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The Presence of postcolonial academics in South African universities

Epistemic potential and possibilities
La présence de chercheurs postcoloniaux dans les universités sud-africaines
La presencia de académicos en las universidades sur-africanas. Potencial epistémico y posibilidades
Lionel Thaver et Beverley Thaver
Traduction(s) :
La présence de chercheurs postcoloniaux dans les universités sud-africaines [fr]

Résumés

À la lumière de l’expansion du continent africain, notre intérêt est d’identifier le volume et la forme de la population d’universitaires étrangers en Afrique du Sud provenant de 44 pays africains, avec en toile de fond les réformes structurales dans le système d’enseignement universitaire sud-africain. Nous désagrégeons cette population académique africaine en fonction de formations postcoloniales et la comparons à la distribution des pays africains d’origine. Nous examinons ces données dans vingt-trois universités qui ont été officiellement subdivisées entre les types institutionnels d’Université de Recherche, Université de Technologie et Université Généraliste. Nous fournissons un exemple empirique de la cohorte africaine de 2014 dans le système universitaire sud-africain. Nous considérons l’intérêt de prendre en compte les dimensions paradigmatiques et théoriques des épistémès africaines comme sources d’analyse de ce relativement nouveau segment de la population académique en Afrique du Sud.

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Introduction

1Globally, the academic profession is poised at a challenging and complex social moment, reflecting shifts in the shape and form of knowledge development and arrangements (Altbach, 2003). These conditions are constituted by the imperatives of global and national (academic) ‘labour market’ needs that have arisen out of the twin forces of globalisation and massification (Altbach et al., 2009; also see Gibbons, 1994). An integral component of this complex alignment is the imperative to appoint highly skilled academics whose competency extends beyond that of teaching to research. The indicators for the latter are a doctorate in a relevant field with a research profile, which, when combined with community engagement, constitutes a high level of competency/skill for an increasingly globalised knowledge economy (also see Bloom, 2005). In effect the individual academic with this particular combination of skills occupies a specialised place in the knowledge economy. We are aware that this phenomenon (high level academic competency) is occurring within the context of a particular arrangement of the science and innovation system. This system, in turn, is transforming from narrow, insular disciplinary formations as canons to multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary modalities, occurring in and beyond the university, where knowledge is also being produced (Gibbons, 1994).

2Our interest is such that, when the aforementioned conditions are mapped onto the global and continental academic landscapes, we observe a skewed form with respect to, firstly, the patterns of mobility of academic staff in terms of the South-North geopolitical intellectual divide (Altbach & Knight, 2007). And, secondly, that this skewed form is noted in the imbalances and unequal relations of research production (Mahlck, 2016; also see Cummings, 2017). This set of unequal relations vis-à-vis global research arrangements (Mahlck, 2016) has multifaceted implications for Africa. More specifically, in light of this unequal ‘intellectual division of labour’, Africa with its particular forms of historical, pre-colonial, colonial and postcolonial relations, continue in its present contemporary context to be one among several incubating sites, for universities in Western/Northern academic regions, seeking to accelerate their competitive edge in the knowledge economy (Altbach et al., 2009).

3In this respect, we wish to draw attention to the distribution of academics from the African continent (sans South Africa) who were drawn to South African universities in a comprehensive, evidence-driven manner. As such we seek to simultaneously identify any prospective patterns in the size and shape of this postcolonial African academic cohort. Our interest is to show how this phenomenon unfolds in the South African academic landscape, as it transitioned from an apartheid, isolationist and closed university system, to a democratic, open and integrative one.

4At the outset, we wish to state that while we are cognizant of the body of literature on academic migration (Tremblay, 2005), mobility patterns, including high level skills-development and transfer (Felleson & Mahlck, 2014; Ellis, 2008) and immigration (Wa Kabwe-Segatti et al., 2008), it is not the focus of this article, which has a more modest aim. In this respect, our article focuses on the distribution patterns of African academics from outside of South Africa, who have entered what has historically been a closed South African academic system still predicated on Eurocentrism. We envisage for future research that both the data set and the preliminary analysis would serve as a platform which is oriented towards mapping the discursive regularities that unfold as a consequence of the discursive practices of this postcolonial African cohort of academics and their articulation inside the South African academy.

Historical sketch of the South African university system: segregation, apartheid and democracy

  • 1 The authors do not accept the validity of race as a scientific concept; instead we treat such categ (...)

5A brief historical sketch of South Africa's university system and its relationship to the academic profession over the period of a century point to the latter being shaped and influenced by the cultures and values of the respective modalities of state formation (Thaver & Thaver, 2010). During the first four decades of the 20th century, under the segregationist political administration (1910-1948), we are witness to the establishment of six universities, including one college designated for Africans and five technical institutes. With the exception of the former (university college), these eleven institutions were almost exclusively designated for the section of the population officially classified as white1. During this period of segregation in South Africa, the university is witness to two types of fault lines. The first is that the European or white population was divided between Anglo and Afrikaner ethnicities and their hegemonic interests; and secondly, that there was a racial divide between the white and black sections (subdivided into African, coloured and Indian descent) of society, in general. In this context, the university is witness to hegemonic contestations around the medium of instruction of English and Afrikaans at the complete neglect of African languages. This represented a classic case of how language was politicised to the point at which student access to the university sector had been regulated, especially as was the case for African students, in particular, and black students, including white students, in general. This was symptomatic of the broader Anglo-Afrikaner political struggle seeking to extend hegemonic control of their respective world views. By the mid-20th century, colonial traditions, symbols and images were imbricated in the institutional cultures that had also by this time reached into academic appointments, as well as curriculum and the academic structure, in general (see Philips, 2003; Sehoole, 2006).

