Fostering critical dialogue and debate on socio-political and economic issues

  Site map  

National Lottery Logo
Dialogue events
Memorial lectures
Writings of Harold Wolpe
About the Trust
Contact us
Harold Wolpe Memorial Trust
Unit F
Colstine Terrace
88 Belvedere Rd
PO Box 44907
Tel: +27 21 674 0361
Fax: 086 670 6772



The Post-Secondary Education System: Towards Policy Formulation for Equality and Development

Sales BAdam
Zenariah Barents
Harold Wolpe

© Education Policy Unit, University of the Western Cape
Saleem Badat, Zenariah Barends, Harold Wolpe

All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of . this publication may be made without permission from the Education Policy Unit, University of the Western Cape, or the author.

First published in May 1993 by:

The Education Policy Unit (EPU)
University of the Western Cape
Private Bag X17
South Africa

ISBN: 1-86808-169-9

University of the Western Cape

The Education Policy Unit (EPU) is a joint project of the University of Western Cape and the National Education Co-ordinating Committee. The EPU is committed to a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa and seeks to support through research and training the democratisation and tranformation in particular of the systems and institutions of education and training, science and technology and human resource development.

The objects of the Education Policy Unit are to:

  • conduct basic, applied and strategic research which addresses macro­theoretical and practical educational issues, as well as science and technology policy and practice and human. resource development;
  • conduct theoretically-informed policy research and analysis on post-secondary education and training, science and technology and human resource development on the basis of a proactive identification of topics and issues and on commission and request;
  • conduct education and training of persons around basic and policy research; and
  • present and publish both academically and popularly the results of research and research in progress.

The Working Papers of the Educational Policy Unit represent research in progress and seek to serve two functions. Firstly, to contribute to the policy research and debate around education and training, science and technology policy and practice and human resource development, though with a primary emphasis on post­secondary education and training. Secondly, to elicit crititcal responses to the ideas, propositions and analyses advanced within the papers with the objects of broadening and deepening of the policy debates and the further development of research.

The Working Papers are penned either by members of the EPU, researchers attached to the unit for short periods or by researchers who have been commissioned by the EPU. Responses to a Working Paper should be addressed directly to the relevant researcher/s through the Education Policy Unit at the University of the Western Cape, Private Bag X17, Bellville, 7535, Cape Town, South Africa.


Social-structural inequalities of a class, race, gender, institutional and spatial nature that have been generated by a particular trajectory of economic and social development during both the segregationist and apartheid periods have profoundly conditioned the character of de Post-Secondary Education (PSE;) system in South Africa. Indeed social-structural inequalities are deeply embedded in, and reflected by, all spheres of social life, not least the PSE system. Of course, all this is well known. We are now charged with the responsibility of moving beyond a discourse of radical needs to one of means (radical?). And yet, in the midst of the talk of restructuring and transformation that pervades the air, it is crucial to keep in sharp focus the range, and severity, of the inequalities that have to be addressed, and in particular the massive social struggles, if now somewhat less dramatic, for equality, democracy and a new path of economic and social development that they spawned.

The contradictions, possibilities and constraints of conjunctural and structural conditions; the transcending of the contemporary social structure and institutionalisation of a social order representing new social goals, constitutes the frame for the elaboration of means, for the formulation and specification of policies. Social goals however embody values; and policy formulation far from being a technical cost-benefit exercise is a process deeply implicated with values. Indeed, it could be argued that policies, beyond being action strategies, are ultimately the authoritative allocation of values, embodying the social outcomes that a particular social group or alliance of groups or a society at large seeks to achieve.

The document Equity Policy: A Framework of Questions constitutes a useful introduction to many of the issues and themes in respect of equity that need to be addressed in policy formulation for the (PSE) system. The PSE system's "centrality to human resource development" (UCT, 1993:3), both directly in the form of scientific person-power and trained professionals, and indirectly in the form of person-power for the human resource development of other social groups such as workers, youth and adults is correctly emphasised. Moreover, the view that "there is currently no indication of a coherent national policy emerging which will inform the transformation process towards greater equity and prosperity" (UCT, 1993:6) will find general endorsement. And finally, the warning that "there are difficult choices to be made in developing a national policy framework to ensure that prosperity is not compromised in the quest for equity" (UCT, 1993:10) is appropriate given the predominant concern with equality of some of the contributions to the debate around a future PSE system.

