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SA Universities must adapt to changing International Funding Trends

Categories: HEADLINES, Education
International support for South African HEI's has shifted markedly since the country rejoined the international community in 1994, says Ghaleeb Jeppie, Chief Director: International Relations, Dept of Higher Education and Training. He was a guest speaker at the recent Inyathelo Leadership Retreat, which considered how to ensure long-term sustainability for HEIs.

Following South Africa’s readmission into the international community in 1994, the Department of Education (DoE) set up a Directorate of International Relations. This facilitated participation in international forums and generated support from donor countries which included budget support, finance, technical assistance, scholarships and capacity building programmes.

 South Africa concluded 24 donor agreements with various donors including the EU, USA, UK and Sweden in the first decade of democracy, in a bid to forge strong educational alliances and gain exposure to international best practices.

“In addition to funding for government programmes, many foreign representatives approached universities and statutory agencies with direct assistance. Partnerships happened without any interference and institutions determined their own approach to international opportunities. University and higher education policy development was one of the largest recipients of official development aid,” said Mr Jeppie.

By the new millennium, South Africa was classified as a middle income country. Donors cut back on aid to South Africa, or started looking for new forms of partnerships, as the Iraq war, the global financial crisis and other factors impacted on donations. Trade attachés replaced education attachés, and northern hemisphere institutions began marketing their expertise, systems and degrees to South Africa.

In the current landscape, the EU remains the largest funder with several universities as direct beneficiaries under a teaching and learning grant.  The US, France and UK remain active ‒ but limited ‒ funding partners. China has emerged as a new donor supporting technical and vocational education and training, plus language programmes at universities.

Other opportunities, among many, include the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree, a prestigious study programme, delivered by an international consortium of HEIs; and scholarships from various countries including China, Hungary, Russia, Japan and Algeria.

However, given a decline in overseas development assistance, there is a need to tap into extra-budgetary resources from the private sector, philanthropic entities, international organisations and global funds, said Mr Jeppie.

“We need to identify ways to share successful programmes, pool resources and strive for less competition among universities.”

Mr Jeppie also agreed with a proposal to establish an Advancement Forum for HEIs to share their learnings on long-term financial sustainability. Better-known in America, Advancement enables organisations to work in a holistic, integrated way to attract resources. Contributing factors such as governance, leadership, relationship-building and financial management are addressed in order to better identify and partner with philanthropic donors.

Inyathelo, which pioneered Advancement in South Africa, recently marked the completion of a 13-year, US$22,4 million capacity-building programme in South Africa. Sponsored by The Kresge Foundation, which is based in the USA, the programme has benefitted about a third of local HEIs, massively boosting their success in attracting philanthropic giving.
 

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