6Immediately after the second half of the 20th century, the apartheid state used scientific racism and ethnicity as organizing principles for establishing four new universities and four new technical institutions, as well as for allocating resources to all institutions. This resulted in bringing the number of institutions to 19 (10 universities and 9 technical institutes) by the late 1950s. The use of ethnicity as an organising principle by the apartheid state was consolidated with the promulgation of the Bantu Education Act of 1959, which witnessed a further eleven university colleges and six technical institutes being formed. With the latter’s nomenclature changed to that of Certificates for Advanced Technical Training, this resulted in a higher education landscape comprising a total of 36 institutions distributed across 21 universities and 15 ‘technikons’ by the late 1980s. With respect to the criterion for entry qualifications’ for academic appointments, this was pegged at the level of an Honours degree and was placed under the oversight of the state.

7What was, however, notable was that academics who were recruited and redeployed in Black universities recently formed under apartheid were in the main white academics who were trained in the historically Afrikaner universities (Gwala, 1988). This latter racial dispensation skewed the demographic distribution of academics at all 36 higher education institutions to the point that the following distribution (by 1994) was evident: White academics (83%), Black academics collectively (16%). The disaggregation of the latter category Black as represented in the Population Registration Act of 1950 of the then apartheid state was African (9%), Coloured (3%) and Indian (4%) and Other (1%) all of whom were mainly concentrated at historically black institutions. By contrast, we wish to emphasise that African student enrolment at historically white universities had increased quite significantly in the late 1990s. In light of this, it was apparent that this expansion in African student enrolment was disproportionate to the staff profile of the African academic cohort employed. This situation prompted Cooper and Subotzky (2001) to refer to this tendency as a ‘skewed revolution’. It is precisely in recognition of this highly skewed under-representation of African academics, in general, at both historically white and historically black universities in the South African university sector, which has prompted this article.

8Following on the point about the demographic under-representation, it is important to note that the identification of the ideal and typical academic subject, that is, who was deemed suitable to teach, research and develop certain scientific fields of study overlapped with the politically exclusive social frameworks of racial discrimination (see Centre for Science and Development, 1992; Badat et al., 1994; Wolpe, 1995; Sehoole, 1996). With regard to this distinction, we want to draw particular attention to the institutionalised and structural nature of how apartheid systemically undermined and suppressed the organic development of a South African, African academic cohort. The latter made for a highly skewed and non-representative legacy in the South African university sector which was still highly visible at the inauguration of democracy in 1994.

9The aftermath of the democratic turn saw the introduction of a raft of policy initiatives which was established to transition the system that was fragmented racially and furthermore divided into the institutional types of university and technikon. This transition to a unitary system, firstly, involved cutting across the imposed racial categories towards a culture of non-racialism albeit in an uneven manner. Secondly, it involved elevating the institutional status of the technikon to that of a university with its new nomenclature now being a ‘University of Technology’. In this regard, the notable strategic intervention was the introduction of the policy document, entitled: Transformation Programme for Higher Education, White Paper, 1997. This preceded the promulgation of the Higher Education Act 1997, both of which became the precursors to the National Plan for Higher Education, 2001. The national plan contained reform mandates which included the restructuring of the size and shape of the higher education landscape through a merger/incorporation process, which resulted in the reduction of the number of institutions from an initial 36 down to 23 universities. This latter process was consolidated in 2005, which serves as the entry period for the gleaning of data for this article.

10In the main, the reforms at the level of academic staffing had the explicit aim of being directed to changing the shape and size of the academic profile to align more closely to the diverse demographics and representative needs of South African society and the constitutional democracy. Our view is that the steerage of the system at a macro-level, tended to mirror the broader social values and principles as advanced under specific presidencies of the democratic dispensation, of which we provide a brief background.

  • 2 This term is used in the official data set of the Higher Education Management and Information Syste (...)

11Firstly, in the Mandela administration between 1994 and 1999, we observe a concrete shift from South Africa viewed as an extension of Europe, that is, outside of Africa, towards the political and symbolic reintegration of South Africa into the African continent. In this respect, the social policy pertaining to the academic profession had been the injunction to recruit African academics from the rest of Africa into the academy. On a macro-level this Africanisation project, steered under the Presidency of Thabo Mbeki (1999-2008), is best captured by Mbeki (1988) in his, “I am an African” (pp. 31-32) speech, in which he foregrounds the need to foment an African Renaissance. In this context and combined with the backdrop of the systematic and structural marginalisation of African academics in the South African university system, there was a question that went a begging. This question was about how new African academic role models may be expanded at universities in order to meaningfully change the size, shape and character of the Instruction-Research2 (i.e. academic) staff profile. The mechanisms for the facilitation envisaged in this change of the academic cohort took place through the National Plan for Higher Education (NPHE, 2001), which sought to “attract skills” (p. 46), and in a co-simultaneous manner “encourage [d] institutions to recruit academics actively from the rest of the Africa” (p. 46). What we wish to point out is that this policy mandate was directly linked to the need for “providing role models for black students and in helping to change institutional cultures” (p. 46).

12Within this context, our primary interest, firstly, is in seeking to establish how, in the gestation period of this reform, the size and shape of the postcolonial African academic cohort has shifted over a decade beginning in 2005 and ending in 2014. Secondly, given that the advent of this postcolonial African academic cohort represents a change in epistemic subjects, we track this in the size and shape of the diverse African academic cohort as distributed across 44 different countries. And furthermore, we combine the country of origin of this African academic cohort to their respective postcolonial Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone formations as epistemes. However, before proceeding with the official data set, we provide clarification on the deployment of terms in relation to our use of episteme and its provenance.

