There is a perception amongst university leaders and leading politicians in South Africa that an increasing influence has been exerted on universities by some professional bodies in determining what can be taught and by whom. As a result, university leaders and academics have become concerned that the nature and extent of some professional bodies’ involvement amounts to undue interference, with possible serious consequences for the academic freedom of universities.
PURPOSE OR GOAL
This study, limited to the engineering profession, is aimed at assessing the effect of statutory councils’ accreditation visits and requirements on the protection of academic freedom in South African universities, with specific reference to teaching methodologies, the curricula and assessment practices.
An exploratory empirical study is reported in this paper. A semi-structured questionnaire was used to elicit perceptions from Deans, Directors of Schools, Heads of Department and senior academic staff members in engineering faculties at universities in South Africa.
Among other observations, it appears that the selection of accreditation visitation panels, which is mostly in favour of academics as opposed to professionals in full employment in the industry, and documentation, a requirement of such visits, impact on academic freedom.
Accreditation of professional bodies should focus on the quality assurance of programmes, and should allow universities the academic freedom to inter alia determine curricula, teaching and learning methodologies and assessment practices.
Academic freedom, accreditation, engineering, higher education, South Africa