Corporatisation, Authoritarianism and the Threat to Academic Freedom in SA Universities – the Case for Robust Independent Trade Unionism

Friday, 20 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Mokong Simon MAPADIMENG, University of Limpopo, South Africa
Ramosotho MOKGADI, North West University -Mafikeng Campus, South Africa
While scholarly research and attendant debates on higher education in South Africa precede the democratic period, they however grew in intensity in the years following the official collapse of the apartheid system as marked by the first ever general elections in 1994, ushering in a democratically elected government. Central themes to these research and debates were a complex set of questions of transformation of the racially and ethnically fragmented system of higher education as part of redress of apartheid legacy, and the growing corporatisation of universities with potentially adverse effects on access and equity for the historically marginalised black community, as well as on institutional autonomy and academic freedom. These were also seen as posing threat to job security through subcontracting of so-called non-core activities (cleaning, security and grounds) to private service providers. The looming unrealistic expectations on academics to contribute to generation of third stream income through large quantities of publications and other means such as offering of part-time courses also received attention. Today these fears have turned into a reality. This explains the protests that were led by students demanding free education and an end to outsourcing of work. This paper, based on my observations as an academic in South Africa for the past two decades, a member of trade union, and review of research by fellow academics, examines the manifestation of this authoritarian, neo-liberal managerialist corporatisation trend and its impact on academic freedom in universities. In so doing, I would provide an analysis of the role and significance of robust independent trade unionism in challenging this trend and restoring academic freedom as well as the challenges and obstacles to such unionisation. This I would do with reference to examples in some of the universities in SA.