Interpretive Framework

13In sum, what we seek to establish in this article is the nature of the configuration and distribution of African academics from postcolonial Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone formations simply on the basis of their presence in the South African university sector. We are not making the far-reaching claim that African academics are of necessity committed to what Mamdani (2016) views as ‘epistemological decolonisation’. However, we are suggesting that the presence of African academics as such, reconfigure the field of discursive production in the ‘arena’ of South African universities, which in turn makes for the articulation of multiple knowledge formations. In addition, we are suggesting that this reconfiguration does indeed make for different conditions of existence of knowledge production. In this respect, we are mindful that the latter does not necessarily equate with the Africanisation of knowledge, in that it can equally be a reproduction of extant Eurocentric worldviews. In other words, the case for the Africanisation of knowledge needs to be demonstrated in the discursive practices that emerge in the production and reproduction of knowledge in the South African academy. We understand the latter as encompassing the experience and worldviews of postcolonial African academics, their articulation with Eurocentric training and the encounter with knowledge production in the South African university sector. To clarify, what is meant by episteme is drawn from Foucault (1989) who states that an “…episteme may be suspected of being something like a worldview, a slice of history, common to all branches of knowledge, which imposes on each one the same norms and postulates...” (p. 211).

14The question thus arises of the problematic correlation between African epistemic agency and its relation to an African epistemology, namely, that it is not a fait accompli, but that this needs to be empirically demonstrated. Most importantly, we need to make explicit that there is no racial basis to the Africanisation of knowledge per se, but rather, that it rests upon an epistemological conviction for developing knowledge systems that are contextually relevant. The fundamental purpose behind the use of episteme is to establish whether the expansion of the postcolonial African cohort of academics in the sector may in fact be contributing to the development of Africanised modalities of knowledge. Ultimately, we are concerned with whether the latter might lead to the development of an African epistemology (epistemologies) and whether this may cross the threshold of formalisation into disciplines and / or sciences. The purpose of the article is to primarily establish the objective conditions insofar as it relates to the wide ranging presence of African academics who hail from postcolonial Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone epistemes (as defined above) across forty-four African countries.

15We wish to reiterate that we are not holding onto a racialisation of the ‘episteme’ insofar as Eurocentrism is considered to be a white representation of knowledge production. In other words, we argue that since African academics, in general, have also been acculturated within the same episteme means that we cannot make the assumption that the latter are necessarily committed to the Africanisation of knowledge. However, inasmuch as African academics commit themselves to decolonising knowledge and working towards developing an African episteme, that is, an African world view, with its norms and postulates, means it is borne rather of an epistemological conviction. In this regard, the salient point that we address is best captured by Mudimbe (1988) who considers Eurocentricism as an instance of “epistemological ethnocentrism” (p. 15). We wish to emphasise that the latter is equally true with respect to an Afrocentricism that is disarticulated from other systems of knowledge. Thus, we do not seek a bifurcation of knowledge into Euro and Afro centric modalities, but would rather seek to probe knowledge production, in the South African university sector, in light of the articulation of epistemes centred within an African experience.

16The question of the relationship between ‘episteme’ and epistemology is particularly significant inasmuch as use of the former insulates us in part from conflating a shift in epistemic agency with a shift in epistemology. In this regard, Foucault (1989) makes abundantly clear that

[t]he episteme is not a form of knowledge (connaissance) or type of rationality which, crossing the boundaries of the most varied sciences, manifest the sovereign unity of the subject, a spirit, or a period; it is the totality of relations that can be discovered for a given period, between the sciences when one analyses them at the level of discursive regularities (p. 211).

17Flowing from the above, we are in fact setting the scene for further research that could engage empirically with whether an expansion of the African cohort is in fact contributing towards the firming up of an African episteme in emergent discursive regularities. And, furthermore, whether the latter might potentially lead to the development of African epistemics, in general, or an African epistemology, in particular. What we seek to emphasise, is that we do not hold that there is a necessary correlation between African academics and the development of an African epistemology. Notwithstanding, the question that nevertheless confronts us, drawing on Mannheim (1992), has to do with what a change in the academic cohort might mean. Thus, he asks, “[h]ow does the shape, physiognomy of a culture change when the strata actively participating in cultural life, either as creators or as recipients, become broader and more inclusive?” (p. 175). Following on the latter it is clear, though not axiomatic, that a demographic shift in the academic cohort has the potential to yield changes in the institutional culture of the academy (Thaver, 2006). It is from this vantage point that we are interested in particular, in the recruitment of academics from countries on the African continent beyond that of South Africa.

18To be sure, we are not saying that the African academic cohort would necessarily drive the move towards the Africanisation of knowledge, but rather, that it could potentially make for epistemic shifts in knowledge production, in South African universities. This, however, is in need of empirical investigation at the level of the discursive relations and practices that unfold in the articulation of these multiple epistemic practices in South African universities across doctoral supervisions, research projects and publications. In particular the discursive analysis that we allude to in order to gauge the extent to which an African episteme might be emergent, is best defined by Foucault (1989) who states that;

[b]y episteme, we mean, in fact, the total set of relations that unite, at a given period, the discursive practices that give rise to epistemological figures, sciences, and possibly formalised systems; the way in which, in each of these discursive formation, the transitions to epistemologisation, scientificity and formalisation are situated and operate; the distribution of these thresholds; which may coincide, be subordinated to one another, or be separated by shifts in time; the lateral relations that may exist between epistemological figures or sciences insofar as they belong to neighbouring, but distinct, discursive practices (p. 211).

19The objective of exploring the size, shape and density (African country and postcolonial epistemes) of the African academic cohort, is to set up the relations specific to the distribution of epistemic subjects in the South African university sector. This is done fundamentally to point to the discursive practices that might emerge in the articulations of multiple epistemes and lived realities as these firm up in relation to engagements with disciplines as “epistemological figures”, “sciences” and “formalized systems of knowledge”. Notwithstanding the latter, we need to be mindful that in the current context one sees the emergence of African modalities of knowledge in the academy in various fields of scholarly endeavor, in other words, in various stages of “transitions to epistemologisation, scientificity and formalisation”. What we mean by this is that African modalities of knowledge are still regarded, as at that point of its epistemic history, where its epistemological threshold is set beneath that of disciplinary canonization. Furthermore, what this means, in the academy in terms of the institutionalization of discourse, is an epistemic hierarchy which marks the epistemological limits of non-occidental modalities of knowledge, in general, and African modalities, in particular. Thus, in lieu of an African Philosophy is its diminution in “Ethnophilosophy”; in lieu of African Botany we have “Ethnobotany”, and so on and so forth. But, what this comes down to at bottom is that occidental modalities of knowledge have gathered unto itself the epistemological mantle of science, whilst it simultaneously confers on African modalities and Oriental for that matter the denigrated status of knowledge claims without scientific basis and superficial pretensions to knowledge.