However, notwithstanding our general agreement with the views expressed, the terms in which the 'equity'-'prosperity' issue is posed is of considerable concern to us, and it around this that we seek to advance an alternative perspective which has significant implications for policy formulation.

A striking feature of contemporary South Africa is the extent to which actors who were previously steeped in the practice and rationalisation of racism, sexism, inequality and authoritarianism have adopted the discourses of non-racialism, non-sexism, equality and democracy. This shift by these actors is to be welcomed for it undoubtedly opens space for a dialogue about transition, if at the same time contributing to the sharpening of the intellectual and political contestation around the meaning of concepts such as equality and democracy. However, even when broad consensus does exist around the desirability and meaning of social goals such as democracy and equality there appears to be a tendency to overlook a particular issue. This is that, not infrequently, specific social objectives stand in an uneasy relationship to one another, and that the simultaneous pursuit of these objectives may necessitate the need to either prioritise among them, or balance them. Indeed, it is not uncommon to find that in practice, if not in rhetoric, a particular objective may be eliminated in favour of another.

The object of this paper is to engage with the social goals of equality and development, in so far as they appear to be broadly endorsed as important objectives of the PSE system and feature in the debates around the future of the PSE system. It is argued that in the light of the social consequences that are entailed, the elimination of the objective of equality in favour of development, or vice versa, cannot be sustained. Concomitantly however, a failure to recognise that equality and development, as simultaneous social objectives of the PSE system, stand in a relationship of permanent tension, has the potential to result in purely populist or pragmatist positions which ultimately may advance neither social equality nor economic, social, political and cultural development. In order to move beyond simply critique, and as a contribution to the debate around the transformation of the PSE system, the proposition is advanced that equality and development goals must be balanced and that it is this balancing that needs to constitute the essential frame for the formulation of policies for the transformation of the PSE system, its various sectors and individual institutions.

The equality and development propositions

To a considerable extent the debates about PSE, and the university sector in particular, have revolved around two poles:

the attainment of equality in relation to access to institutions, and the quality and hence the resourcing of institutions and the range of disciplines, graduate programmes and research within them; and

the developmental role of post secondary institutions in producing human resources and knowledge relevant to economic development and political management.

The equality pole, grounded in conceptions of equal social rights and redress, finds strong expression among black students and parents, the broad liberation movement and within the historically black institutions.' The right to education has been, and remains, a powerful claim in South Africa and nowhere is this claim stated more explicitly than in the Freedom Charter:

The doors of learning and culture shall be opened!
Higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit. (Suttner and Cronin, 1986:265)

Similar generalised views stem from the people's education movement with its emphasis, echoing the Freedom Charter, on the right of people to have access to education and training (NECC, 1989). Indeed, there is no shortage in the literature and documents of a range of organisations of propositions which emphasise the global need for, or right to, education, training and skills upgrading. And in this literature, virtually no explicit attempt is made to propose which educational needs should be given priority. Perhaps this is because arguments based on education as a human right do not lend themselves easily to a hierarchical ordering since, presumably, all such rights must rank equally. In any event, at the PSE level there is a strong challenge to the status quo in respect of the race, class, and gender inequalities related to access to PSE institutions, the composition of staff and the distribution of resources to institutions. The demand is for the enrolments and staffing of PSE institutions to begin to reflect the social composition of the broader society, for resources to be made available to historically disadvantaged social groups, and for the increased funding and qualitative development of the historically black institutions.

It seems clear, however, that the financial and other resources which would be required to redress the effects of the apartheid­capitalist system at the PSE level are not immediately available and are extremely unlikely to be available, except in the long term. This is not least because enormous calls will be made on limited resources to meet not only the reeds of the PSE system but also other basic human needs such a housing, health and welfare services.

