South African higher education institutions as learning organisation
: a leadership process model

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Reform is one of the most controversial elements in higher education and has therefore attracted much attention from within the academic community and from outside. The present higher education scene is characterised by demands for transformation and change, not only in South Africa but in Africa and the developed countries as well. The pressures and demands for change come from outside the field of higher education as well as from within. Some countries have been involved in the process of change and transformation for a period of over thirty years, while others have just embarked on the route or still have to start the change process. The post-apartheid era has marked an era of profound change for South African higher education institutions with concomitant legislation to ensure the change process. If effective and successful transformation of higher education institutions and systems can take place in South Africa with new models of transformation and the effective integration of cultures and openness to change at all institutional levels, these models could be instructive not only to Africa but also to the rest of the world and to academic life universally. However, the demands for change worldwide indicates not only towards new legislation but also towards flexible approaches and new forms of institutional structures and leadership to accommodate the significant, rapid and fundamental changes taking place in higher education and the realisation that institutions of the future will be different from those of the past and the present. In this study the influence of organisational models are used to establish a conceptual framework towards the development of learning organisations. The study reflects on how these new types of organisations will influence higher education institutions as organisations. It also considers what will be expected of higher education institutions to become learning organisations. Learning organisations have special qualities and higher education institutions or teaching institutions do not automatically qualify as learning organisations. The promise of the new millennium provides the higher educationcommunity with the opportunity to take stock of their position and to find out if they possess the necessary skills and have the enabling structures to accommodate a new world. Becoming a learning organisation involves more than a paradigm shift for higher education institutions. It requires a revolution, a quantum leap towards individual recognition and growth, leadership development and empowerment and institutional learning. The Academic 'Process Leadership' Super structure provides the space, structure and process for higher education organisations to re-organise and re-create itself to fit the demands of a new world. An analysis of leadership, leadership development and institutional change in higher education institutions brought to the fore that these institutions have not been effective in providing programmes that develop leaders because they simply do not know what is necessary for effective leadership development. Institutions do not have an in-depth understanding of leadership and they have not enculturated leadership development as a core aspect and activity in higher education institutions. There is grave concern regarding the development of 'soft' people skills. The qualitative research investigation into the process of change towards learning organisations in higher education institutions indicate that there are profound problems in the areas of leadership, leadership development, people management and satisfaction, knowledge management and learning dynamics. These areas form the core aspects within the new structures, that of learning organisations. The insights gained from the process analysis of five higher education institutions indicate that the implementation of the academic leadership model as described in the study will provide individual leaders with the necessary leadership skills to fulfill their roles in the recreated empowered institutions. This process of leadership development, as indicated in the study, could enable institutions to become learning organisations.
Date of Award2002
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Stellenbosch University


  • Leadership; leadership development;organisational change, learning organisations

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