20The inherent danger, which we draw attention to, is that in reproducing the African epistemological divides as outlined above, as case in point, means that, that which is most proximate in knowledge formation, i.e., its contextual conditions in national formations (African countries) and its continental scope (Africa) do not feature as an essential part of its epistemic conditionality and thus of disciplinary and “discursive practices”. It is thus in this context that we present a profile of the emergent African academic cohort as a way of considering the distinctive shift in epistemic agency underway for the past decade in South African universities.

Approaching the data

21The criteria that inform the aggregation and disaggregation of the data for the African academic cohort are now spelled out. First, the data that we draw on in order to analyse the shape, size and density of academic staff in general and the African cohort from beyond South Africa, is gleaned from the Department of Higher Education and Training Management of Information System’s data base. In the main, references to African denote African academics who hail from African countries excluding South Africa. However, with respect to African academics from South Africa, these are designated as such in order to distinguish this segment of the academic cohort from African academics from outside of South Africa.

22The reason for starting with the year 2005 is simply because this period represents the consolidation of the formal merger processes (as outlined earlier) of certain universities; while the cut-off point for the year 2014, is about the availability of data at the time of writing this article. In addition, we alert the reader to the fact that the analysis of the size and shape for the African cohort is primarily based on a snapshot of the 2014 data. Second, we have used the existing classification system of academics in the university sector of Research-Instruction Staff. The four categories of the academic cohort is divided into that of South African (SA-all inclusive), African (AF-outside South Africa), International (IN-outside Africa) and No Information (NI), drawn from the Higher Education Management System (Department of Higher Education and Training).

23Third, the categorisation of African academics from African countries of origin is tied to the postcolonial formations that were imposed at the Berlin Conference 1884-1885 which defined the rules of the European annexation of the continent (Adebajo, 2010). In this respect, we have categorised 44 African countries in relation to six postcolonial formations, namely, Anglophone, Francophone, Lusophone, Spanish, Italian and German, each of which is tied to one or more African country. At this point, it is important to state that the discussion of the data does not include commentary on postcolonial Italian, German and Spanish Africa.

24The final point concerns the use of the three institutional types of universities designated as (Research) University, University of Technology and Comprehensive University as employed in the tables mapping out the size and distribution of African academics. The institutional designation into the three categories of university is drawn from the Council on Higher Education (2004) policy text. It is important to note that the institutional types are a culmination of the restructuring of the institutional landscape, which in the main, sought to redress the legacy arising from the racially fragmented apartheid system (see Council on Higher Education, 2004). In this respect, the merger process that was consolidated in 2005 (the period that marks the starting point for the data analysis) was based on the incorporation of certain historically black and historically white institutions in order to build a unitary system. The differentiated structure of universities that emerged as a result of the reconfigured national institutional landscape include the categories of University (basic research and teaching), University of Technology (applied research and teaching) and Comprehensive University (teaching and applied research).

Total academic staff in South African universities

25In the following section, the data is presented. The first table sets up the size and shape of the total academic cohort in the South African university sector for the period spanning 2005 to 2014. This is in turn disaggregated to include African and International segments of the academic cohort. In this regard, we set out the two categories of African and International academics in order to establish their proportional relationship to the South African segment, as well as the total cohort of all academics, in the South African university sector.

26In 2014, the permanent and temporary academic staff complement stood at just over 50,000 employees. The absolute number of academic employees increased steadily, from 40,517 in 2005 to a peak of 52,571 in 2013. There were, however, notable exceptions in that we see a decrease, rather than a steady increase as over previous years. This is evident in 2013 when academic employment peaked, but in contrast decreased subsequently to 50,429 in 2014. Similarly, there was a decrease in employment in 2008 (42,374) which was clearly less than that registered for 2007 (41,383). This was equally the case for 2007 which registered a decrease over 2006 when 42,720 academics were employed in 2006. Moreover, it is evident that academic employment in 2006 was higher than both 2007 and 2008 and was only surpassed in 2009 (43,446).

Table 1. Total Permanent and Temporary Instruction-Research Staff 2005-2014

   

South Africans

African

International

No information

   

   

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

Total

2005

37,036

91

898

2

780

2

1,803

4

40,517

2006

38,108

89

1,329

3

1,122

3

2,161

5

42,720

2007

37,081

90

1,283

3

1,241

3

1,778

4

41,383

2008

38,177

90

1,782

4

1,320

3

1,095

3

42,374

2009

38,813

89

2,102

5

1,392

3

1,139

3

43,446

2010

41,651

89

2,418

5

1,503

3

1,007

2

46,579

2011

44,123

88

2,714

5

1,300

3

1,846

4

49,983

2012

44,747

87

3,222

6

1,717

3

1,887

4

51,573

2013

45,841

87

4,077

7

2,051

4

602

1

52,571

2014

43,458

86

4,214

8

2,138

4

619

1

50,429

27What is noteworthy, notwithstanding exceptions, is that the African academic cohort grew exponentially in that it more than quadrupled over the period 2005 – 2014, i.e., from 898 to 4214 academics. The initial pattern of growth showed a rapid increase by first doubling to 1782 in 2008, then trebling to 2714 in 2011, and finally, in 2014, African academic staff quadrupled. It has been noted that the rapid growth of the African academic cohort was not a linear pattern but was interrupted with a slight decline in 2007 of 1283, lower than the previous year which registered a figure of 1329 in 2006. However, it is important to state that even with the rapid growth of African academics from beyond South Africa; the overall pattern is still one of the under representation of African academics in the university system.

28The proportion of the South African cohort in relation to the combined postcolonial African and International cohorts in 2005 was 91% and 9% respectively. Whereas, in 2014, the South African cohort dropped to 86% of the total cohort, while the combination of African and International cohorts increased to 14%. With respect to the African segment of academics, we note a consistent increase both, in absolute and proportional terms, which in 2005 was slightly in excess of 2% of the total academic cohort, while in 2014 it peaked at just over 8%, with a total of 4214 academics. For clarification, it should be noted that the analysis of the data only makes alowances for postcolonial Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone formations constituing a total of 4035 (96%), as against an absolute total of 4214 which includes African academics from postcolonial German, Spanish and Italian formations.

29The category International academics similarly experienced rapid growth, almost trebling between 2005 and 2014 from 780 to 2138 academics. The pattern of growth of the international academic cohort is similarly interrupted; however, it does not coincide with the same period noted in the postcolonial African segment of the academic cohort which occurred in 2006-2007. Rather, the decline in the International cohort occurs in 2011 which registered 1300 academics whereas in 2010 the figure was slightly higher at 1513 International academics. In both absolute and proportional terms the International and postcolonial African cohorts show similarly a positive growth.

30The significant import of the size and shape of the postcolonial African academic cohort in the university system in South Africa is that its growth is pushing towards a total of 10% of the total academic staff complement in the university sector. It could be of interest to consider whether the latter might be representative of the threshold for a critical mass of postcolonial African academics and scholarship, which would in turn provide the added impetus to the development of and consolidation of the Africanisation of knowledge.

Academics from post-colonial Anglophone Africa

31The distribution and concentration of African academic staff, from post-colonial Anglophone Africa, across Research Universities, of different African countries of origin, evidenced the pattern shown in Table 2, with respect to academic size, shape and scope.

32The size of this segment of the African staff complement in 2014 was 1807, based at Research Universities. By comparison, at the Universities of Technology there was a total of 484 African academics, and at Comprehensive Universities there was a total of 1146. In this regard, the combined total of the aforementioned represents 3437 African academics of an absolute total of 4214 (see Table 1) academics in the university sector. This segment of African academics represents 81.6% of the total number of African academics in the university system.

Table 2a. Academics from post-colonial Anglophone Africa. Note: See legend of universities at the end of the article

  
   
   
   
   
   
RESEARCH UNIVERSITY

University

Egypt

Botswana

Gambia

Ghana

Liberia

Kenya

Nigeria

Sudan

Sierra Leone

Pays ???

UCT

8

9

 

17

2

49

76

7

5

13

UFH

1

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

UWC

1

 

 

2

 

6

19

1

 

 

US

 

2

1

6

 

8

15

 

 

3

RU

 

 

 

1

 

2

1

 

 

1

UP

1

 

 

1

 

12

17

1

 

4

UW

 

12

 

9

2

34

78

4

1

9

UFS

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UKZN

2

8

 

4

 

40

128

14

1

10

UL

 

1

 

6

 

2

12

 

 

4

NWU

 

9

 

5

 

2

30

 

 

4

Total

13

42

1

52

4

155

376

27

7

48

UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY

CUTFS

1

7

 

3

 

3

10

 

 

 

MUT

 

2

 

 

 

2

10

 

1

1

VUT

 

3

 

2

 

12

30

 

 

5

CPUT

 

3

 

3

 

7

39

1

 

 

DUT

 

 

 

2

 

3

21

 

 

1

TUT

 

5

 

2

 

14

46

 

 

6

Total

1

20

0

12

0

41

156

1

1

13

COMPREHENSIVE UNIVERSITY

UV

 

 

 

7

 

12

17

 

 

 

UZ

 

 

 

 

 

2

11

 

 

2

UJ

3

4

 

8

 

23

50

 

1

23

NNMU

1

1

 

3

 

3

8

 

 

1

UNISA

 

8

 

14

 

24

116

 

 

10

WSU

 

 

 

4

 

3

5

 

 

2

Total

4

13

0

36

0

67

207

0

1

38

GRAND TOTAL

18

75

1

100

4

263

739

28

9

99

Table 2b. Academics from post-colonial Anglophone Africa. Note: See legend of universities at the end of the article

  
   
   
   
   
   
RESEARCH UNIVERSITY

University

Uganda

Tanzania

Zambia

Zimbabwe

Lesotho

Malawi

Mauritius

Total anglophone

UCT

27

18

35

182

27

10

25

510

UFH

2

41

4

1

50

UWC

2

3

3

29

6

72

US

3

2

3

29

2

7

81

RU

2

1

26

2

4

1

41

UP

2

2

2

27

3

4

76

UW

8

10

17

115

12

19

1

331

UFS

1

23

7

32

UKZN

7

10

12

164

17

7

6

430

UL

3

1

32

4

65

NWU

3

3

8

44

7

4

119

Total

57

51

82

712

85

62

33

1807

UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY

CUTFS

2

15

7

1

49

MUT

15

31

VUT

2

1

3

36

10

104

CPUT

4

1

4

44

5

111

DUT

1

2

21

3

1

55

TUT

7

1

1

42

5

5

134

Total

13

4

12

173

30

6

1

484

COMPREHENSIVE UNIVERSITY

UV

2

3

58

2

2

103

UZ

10

2

18

1

46

UJ

8

6

11

93

6

6

242

NNMU

2

9

28

4

3

63

UNISA

11

6

28

414

8

9

648

WSU

4

5

20

2

2

47

Total

35

16

56

631

21

22

2

1149

GRAND TOTAL

105

71

150

1516

136

90

36

3440

33With respect to the breakdown of this segment of academics into the three institutional types, the proportional representation is 53% for Research Universities; 14% for Universities of Technology and 33% for Comprehensive universities. With respect to Comprehensive universities, of which the greatest concentration of African academics is based at the UNISA, it should be noted that it is a ‘long distance’ modality institution, and thus the total is somewhat skewed for this type. When we exclude UNISA the two institutional types of University of Technology and Comprehensive University are comparable in size with approximately 14% each. This means that the relative concentration of African academics at Research Universities, when we exclude for UNISA, is approximately 70%, which is located in this institutional type, in 2014. What the proportions are suggestive of is that the greatest concentration of the African academic cohort of 70% is based at research-led universities. This means that this segment of the African cohort represents a highly specialised and skilled complement, which places them at the cutting edge of basic research and thus, knowledge production sites. The question of whether this cohort might or might not contribute to epistemological decolonisation (i.e. Africanisation of knowledge) cannot be assumed but needs to be empirically demonstrated. What is being alluded to here is simply that the demographic concentration is signalled as an epistemic potential.

34The distribution of this academic cohort in relation to African countries of origin at Research Universities yielded a firm pattern, respectively, for Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Kenya. In this regard, the UCT registered a total of 510 postcolonial Anglophone African academics of which the highest number recorded was from Zimbabwe with 182 (36%). This was followed by Nigeria with 76 (15%) and Kenya with 49 (9%), the balance distributed across the remaining Anglophone African countries (see Table 2). At the UKZN which registered a total of 430 academics, the pattern similarly unfolded with Zimbabwe registering 164 (38%), Nigeria, 128 (30%) and Kenya, 40 (9%) as was the case for the remaining universities in this institutional type.

Table 3(a). Academics from post-colonial Francophone Africa. Note: See legend of universities at the end of the article

  
   
   
   
   
   
RESEARCH UNIVERSITY

University

Algeria

Benin

B. Faso

Burundi

Cameroun

CAR

Congo

Côte Ivoire

RDC

UCT

1

2

2

16

4

6

UFH

3

1

UWC

1

4

3

3

US

1

1

6

6

RU

2

UP

6

3

3

UW

1

2

1

9

1

43

UFS

UKZN

1

1

18

23

UL

9

NWU

7

3

1

Total

2

5

3

4

78

0

38

1

63

UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY

CUTFS

1

MUT

2

VUT

13

2

12

CPUT

1

24

24

DUT

1

6

2

TUT

14

5

1

9

Total

0

1

0

1

57

0

11

1

46

COMPREHENSIVE UNIVERSITY

UV

4

1

UZ

2

2

UJ

2

2

1

24

3

28

NNMU

2

3

1

1

UNISA

1

43

1

5

24

WSU

8

3

Total

2

5

1

0

84

1

8

4

56

GRAND TOTAL

4

11

4

5

219

1

57

6

165

Table 3(b). Academics from post-colonial Francophone Africa. Note: See legend of universities at the end of the article

  
   
   
   
   
   
RESEARCH UNIVERSITY

University

Gabon

Mali

Rwanda

Sénégal

Togo

Madagascar

Tunisie

Total francophone

UCT

1

9

1

4

4

50

UFH

4

UWC

1

5

17

US

2

1

4

1

22

RU

1

1

1

5

UP

1

13

UW

1

6

2

1

1

3

71

UFS

0

UKZN

2

10

55

UL

9

NWU

1

12

Total

5

1

34

4

6

10

4

258

UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY

CUTFS

1

2

MUT

2

VUT

1

28

CPUT

1

50

DUT

1

10

TUT

1

30

Total

2

0

3

0

0

0

0

122

COMPREHENSIVE UNIVERSITY

UV

1

6

UZ

4

UJ

6

5

1

72

NNMU

1

8

UNISA

1

1

1

77

WSU

11

Total

8

0

7

1

0

0

1

178

GRAND TOTAL

15

1

44

5

6

10

5

558

35The UCT pattern is such that African academics from Zimbabwe are more than double that of Nigeria and treble that of Kenya. This arguably, makes for great unevenness and thus greater potential for hegemonic formations. The UKZN on the other hand show relative evenness with respect to the concentration of Zimbabwean and Nigerian academics with perhaps more potential for cooperation and mutuality (inter & multi-disciplinarity) than would otherwise, though not necessarily, be suggested by highly disproportional distributions. The overall distribution of postcolonial Anglophone, African academics at Research universities was 44% from Zimbabwe, 21% from Nigeria, and 8% from Kenya, which as such is closer in approximation to that obtained at the UCT.

36The pattern across the institutional type of Universities of Technology does not entirely replicate the same order of African countries of origin as established in Research Universities. Thus, as evidenced, of the total number of postcolonial Anglophone, African academics, at CPUT, which registered 111, there were 44 (40%) from Zimbabwe, 39 (35%) from Nigeria and 7 (6%) from Kenya. Similarly, at VUT, MUT and CUTFS, the same triangle and order of African countries were evidenced. With respect to the pattern that is evident at the TUT, which, with a total of 134, has the highest number, namely, 46 (34%) from Nigeria, 42 (31%) from Zimbabwe and 14 (10%) from Kenya. The only notable difference in the latter pattern is that the highest number is registered aganst Nigeria instead of Zimbabwe, however, it is also relatively evenly spread between the latter two countries. In this regard, the distribution of the African academic cohort reproduces the bi-polar formations at CPUT and UKZN and the dominant formation at UCT.

37The dominant pattern for Comprehensive universities offered more variation, of which from a total of 648 academics at UNISA, there were 414 (68%) from Zimbabwe, 116 (18%) Nigeria. Additionally, though relatively evenly matched were 28 (4%) from Zambia and 24 (4%) from Kenya, with the balance spread across the remaining African countries making up the Anglophone formation (see Table 2). At the UJ, with a total of 242, the distributive pattern was 93 (38%) from Zimbabwe, 50 (21%) from Nigeria and 23 (7%) each for Kenya and Swaziland. The pattern in respect of UNISA shows the steepest distribution pattern, though; it does offer more widespread diversity, while the UJ shows a greater spread with notable distinctions.

