An Innovative and Globally Competitive Higher Education Sector is a Prerequisite for Radical Economic Transformation in South Africa
Keywords:radical economic transformation, higher education sector, South Africa
Radical economic transformation has come to mean many different things to many different people. In recent political discourse, the concept has been utilised to symbolise the government’s commitment to fast-track changes in the structure of the economy, particularly from the perspective of revisiting the ownership of wealth and resources. When loosely used, the term somehow confers upon government the agency to ensure that the ownership structure of the economy should be transformed (radically) in a manner that changes the structure and pace of economic development and fulfils the aspirations of the National Development Plan. This paper argues that the idea of radicalised economic transformation is a contested one, because economic transformation can hardly be radicalised in the sense that is being communicated in the mainstream discourse. The transformation of any economy requires painstaking mechanical and systematic remodelling of certain push pillars within several sectors, of which the higher education sector is key. Radicalising the process of economic transformation in South Africa could hardly be achieved without radical steps to transform the role, contribution and output of the higher education sector. The construction of an economic development project that brings about sustainable, meaningful improvements would require much more than a rhetoric commitment to the romantic notion of radical economic transformation. It will require dealing with built-in weaknesses of the system and picking seed pillars with a potential to inject radical change into the broader economy. It is the key argument of this paper that radicalising the transformation of the higher education sector is the real prerequisite to radical economic transformation, especially when such transformation targets more than the racial profile of university staff to also focus on output, efficiency and global competitiveness.
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