The development pole is rooted in an emphasis on the role of the PSE system, more accurately the function of certain, exclusively historically white institutions, in producing the human resources and knowledge relevant to economic development and political management.' It finds expression in the view that, given their research, professional and post-graduate teaching programmes and capacities, their reputation as centres of excellence, and their production of high-level person-power, especially in the fields of natural science, medical science and engineering, institutions like UCT and Wits constitute vital national resources and any diversion of resources away from them would be detrimental to economic and social development. Such a position, although it has more recently begun to take on board equality issues to a greater extent, finds its greatest elaboration in Van Onselen's Tertiary education in a democratic South Africa (1991).

Van Onselen distinguishes between the white universities which developed 'legitimately', 'organically' in relation to the core life of the economy and the 'artificial' development, through social engineering, of the black universities at the periphery. One does not have to accept the problematic distinction between 'organic' and 'artificial' but, nonetheless, Van Onselen captures the duality of the system. Nurtured by their links to the core political economy, the white universities developed into centres of excellence indexed by high reputation ratings, access to resources, good student outputs and the development of talent or 'value added' reflected in research and publications (Saunders, 1992). By contrast the historically black universities remained as they began, peripheral institutions with poor ratings on all these indices. (The adequacy of these criteria for judging the quality of institutions is an important issue, but one that cannot be dealt with here).

The result of this history of development of the universities, it is contended in this line of argument, is that the historically white universities alone, have the capacity to produce the human resources and to provide the research which will be required by a complex economy which will have to become competitive on international markets and simultaneously meet the basic needs of the people in a democratic South Africa. It follows, therefore, that whatever policy is pursued to advance the black universities, the capacities of the white universities must not be endangered. This means that resources should not be redistributed to the black universities in a way and to a degree which would impair the maintenance and development of the historically white universities - since clearly to turn the former institutions into internationally' recognised universities with research and post-graduate capacity would require a massive input of financial resources. If the black universities succeed in getting greater state support to redress inequalities this would "further diminish the amount available to those with commitments to running expensive high-tech facilities at the core..." (Van Onselen, 1991:5).

But this begs the crucial question which is why should the historically black universities not acquire the capacity to have this commitment? After all, it is not case that the 'commitment' was 'freely' accepted by the historically white universities and 'freely' rejected by the historically black universities. The latter were formed by the apartheid system, as Van Onselen recognises, so as to preclude them from accepting such a commitment. Of course, in principle the historically black universities could have been constituted so as to equip them to take on such commitments, just as the new white universities (for example, Raid Afrikaans University and University of Port Elizabeth) were and as has happened elsewhere (In Britain, for example, a number of new universities were established in the 1960's all of them within the model of British universities with a range of disciplines in the natural and human sciences and with research capacity). Merely to register the historical origins of the institutional inequalities and to take these as an unproblematic point of departure not only leads to the reproduction of these inequalities but precludes the question of redress from being posed.

This conclusion is confirmed by the fact that the existing functional division between the historically white research and historically white teaching universities is taken as the basis for the future development of the university sector.

In the new SA as in the old but for reasons no longer predicated on considerations of race alone (sic), there will be a continuing need for a wide range of institutions of tertiary education operating at different levels which. will seek to address the needs of a complex and diversified economy, a society informed by several cultures and traditions, and a political system that is sensitive to imperatives encountered over a vast terrain. (Van Onselen, 1991:3)

Here, it seems, lies the solution. Since functionally differentiated institutions are necessary, the black universities can continue with their chief role as undergraduate teaching universities only now upgraded and improved something which can be achieved, apparently, at relatively little cost.

What this conclusion amounts to is this: since the development of the historically white universities was 'organic' to the core political economy and hence 'legitimate' and since, as a result, they fulfil a necessary function, therefore. the state funding and policies which facilitated this and produced the disparities must continue and can now be justified, not on racial, but functional grounds. So to speak, the triumph of development over equity.

