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Empowering higher education in South Africa

Our School of Management works with international institutions to guide policy and train higher education leaders of the future.

Professor Rajani Naidoo in her office
ICHEM Director Professor Rajani Naidoo

The International Centre for Higher Education Management (ICHEM) trains future higher education leaders. It also aims to help redress global inequality by guiding inclusive development policy and involving marginalised groups.

A doctoral programme tailored for South African higher education management

We are delivering a unique doctoral training programme in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU). Following a groundbreaking agreement with the South African Government, ICHEM has developed the Future Leaders Initiative. Its aim is to train the country's next generation of higher education leaders. The programme combines elements from our successful Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in Higher Education Management with a South African perspective.

The first cohort comprises senior-level university managers. The programme will equip participants with advanced research skills and help them develop innovative solutions to issues facing the country.

An important focus is on capacity building. After the two-year programme, NMMU will be able to deliver their own DBAs and continue to help South African higher education grow.

In January our academics visited NMMU to deliver the first of four week-long residential programmes. Students will explore the historical city of Bath later this year alongside a week of seminars and lectures.

Helping to thaw South Africa’s 'academic ice age'

This partnership is timely: South African higher education is undergoing major transitions.

In his welcome address, NMMU’s Vice Chancellor Professor Derrick Swartz spoke of an 'academic ice age', a legacy of apartheid and the related academic boycott. Professor Swartz welcomed the international currents that 'would unfreeze these historical legacies'. Protests against fee increases and low wages for contract staff have also presented challenges for university managers.

For ICHEM Director Professor Rajani Naidoo, creating a bespoke DBA to address South African education issues was a novel challenge.

'We had to develop content that captured global trends in higher education management', she said. 'But it also had to link to what was locally relevant to the issues facing higher education in South Africa.'

As a native South African, Rajani’s background and knowledge of the country have helped a great deal. But she is keen to emphasise that the partnership is helping guide ICHEM’s work too.

'When we arrived back in the UK we found that much of our own thinking had also unfrozen,' she said. 'We took many insights back home with us.'

DBA Director of Studies Dr Robin Shields noted the importance of the programme. He said: 'This initiative is among the first of its kind, and will lead to a cadre of university managers who can apply cutting-edge management research skills to their work.'

Higher education for global wellbeing

The global outlook of the Future Leaders Initiative reflects ICHEM’s work. Founded in 1994, the Centre’s research is both diverse and influential. ICHEM studies higher education from many angles, investigating economic, political and social pressures that affect universities. It is this deep understanding of worldwide higher education that Rajani hopes to harness for the benefit of everybody.

'We are higher education for global wellbeing,' she explained. 'We know universities always want to do the best for their own countries. We support that, but also recognise that given all the problems facing the world today, universities need to come together for the global good.'

The close relationship we enjoy with South African institutions will continue next year. We are hosting a conference with Stellenbosch Business School and the European Foundation for Management Development as part of Bath's 50th Anniversary celebrations.

An event, ‘Contributing to Inclusive Development in Europe and Africa: The Role of Business Schools’, will take place in April 2017. It will explore how business schools in Europe and Africa can contribute to inclusive development.

Dean of the School of Management, Professor Veronica Hope Hailey, said, 'We are very proud of the work of ICHEM and the global reach and significance of the DBA.

'Access to higher education transforms individual lives and societies. One of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, and through our work with the DBA and ICHEM we contribute to the achievement of that goal.'