38What is particularly significant in this regard is that the leading South African universities (research-led) in light of global and African rankings are at the forefront of Africanising the current academic cohort, though paradoxically skewed in relation to the relatively small number of South African, African (as per official classification) academics employed. Beyond these national perplexities, the overriding concern of this article is the overall shape of the shifting size and density of African epistemic subjects in the South African university and its epistemic potentialities and limits. What we might infer from the statistics cited immediately above, is that the distribution of Anglophone African academics are concentrated in the top tier university structure of the Research type and thus well positioned in relation to the overall production of knowledge in South African universities. We are however aware of the dangers of conflation and methodological fallacies that accompany attempts to link the mere presence of African academics with a progressive Africanised epistemic project in virtue of simply being African, is an essentialism. Thus, to clarify we are simply presenting the growth of African academics in the higher education system as an important conditionality in the unfolding of an African episteme, thus its epistemic potential.

Academics from post-colonial Francophone and Lusophone Africa

39In the following section, we address both postcolonial Francophone and Lusophone-Africa formations. In this respect, the following patterns in size, shape and density (See Tables 3 and 4.) for the institutional types of Research, Technology and Comprehensive Universities are evidenced.

40The size of this segment of the African academic staff complement in 2014 was 258 based at Research universities. By comparison at Universities of Technology there were a total of 122 and at Comprehensive Universities there were a total of 178 African academics. Proportionately the breakdown for the three institutional types of university in relation to African academics from the postcolonial Francophone-Africa formation is, respectively 46% based at Research universities, 22% at Universities of Technology and 32% at Comprehensive universities. The combined total of this segment of Francophone African academics is 558 of an absolute total of 4214 African academics (see Table 1) in the university sector. This segment (Francophone) of the academic cohort represents 13% of the total number of African academics in the university system.

41For the segment of African academics from postcolonial Lusophone-Africa there were respectively 26 at Research Universities, 6 at Universities of Technology and 5 at Comprehensive Universities. Proportionately the breakdown for the three institutional types of university in relation to African academics for the postcolonial Lusophone formation stood at 76% which were based at Research Universities; 18% at Universities of Technology and 6% at Comprehensive universities. However, with respect to the overall pattern it is clear that Research universities continue to represent the largest absorption of academics in both Francophone and Lusophone formations. With respect to Universities of Technology and Comprehensive Universities, the distribution is relatively even across university types for Francophone, but not for Lusophone formations. However, we need to reiterate that the same point holds for UNISA which as a long-distance modality institution skews the overall pattern for comprehensives.

42The distribution of the African academic cohort from African countries comprising the postcolonial Francophone formation at Research universities yielded variable patterns, respectively, in order of size and density noted for Cameroun, DRC and Congo interchangeably, with the balance spread across remaining countries making up Francophone Africa (see Table 3). The UW with 71 African academics from the Francophone segment evidenced a breakdown of 43 (61%) from the DRC, 9 (13%) from Cameroun and 6 (8%) from Rwanda, with the remainder spread across the remaining countries (see Table 3). While at the UKZN, of a total of 55, 23 (42%) were from Congo, 18 (33%) from Cameroun and 10 (18%) from Rwanda, with the difference of 7% comprising the remaining Francophone Africa formation. (see Table 3). Proportionately at the UW, the distribution of the triad of the DRC, Cameroun and Rwanda is 61%, 13% and 8%, respectively, (with the difference of 17% drawn from Algeria, Benin, Burundi, Cote de Voir, Gabon, Senegal, Togo, Madagascar and Tunisia, see Table 3). The UW pattern shows a marked concentration for the DRC, while UKZN is shaped towards a dyadic formation in the combination of Congo and Cameroun. At the Universities of Technology the Francophone formation at CPUT comprises a total of 50 academics which is evenly divided between Cameroun and Congo at 48% each, with the remaining, 1 each from Burundi and Rwanda. The TUT has a total of 30 academics in this segment of the cohort with 14 (47%) from Cameroun, 9 (30%) from the DRC, and 5 (17%) from the Congo (with the difference of 2 academics from Cote de Voire and Gabon). The VUT with a total of 28 academics registered 13 (46%) from Cameroun and 12 (43%) from the DRC with the balance of 2 from the Congo and 1 from Gabon, completing the total.

Table 4. Academics from post-colonial Lusophone countries

  
   
   
   
   
   
RESEARCH UNIVERSITY

University

Angola

Mozambique

G/Bissau

Total lusophone

UCT

2

6

3

11

UFH

0

UWC

1

1

US

0

RU

0

UP

3

3

UW

6

6

UFS

0

UKZN

1

4

5

UL

0

NWU

0

Total

4

19

3

26

UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY

CUTFS

MUT

1

1

VUT

0

CPUT

2

2

DUT

0

TUT

2

1

3

Total

4

2

0

6

COMPREHENSIVE UNIVERSITY

UV

0

UZ

0

UJ

2

2

NNMU

3

UNISA

3

3

WSU

Total

0

5

0

5

GRAND TOTAL

8

26

3

37

43The Comprehensive Universities replicate the pattern of Research and Universities of Technology where we have found a concentration of academics in mainly two countries, as indicated above. Thus, UNISA evidences 43 (56%) academics from Cameroun and 24 (31%) from the DRC, (with the difference drawn from Congo, 5; CAR, 1; Gabon, 1; Rwanda 1 and Senegal 1). The UJ sees a reversal in the duality with the DRC with 28 (39%) and Cameroun slightly less with 24 (33%) ; Gabon 6 (8%) and Rwanda 5 (7%) are closely matched, while the difference is accounted for across the remaining African states). Whereas the former (UNISA) makes for an uneven distribution the latter is more evenly placed in respect of the distribution of African epistemic agents from the Francophone African formation.

