South African business must urgently think through its collective needs and address its own interests in influencing the future of higher education.
The national participation rate in higher education is falling. At present, it is only 15% in the relevant age group, and is dropping towards levels found in the least developed countries. This must ring alarm bells for South Africa’s future competitiveness.
Many countries have recognised that higher education institutions are major economic resources and are actively promoting partnerships for national development between government, business and higher education.
Higher education has a vital role in helping South Africa to develop an internationally competitive economy, a more prosperous and equitable society, and a stable democracy. Better education, better learning, better research, better products and better economic growth are the prerequisites for a better quality of life for all South Africans.
A major reconfiguration of South African higher education is now on the table for discussion. This reappraisal has been precipitated by a multi-dimensional crisis extending from the schools into the tertiary sector, and the need to reshape an institutional terrain distorted by apartheid planning.