It is here that it is pertinent to register the first of our two criticisms of the Equity policy: A framework of questions document. For the caution: "to ensure that prosperity is not compromised in the quest for equity" (UCT, 1993:10), while usefully distinguishing between the needs of equality and the needs of development (albeit somewhat narrowly conceived), in effect contributes, once again, to the irreducible privileging of development over equality. Our concern is that bold declarations about equality and transformation may be accompanied by ultimately modest policy proposals, whose modesty, if previously justified by the structures of apartheid, could now seek to be legitimated by appeals to the non-compromising of 'prosperity', 'growth', 'development' and so forth.

The equality-development relationship

If on the one hand the Equity policy: A framework of questions document, perhaps unwittingly, ultimately privileges development, elsewhere, it signals the need for "a coherent national policy... which will inform the transformation process towards greater equity and prosperity" (UCT,1993:6). In this instance equality and development are conjoined. However, and this is our second criticism, in linking equality and development there appears to be no recognition that there in fact exists a fundamental tension between these two objectives.

Wallerstein in a recent book, provocatively titled Unthinking Social Science, writes that political movements, liberal and socialist, coming to power in the post-1945 period shared the following in common: they "set themselves the double policy objective of economic growth and greater internal equality" (1991:115). Posing: "what is the demand for development all about?", he suggests that

the twin goals indicate the double answer. On the one hand. development was supposed to mean greater internal equality, that is, fundamental social (or socialist) transformation. On the other hand, development was meant to mean economic growth which involved 'catching up' with the leader (i.e. the US). (Wallerstein. 1991:115)

In such political movements, conceptions of development as equality or growth coexisted; and the 'organizational cement' was the notion that the twin objectives of economic growth and greater equality were correlative. The ideological statements of both liberals and Marxists asserted that "growth leading to catching up and an increase in egalitarian distribution are parallel vectors, if not obverse sides of the same coin, over the long run" (1991:116) However, he argues that experience shows that

social transformation and catching up are seriously different objectives. They are not necessarily correlative with each other. They may even be in contradiction with each other. (Wallerstein, 1991:115-6)

Wallerstein concludes that:

It should be clear by now that we have to analyze these objectives separately and cannot continue blithely to assume their pairing, which developmentalists, both liberal and Marxists, as well as many of their conservative opponents, have for the most done for the past 150 years. (Wallerstein, 1991:116)

The rhetoric of development

has masked a contradiction that is deep and enduring. What has happened since 1945 and especially since the 1970s is that this contradiction is now a glaring one, and we are collectively being required to make political choices that are quite difficult and quite large. (ibid: 117)

As an aside it is interesting to note that if equality and development have mistakenly been assumed to be correlative, and the historical tendency has been for the former to be sacrificed to the latter, a reverse kind of logic has operated in relationship to development and democracy in Africa, though with a similar outcome. In some quarters it is argued that democracy is impossible without particular levels of economic development. Claude Ake notes that many regimes have tied the issue of democratization to economic development, asserting that the quest for democracy must be considered in the context of Africa's most pressing needs, especially emancipation from 'ignorance, poverty and disease'. The pursuit of democracy will not, it is argued, feed the hungry. or heal the sick. Nor will it give shelter to the homeless. People must be educated and fed before they can appreciate democracy, for there is no choice in ignorance and there are no possibilities for self-fulfilment in extreme poverty. (1991: 35)

The questions then posed are: must one wait for economic development to ensure democracy?; can the democratic process not impact positively on the development process?; is democracy a constraint on economic development?

Ake's rejoinder is most pertinent:

Africa's failed development experience suggests that postponing democracy does not promote development;


Even if it were true that democracy is competitive with development, it does not follow that people must be more concerned with improving nutrition than casting votes, or more concerned with health than with political participation. The primary issue is not whether it is more important to eat well than to vote, but who is entitled to decide which is more important. (ibid:35)

This poses well, beyond the issue of the criteria by which policies are formulated, the crucial question of the process by which policies are formulated. For the nature of the process (the extent to which it or is not democratised) has an important bearing, not only on the content of the polices themselves but also on the legitimacy of the policies adopted (Badat, 1991: 17-38).

