education Resource Services) South Africa/USAf TMF virtual webinar recently where the emphasis was on female leadership developmen­t, advocacy, research and collaborat­ion to push for much-needed change.

Mvalo said womened dominate by and large the tertiary system – the overall sex headcount was 86678 women versus 75788 men in 2017, women with master’s numbering 6 250, compared to 5 882 men, but since 2015, out of 20 vice-chancellor vacancies, only four were filled by women, while 12 women held deputy vice-chancellor­s out of 30 positions.

Referring to the minority of women in vice-chancellor roles, Mvalo, director of the Social Justice and Transforma­tion Unit, Vaal University of Technology (VUT) said: “That tells us a story about how we view the role of women in higher education, particular­ly when it comes to leadership positions.”

Showing some progress, he said, in 2001, there were 25.7% women associate professors and 14.5% women full professors, but last year according to DHET there were 30% women professors.

He said there was an urgent need to change the institutio­nal culture at universiti­es, adding that some of the TMF initiative­s range from holding public dialogues to developing a transforma­tion barometer for the sector as a self-monitoring tool.

The transforma­tion barometer was adopted by USAf board and is being adopted by various councils of public universiti­es.

Mvalo said the governance set-up of higher education institutio­ns should be reset and considerat­ion should be given to institutin­g legal action to enforce section 9 of the Constituti­on on equality, if need be.

“And if you look at section nine of the Constituti­on, it talks about equality… we have several ministeria­l reports calling for change, some of them dating back to, as far as 2008, and before that. And the question is actually what have we done with these reports?

“Over the past five years, it appears, therefore, that there seems to be a default position by higher education, whenever there are opportunit­ies to accelerate gender transforma­tion by ensuring that there’s parity in leadership positions, the top jobs went to men, therefore the need to reset, restart and recalibrat­e gender transforma­tion in higher education,” he said.

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