44Finally, the African academic cohort from postcolonial Lusophone Africa emanate from Mozambique, Angola and Guinea Bissau. This constitutes a relatively small cohort of 37 academics in total, though mainly concentrated in Research universities and based largely at UCT, and less so in the University of Technology and Comprehensive University types. The breakdown of this segment of African academics based at the different universities is 26 (70%) from Mozambique; 8 (22%) from Angola and 3 (8%) from Guinea Bissau. When measured against the total of this segment of the African cohort it stands at less than one percent which together with the Spanish, German and Italian African formations make up approximately 5% of the total African cohort from outside South Africa.

Conclusion

45From the aforementioned discussion and analysis, we observe that the movement of academics from postcolonial African regions to the South African academy, reveal a predominance of the Anglophone African segment relative to its Francophone and Lusophone counterparts. In this respect, the countries of Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Kenya hold sway in the distribution patterns of academic staff in the South African university sector. With regard to the Francophone segment the countries that hold sway are Cameroun, DRC and Rwanda; while with the Lusophone segment, the main country of origin is Mozambique.

46Having said this, when we consider the countries of origin relative to the institutional types we observe a replication of the above pattern (i.e. three postcolonial regions), in all three institutional types. However, what is important to note is that relative to the total number (4035) of (Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone) African academics, the order of concentration is Research universities, followed by Comprehensive universities and trailed by the Universities of Technology.

47Fully cognizant of the size and shape of the demographic data, we now wish to make some final concluding points (drawing on the discussion in the interpretive framework) about what could be defined as the epistemic potential of this (postcolonial African) academic distribution. Firstly, even though there are certain firm patterns arising from postcolonial African academics’ distribution in the South African academy, one is hardly in a position to make any firm pronouncements about how African epistemics might unfold, in situ. Equally so, one is also mindful of the limited extent to which, one might also be able to speak of an emergent African epistemology, as simply a function of an increase in the size and shape of postcolonial African academics in higher education, rather than establishing it in the discursive traditions and practices that they might bring to bear in the academy. However, having said so it should be borne in mind that we have mapped out the shift in epistemic subjects as characterised by the growth of the postcolonial African academic cohort in South African universities as a relatively recent development in league with the symbolic and formal political ‘reintegration’ of South Africa in-Africa.

48The salient point in drawing a relationship between the size, density and distribution of postcolonial African academics in South African universities and its epistemic potential is simply this, that the combination of the postcolonial epistemes attached to their respective African countries of origin and its intersection and articulation with the Anglo, Afrikaner and African epistemes in South Africa makes for an expansive discursive field, in which the pursuit of knowledge is situated. In this regard, we allude to the epistemic and discursive practices in the South African academy in which, what is evident is the move towards multi-and inter-disciplinarity across emergent African epistemes. Exemplary in this latter regard is the scholarship of Mudimbe (1988) and Appiah (1992) who traverse disciplinary divides, and Hountondji (1996), among others, who cross the Anglo-Francophone divide to make for new epistemic possibilities based on contextual embeddnessness and articulations with the global South and North.

We wish to thank Luc Ngwe and Hamidou Dia (for their faith in the content of the argument) and each of the blind peer-reviewers.
We acknowledge the data collection support provided by Norman Nkwana, from the Department of Higher Education and Training, Okitowamba Onyumbe, Centre for Mathematics and Science Education, Faculty of Education, University of the Western Cape and Ruben Daniels.

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Annexe

   

Table Legend: Universities

CPUT

Cape Peninsula University of Technology

CUTFS

Central University of Technology Free State

DUT

Durban University of Technology

NWU

North West University

NNMU

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

MUT

Mangosuthu University of Technology

RU

University of Rhodes

TUT

Tshwane University of Technology

UCT

University of Cape Town

UFH

University of Fort Hare

UFS

University of Free State

UJ

University of Johannesburg

UKZN

University of Kwazulu-Natal

UL

University of Limpopo

UNISA

University of South Africa

UP

University of Pretoria

US

University of Stellenbosch

UWC

University of the Western Cape

UW

University of Witwatersrand

VUT

Vaal University of Technology

UV

University of Venda for Science and Technology Education

UZ

University of Zululand

WSU

Walter Sisulu University of Technology and Science

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Notes

1 The authors do not accept the validity of race as a scientific concept; instead we treat such categorization as social and political constructs.

2 This term is used in the official data set of the Higher Education Management and Information System. In this article we use the term ‘academic staff’.

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Lionel Thaver et Beverley Thaver, « The Presence of postcolonial academics in South African universities »Revue d’anthropologie des connaissances [En ligne], 12-4 | 2018, mis en ligne le 31 décembre 2018, consulté le 01 avril 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/rac/338

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Auteurs

Lionel Thaver

Senior Lecturer who specializes in teaching Contemporary Sociological Theory, Social Change: Technology and Society, Advanced Social Theory, Advanced Research Methodology – Philosophy of Science and Advanced Sociology/Philosophy of Technology. He has published in Sociology and Higher Education Journals in fields such as Academic Discourse and students writing practices, Sociology of Higher Education in South Africa and Modern Technology and Society. The themes covered include: At Home, Institutional Culture and the University; Institutional imperatives of Higher Education; Developmental State and Higher Education; Race, Class, State and Higher Education and the Ambivalence of Technology. His most recent publication was a leading article in the South African Journal of Higher Education, entitled, “The ambivalence of modern technology and the digital divide: gathering and scattering of sociality and sociability in the global network society.”

Address: University of Western Cape, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Robert Sobukwe Road, Bellville, Western Cape 7530, (Republic of South Africa)
Email: lthaver[at]uwc.ac.za

Beverley Thaver

Professor in Higher Education Studies, in the Faculty of Education, University of the Western Cape, her research interests and publications are in the democratic transformation dynamic of higher education institutions at both the institutional and systems’ levels, with a specific focus on equity and the academic profession. She researches both the public and the private higher education sectors. She serves as a Ministerial appointee to the statutory body of the Council on Higher Education. She writes in her personal capacity.

Address: University of Western Cape, Faculty of Education, Robert Sobukwe Road, Bellville, Western Cape 7530 (Republic of South Africa)
Email: bthaver[at]uwc.ac.za

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