To return to the equality-development issue. The concentration on either the equality or the development pole has extremely limiting effects on the shaping of policies appropriate to the contemporary situation in South Africa.

The exclusive focus on equality leads to the formulation of policies which are abstracted from the conditions in which the policies must be applied. That is to say, they are elaborated in isolation from the concrete conditions of society and the development programmes which may be appropriate to transform those conditions. Thus, to assert the right of all to PSE assumes that there are no limits to access to the institutions or to the number of institutions or the resources available to them. Furthermore, to formulate policies which ignore the needs of development, of the labour market and hence of the jobs which are or may become available is likely to result in serious imbalances and a further aggravation of the already existing anomalies between education and training and the labour market. It also fuels the notion that equality is fully and immediately attainable in education and in the occupation structure with the ending of the power of the apartheid regime and its displacement by a non-racial, non-sexist democratic government. This is because it fails to take account of the fact that equal access to and equality between institutions may be achieved in some respects but not in others and that new forms of stratification may result from new policies.

Finally, it could've that implicit in the equality position is the notion that equality of education, on its own, is the key to the achievement of equality in the social order. In the debate about equality the assumption is frequently made that changes in the education system, including the equalising of access, will have transformative effects on the economy and will produce systematic levelling effects on class, race, gender and other forms of inequalities. Insofar as the class structure is defined in terms of relations of production (property in the means of production and access to the surplus) it is clear that education and training have little effect. Within certain limits education and training (or certification) may provide entry into occupations (this is discussed below), but only insofar as high levels of training may eventually give access to capital ownership through employment in corporations and the state sector does education and training have any relevance to class relations. This is a relatively minor process but even where it does occur, in general, if the beneficiaries are not from the 'the property owning classes' they will be drawn from the already 'privileged' strata education and training is, hence, not a means to the acquisition of ownership in the means of production, but the means by which that class becomes equipped to exercise the functions of control and management.

But is the situation any different in relation to the stratification system based on the occupational structure? It is frequently supposed that education and training provide the means of entry into occupations and that access to education is, therefore, part of the process of equalising the social structure because it facilitates the social mobility of individuals from a (lower) to another (higher) social status. There is ample evidence that social mobility between strata is extremely limited and that inter-generation mobility is highly restricted. Access to education and training, particularly PSE, tends to he structured by a complex of social structural conditions of which race, however important, is only one. Nonetheless, the stratified occupational system is not impermeable to hitherto excluded categories-even under apartheid some black people were able, to a small degree to penetrate 'privileged' occupations. However, it is crucial to note that changing the racial/gender/class composition of the entrants into occupations does not, at the same time, eradicate the occupational stratification system which expresses the differential allocation of income, status, authority and power. That is to say, the stratification of the occupational structure is a product of multiple determinations and not solely determined by education. What this suggests is that the function of education has to be understood in terms of its location in the broader society and it is in this respect that questions about the meaning of 'development' become highly relevant.

The exclusive focus on economic development, on the grounds that without the production of the skilled human resources needed by an advanced economy, the basic economic and social needs of the people cannot be attained, prioritises development and effectively retards or delays the equalisation process. This position is sometimes coupled with the contention that economic development necessarily entails equality, and yet this is far from self-evident. For even if such 'development' may result in a general rise in living standards it may well, be, and not infrequently is, accompanied by an intensification of inequalities among the population. What this means is that rising standards of living, a desirable phenomenon, may have little to do with growing equality. At other times it is contended that the production of human resources can occur in a way which generates, at the same time, a process of equalisation which may be true, but only for certain layers of the education, training and occupational structure.

It should be noted furthermore that the, more or less, exclusive concentration on the relationship of education to economic development (or indeed, also political democracy and management) tends to accord to PSE a purely instrumental role. As a result, concerns of general cultural and intellectual development are neglected. Similarly, little attention is paid to the role of PSE in relation to democratic institutions of the state and of civil society.

Towards equality and development.

The way out of this impasse appears to require an important conceptual shift and related to this a fundamentally different departure point for PSE policy formulation.

