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Title: The state of governance in private higher education in South Africa : an interpretative phenomenological analysis
Author: Murdoch, Nicolene
ISNI:       0000 0004 7656 4961
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2018
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Shattock (2012) is of the view that sound governance can improve the standing and reputation of higher education institutions. However, very limited information is available about governance practices in private higher education in South Africa and it is perceived to be inconsistent, unclear, or non-existent. Currently, only 10% of the total number of students enrolled for tertiary studies are studying at private institutions (Cloete, 2014). This does not nearly exhaust the capacity of the private sector at a time when public institutions are significantly beyond capacity (Bothwell, 2018; Ramrathan, 2016). The low participation rates are ascribed to widespread concerns about academic credibility, corporate approaches, and profit-driven financial practices (DHET, 2013). There is thus a need to build trust and confidence to ensure that students consider private higher education as an attractive alternative. The purpose of this study is to gain an understanding of governance practices at private higher education institutions in South Africa through the shared experiences of those closest to it. A qualitative phenomenological study, using an interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) approach is conducted to answer the main research question: What are the experiences of practitioners involved in governance at private higher education institutions in South Africa? Ten purposefully sampled participants contributed to the study by taking part in semi-structured interviews in order to explore their lived experiences of governance at their institutions. Document analysis was used to supplement the data gathered by means of the interviews. Data analysis was conducted utilizing the constant comparative method, as well as thematic analysis to identify patterns and formulate themes (Creswell, 2015). Analysis of the data revealed that the private higher education sector in South Africa is dominated by corporate governance practices, with limited focus on academic governance, which impacts the quality of content, decision-making, and policy. The findings indicate that governance as a phenomenon is not well understood in the private higher education sector, and it is experienced as informal and ad hoc. In addition, document analysis revealed that well-defined governance structures are not reflected in the experiences of the participants. A lack of academic participation was particularly evident, due to the dominant focus on board-level governance. This study presents a unique insider perspective on governance in higher education and recognizes the need for innovative and radical governance approaches during uncertain times (Copland, 2014). It concludes with suggestions that aim to assist institutions to find the most suitable approach to governance.
Supervisor: Qualter, Anne ; Ferreira, Marco Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ed.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral