Challenges Facing South African Tertiary Institutions on Scarce Skills Development and Knowledge Production

Posted: 21 Sep 2017

Date Written: September 20, 2017


In the World Declaration on Higher Education adopted by the World Conference on Higher Education in 1998, higher education was defined as: ‘all types of studies, training or training for research at the post-secondary level, provided by universities or other educational establishments that are approved as institutions of higher education by the competent state authorities. It includes all the activities a given country deems to be higher education – not only those that take place within ordinary universities and graduate schools, but shorter term education and training courses (polytechnics, junior colleges, and various forms of technical specialty schools) that are 2-3 years in length, and even correspondence courses that make use of information technology and are targeted at a broad population of students.

Higher education institutions - most prominently universities - have three functions in total. In addition to education, these are research and contributing to society. (UNSECO 2000) The research and education functions are two sides of a coin; research makes a higher level of education possible and education, in turn, develops the human resources to do research. Recently, contributions to society have increasingly been demanded of higher education institutions. This means the higher education institutions need to have activities to ensure that accumulated knowledge is circulated directly back to society and that they do not become “ivory towers.” All three functions are intimately connected and none can be separated out when considering higher education.

According to the Department of Education, South Africa is struggling to train qualify peoples in the following fields: Air Traffic Controllers, aircraft Pilots, application Programmers, architects and Building Architects, biologists, Botanists, Zoologists and other technical fields not enumerated in the paper.

Thus, in this paper, the author will address not only the challenges facing South African tertiary institutions with regard of educational activities at higher education institutions, but also the research and contributions to the South African society.

The first part of the paper develops these critical and scarce skills needed for the South African economy to deal with today’s economic challenges. The second part provides the main missions and functions of the Higher Education system which are to educate, train and to undertake research. The last gives a roadmap of effective and efficient scarce skills development in South Africa.

Keywords: Skills development, South Africa, Development

Suggested Citation

Nisabwe, Florence, Challenges Facing South African Tertiary Institutions on Scarce Skills Development and Knowledge Production (September 20, 2017). Available at SSRN:

Florence Nisabwe (Contact Author)

CEDIMES ( email )

61 avenue du général de Gaulle
Creteil, 94010

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