Firstly, the competing, yet important. claim? of both equality (redress of social structural inequalities) and development (socio­economic, political and cultural development and human resource development to effect this) need to be recognised. On the one hand it is imperative to accept that equality demands in terms of access and institutions cannot be relegated to some future period when development has, so to speak, occurred. There are two reasons for this: the goal of equality motivated the struggle against apartheid and continues to be an extremely persistent and pervasive demand; and, there is no guarantee, given the circumstances under which the transition is occurring in South Africa, that 'development' will also entail redistribution and a secular trend towards 'general' equality. On the other hand however, human resource development, even where this entails the privileging of a certain layer of the educational and occupational structure, cannot be neglected because in both the short term and in the long run, economic development constitutes a necessary, if not a sufficient, condition for the possible enhancement of the conditions of the people even if this does not also generate greater equality.

It is interesting to note that although for a different part of the world, and in somewhat different terms, the equality-development relationship has been conceived in a remarkably similar way by The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean:

Environmentally sustainable growth with equity, in a democracy, is not only desirable but possible. Indeed, just as social equity cannot be attained in the absence of strong, sustained growth, such growth likewise calls for a reasonable degree of social and political stability, and this in turn means meeting certain minimum requisites of equity. It is clear from this interdependence between growth and equity that it is necessary to advance towards these two objectives simultaneously rather than sequentially, and this represents an unprecedented challenge. (ECLAC, 1992:1)

Secondly, given this 'unprecedented challenge', it needs to be recognised that the crucial question for policy formation is actually this: "How is the relationship the balance between these two poles, always in tension with one another, to be determined'?"

(Wolpe, 1992:5). Wolpe's assertion that equality and development objectives are "always in tension" of course goes beyond Wallerstein's weaker formulation that "they are not necessarily correlative with each other" (Wallerstein, 1991:115-6). It can however be sustained and here it is useful to engage with a recent response to this assertion.' Kraak, while acknowledging that there exists a tension in simultaneously addressing both equality and development needs, argues that the COSATU education and training model "provides the opportunity of satisfying both equity and development demands" (Kraak, 1992:1). He also suggests that in Wolpe's work "'equity' is not problematised, and it is assumed to be an automatic 'good"'.

Kraak's argument is that in a low skill, low participation framework, the tension between equality and development will certainly be fundamental and here "the equity-development trade-off is direct and brutal (ibid, 1992:5).

However, in COSATU's high skill, high participation (HP/ HS) macro-institutional framework equity-development demands are not always in tension.. .In this case, equity and development can be viewed as complementary elements of a unified and comprehensive construction plan. They are simultaneously about equity and development. (Kraak, 1992:5)

Thus, a particular macro-institutional framework determines whether or not a tension exists between equity and development goals; and the COSATU model is the key to dissolving the equity­development tension.

There are three problems with Kraak's thesis. First, is what seem to be a limited grasp of the nature of the equality-development tension. For the tension is not, as he sees it, a potential one, but one that is internal to the equality-development relationship and therefore not dissolved by a particular macro-institutional framework. Second, is an under-estimation of the extent of the equality­development tension; and here Kraak fails to follow his own sound advice concerning the need to'problematise' equity. To the extent that he does 'problematise' equality, he reduces it to arguments for the right of all to, for example, PSE an easy position to pole-axe. However, if equality is problematised in the direction of its disaggregation into different kinds (institutional, race, class, gender, etc) this then makes it possible to pose (accepting as he does that full equality is not possible) as an issue the trade-offs that have to be made between different kinds of equality. That is to say, within an equality framework itself, tensions exist between different kinds of equality (race, class gender, institutional) and uncomfortable and difficult political choices are entailed.'

Finally, Kraak is perhaps over-optimistic with regard to the ability of the COSATU "high skill, high participation (HP/HS) macro­institutional framework" to dissolve the equality-development tension. For it is only v ten 'equality' and indeed 'development' begin to be disaggregated; when the tensions between now the simultaneous pursuit of different kinds of equality and development come to be recognised, that it can be understood that, a high skill/high participation framework notwithstanding, the COSATU education and training proposals while they may reduce inequalities in some areas, could concomitantly reproduce or generate inequalities in other areas.

Clearly then, a range of tensions exist between the equality­development objective, and within equality and development goals; trade-offs are implied, and difficult political choices entailed. The absence of a democratically arrived at coherent development programme for South Africa strengthens the tendency for piecemeal and ad hoc PSE policies to be advanced. A consequence of this is that, given that outside of simultaneous political, economic and social transformations the transformative potential of education is extremely limited, such policies may contribute only to a minimal degree to a process of social transformation and, indeed, may serve to help reproduce powerfully entrenched structures generated by apartheid-capitalism. Of course in the absence of a development programme and to the extent that key political and social movements are unable to, or do not seek to, unequivocally specify, beyond general policy positions, more detailed policies (for example, the priority targets for the redress of inequalities), to that extent is policy formulation in relation to spheres like PSE obviously made more difficult.'

In any event, and finally, it must be understood that in so far as both equality and development are prized, but also exist in a relationship of permanent tension, the challenge, even if 'unprecedented', for a new government and PSE institutions is clear: "to find a path which to some extent satisfies both demands as far as existing conditions permit" (Wolpe, 1992:5). That is to say, a viable policy for the post secondary education system has to balance equality policies with development policies. To the extent that such an approach is the outcome of a democratic policy process, enjoys broad legitimacy and contributes effectively, and simultaneously, to equality and development, the consequence of this which is a relative slowing of the process of equalisation as well as a relative slowing, of the processes of development would appear to be a small price to pay.

In concrete terms, what this involves is first to assess the human resources needed for; political, economic and intellectual 'cultural development and then, in relation to this and the resources available, to operate policies geared towards race, class and gender equalities and to the equalisation of institutions. The simultaneous consideration of equality in relation to the human resources required to reconstruct South Africa leads to a new model of the PSE system and within this the transformation of each sector and individual institution of the system.


It is important to make explicit that in relation to the approach argued for above, we are sceptical of PSE institutions, left to themselves, carrying out the transformation of the PSE system to meet the goals of equality and development. What is necessarily entailed is the involvement of the state, the business sector, professional associations and other interest groups, with the state being especially crucial. As Bundy argues:

Unless the future could somehow be uncoupled from the past, state intervention and policies specifically concerned to redress historic inequalities will be a sine qua non of a more equitable 'new' South Africa. The historic 'solution' to the 'Poor White Problem' owed much to the specific economic conditions of the 1930s and 1940s; but it was due, too, to conscious and far-reaching programmes of affirmative action, job creation and social welfare. Latter-day enthusiasm for market forces and a 'lean' state will have to be challenged if parallel policies and programmes are to have any purchase in the decades ahead. (Bundy, 1992:37)

The task is to fashion instruments that enables planning for a transformed PSE to be democratic, effective and occur in a manner that does not "turn its back on individual realization and social variation. Equality is not in competition with liberty" (Wallerstein, 1991:122). This obviously has implications for the governance of the PSE system, its sectors and individual institutions and may involve, with due regard to issues of autonomy and academic freedom, what the National Education Policy Investigation PSE Report terms a 'state-supervised system' that brings the PSE system under greater public accountability. The outcomes of restructuring and transformative initiatives are of course never guaranteed. As with all policies, the policies that embody the trade-offs between equality and development may have unintended outcomes and there is also a need to be "aware of possible side-effects on other valued ends" (Terreblanche. 1992:549) Policy monitoring and evaluation need to be integral elements of policy implementation and the instruments of democratic planning need to be responsive to unanticipated outcomes and the adjustments to policies they may occasion.

Finally, no matter how rational the approach of balancing equality policies and development policies may appear fur the formulation of PSE policy, it is important to underline as a corrective to over rationalistic (and technocratic?) conceptions of policy-making that, ultimately, policy change is a fundamentally political process. Indeed,

the assumption that education policy could be the result of simply identifying and choosing the alternative that is 'best', that is relevant, or not wasteful, ignores the obvious political fact that 'best' has to be determined in the political crucible of competing interests. (Scoufe, 1985:116)

The dynamics of the negotiation process has had the effect of rendering politically marginal previously important social groups such as black students and youth. In so far as the 'political crucible' that has been structured by the negotiation process continues to marginalise student and youth formations and excludes them from the 'competing interests' that accept the balancing of equality and development goals, the need to convince these constituencies to accept as legitimate the trade-offs and compromises entailed becomes vital. Friedman writes:

...there is little point in negotiating a compromise unless the parties are able to secure consent from it from those who will have to live with it. The fact that 'leaders' have accepted a compromise is unimportant unless this means that their 'followers' accept it too. This implies that the parties must be able to ensure support for the contract from a constituency. (Friedman, 1992:610)

Securing the support of the student and youth constituencies is likely to be no easy matter; emphasising again that what may be 'rational' will still have to weather interest group claims and challenges long after the trade-offs and compromises have been negotiated.


Ake, C. (1991) "Rethinking African democracy". Journal of Democracy, 2 (1)

Badat, S. (1991) "Democratising education policy research for social transformation", in E Unterhalter et al (ed) Education in a Future South Africa. Policy Issues for Transformation. London: Heinemann

Bundy, C. (1992) "Development and inequality in historical perspective", in R Schire (ed) Wealth or Poverty: Critical Choices for South Africa. Cape Town: Oxford University Press

Friedman, S. (1992) "Beyond symbols? The politics of, economic compromise", in R Schire (ed) Wealth or Poverty: Critical Choices for South Africa. Cape Town: Oxford University Press

Kraak, A. (1992) "Re-interpreting the equity-development debate with regard to higher education in South Africa", UDUSA National Conference, 1-3 July, Durban

National Education Co-ordinating Committee (NECC) (1989) Report of the national education conference - consolidate and advance to people's education, December, Cape Town

National Education Policy Investigation (1992) Report of the NEPI Post-Secondary Education Research Group. Cape Town: Oxford University Press/NECC

Saunders, S. (1992) Access to and Quality in Higher Education: A Comparative Study; with Some Thoughts on the Future of Higher Education in South Africa. Rondebosch

Scoufe, G. (1985) "The assumptive world of three state policy researchers", in Peabody Journal of Education, 62 (4)

Suttner, R. and Cronin, J. (1986) 30 Years of the Freedom Charter. Johannesburg: Ravan

Terreblanche, S. (1992) "Equity and growth", in R Schire (ed) Wealth or Poverty: Critical Choices for South Africa. Cape Town: Oxford University Press

University of Cape Town (1993) "Equity policy: A framework of questions", Rondebosch

Van Onselen, C. (1991) 'Tertiary education in democratic South Africa", unpublished mimeo

allerstein, 1. (1991) "Development" lodestar or illusion", in Unthinking Social Science: The Limits of Nineteenth-Century Paradigms. Cambridge: Polity Press:

Wolpe, H. (1991) "Education and social transformation: problems and dilemmas", in E Unterhalter et al (ed) Education in a Future South Africa: Policy lssues for Transformation. London: Heinemann

Wolpe, H. and Barends, Z. (1992) "A perspective from within the ANC on quality and inequality in South African higher education". Prepared for South African Association for Research and Development in Higher Education Conference, 1-2 October, University of Orange Free State


1. This and the next paragraph draws on Wolpe (1991: 6-7).
2. The characterisation of the development pole and engagement with van Onselen draws on a paper, "A perspective from within the African National Congress on quality and equality in South African higher education" prepared by H Wolpe and Z Barends of the UWC Education Policy Unit for the South African Association for Research and Development in Higher Education conference,' 1-2 October 1992.
3. See here Terreblanche (1992: 548-551).
4. It should be noted that when 'development' too begins to be disaggregated (economic, political, cultural and so forth) competing claims arise and trade-offs are necessitated.
5. In relation to the issue of trade-offs and compromises and the understand