The accountability and professional security of the South African higher education lecturer

F. Bothma, J.P. Rossouw


The widening of access to higher education (HE) for more students has been a strategic priority of the South African (SA) Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) over the past decade.  Simultaneously, lecturers are increasingly held to account for providing quality teaching and delivering employable graduates. Yet their work environment is characterised by poor support, lack of recognition for teaching efforts, and absence of legal protection when failing to fulfil the undefined yet high accountability expectations in their teaching-related work. This article reports on an empirical study, grounded in an inductive qualitative methodology from an interpretive-phenomenological perspective, which aimed to develop understanding of how SA lecturers involved in undergraduate teaching at three SA universities perceive accountability and security within their labour environment.  From the analysis and interpretation of semi-structured and focus group interview data, seven meaningful themes were identified, associated with either lecturer accountability or security.  The findings offer not only a clear delineation of internal and external teaching-related accountability, but also a comprehensive definition of lecturer professional security.


higher education law, higher education teaching, labour rights, lecturer accountability, security, support, teaching responsibilities, working conditions, quality in higher education

Full Text:



Akerlind G. S. 2005. Academic growth and development: how do university academics experience it? Higher education 50:1-32.

Altbach P. G. 2013. The international imperative in higher education. Boston College, Center for International Higher Education. Rotterdam: Sense. (Global perspectives on higher education, 27.)

Altbach, P. G., Reisberg, L., and Rumbley, L.E. 2009. Trends in global higher education: tracking an academic revolution. Executive summary: a Report Prepared for the UNESCO 2009 World Conference on Higher Education. New York: UNESCO.

Archer, L. 2008. Younger academics’ constructions of authenticity, success and professional identity. Studies in Higher Education 33 (4): 385-403.

Barrie, S., Ginns, P., and Prosser, M. 2005. Early impact and outcomes of an institutionally aligned, student focused learning perspective on teaching quality assurance. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 30 (6): 641-656.

Basson, A. C., Christianson, M. A., Dekker, A., Garbers, C., Le Roux, P. A. K., Mischke, C., and Strydom, E. M. L. 2009. Essential labour law. 5th ed. Centurion: Labour Law Publications.

Beckham, J. 2005. Faculty. (In Beckham, J. & Dagley, D., eds. Contemporary issues in higher education law. Dayton, Oh.: Education Law Association. p. 89-130.)

Bentley, P. J., Coates, H., Dobson, I. R., Goedegebuure, L. & Meek, V. L. 2013. Introduction: satisfaction around the world? In Job satisfaction around the academic world, ed. P.J. Bentley, H. Coates, I. R. Dobson, L. Goedegebuure, and V. L. Meek. New York: Springer. p. 1-11.

Berdahl, R. 2006. Academic freedom, autonomy and accountability in British universities. Studies in Higher Education 15 (2): 169-180.

Best, J. W., and Kahn, J. V. 2003. Research in education. 9th ed. Boston, Mass.: Pearson Education.

Biggerstaff, D., and Thompson, A. R. 2008. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA): a qualitative methodology of choice in healthcare research. Qualitative Research in Psychology 5 (3): 214-224.

Bovens, M. 2007. Analyzing and assessing accountability: a conceptual framework. European Law Journal 13 (4): 447-468.

Burke, J. C. 2004. Achieving accountability in higher education: balancing public, academic and market demands. San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass.

Business Dictionary. 2014a. Accountability. accountability.html (accessed 12 December, 2014).

Business Dictionary. 2014b. Job security. definition/job-security.html (accessed 12 December, 2014).

Carney, K. L. 2013. The university English lecturer: colleague or commodity. Charlotte, N.C.: University of North Carolina. (Thesis - PhD.)

Constitution see South Africa

Creswell, J. W. 2003. Research design: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. 2nd ed. London: Sage.

Creswell, J. W. 2009. Research design: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. 3rd ed. London: Sage.

DHET (Department of Higher Education and Training) see South Africa. DHET (Department of Higher Education and Training)

Du Plessis, J. V., and Fouché, M. A. 2006. A practical guide to labour law. 6th ed. Durban: LexisNexis.

Feigenbaum, A., and Iqani, M. 2013. Quality after the cuts? Higher education practitioners’ accounts of systemic challenges to teaching quality in times of ‘austerity’. Journal of Further and Higher Education 39 (1): 46-66.

Gappa, J. 2010. Rethinking faculty work and workplaces. In Academic and professional identities in higher education, ed. G. Gordon, and C. Whitechurch. New York: Routledge. p. 207-222.

Gover, A. R., Tomsich, E. A., Jennings, W. G., and Higgins, G. E. 2011. An exploratory study on perceptions of safety, fear of crime, and victimisation experiences among faculty and staff at an urban university: a focus on gender. Criminal Justice Studies: A Critical Journal of Crime, Law and Society 24 (1): 37-55.

Grogan, J. 2003. Workplace law. 8th ed. Lansdowne: Juta.

Hall, A. T., Bowen, M. G., Ferris, G. R., Royle, M. T., and Fitzgibbons, D. E. 2007. The accountability lens: a new way to view management issues. Buziness horizons 50: 405-413.

Harvey, L. & Williams, J. 2010. Fifteen years of quality in higher education. Quality in Higher Education 16 (1): 3-36.

Hazelkorn, E. 2011. Globalization and the reputation race in rankings and the reshaping of higher education: the battle for world class excellence. London: Palgrave MacMillan. (Book chapter as part of the Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research Commons, and the Social and Behavioral Sciences Commons.) article=1010&context=cserbk (accessed 25 November, 2014).

Kärnä, S., Julin, P., and Nenonen, S. 2013. User satisfaction on a university campus by students and staff. Intelligent Buildings International 5 (2): 69-82.

Law.Com Dictionary. 2014. Accountability. (accessed 22 January, 2015).

Locke, W., and Bennion, A. 2013. Satisfaction in stages: The academic profession in the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth. In Job satisfaction around the academic world, ed. P.J. Bentley, H. Coates, I.R. Dobson, L. Goedegebuure, and V.L. Meek. New York: Springer. p. 223–238.)

Maree, K., ed. 2007. First steps in research. Pretoria: Van Schaik Publishers.

Merriam, S. B. 2002. Introduction to qualitative research. In Qualitative research in practice: examples for discussion and analysis, ed. S. B. Merriam. San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass. p. 3-17.

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2013. “Security”. dictionary/security (accessed 17 August, 2013).

Newby, P. 2010. Research methods for education. Harlow, UK: Pearson Education.

Poskanzer, S. G. 2002. Higher education law: the faculty. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Reeves, M. M. 2014. College campus violence and faculty safety. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.: Keiser University. (Thesis - PhD.)

Shin, J. C., and Jung, J. 2014. Academics job satisfaction and job stress across countries in the changing academic environment. Higher Education 67: 603-620.

Smit, B. 2010. Doing research in comparative education. In Themes in South African education, ed. E. Lemmer, and N. Van Wyk. Cape Town: Pearson Education South Africa. p. 21-40.

Smit, M. H. 2013. South Africa. In The handbook of comparative higher education law, ed. C. J. Russo. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 291-314.

South Africa. 1995. Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995. Pretoria: Government Printer.

South Africa. 1996. Constitution of the Republic of South Africa as adopted by the Constitutional Assembly on 8 May 1996 and as amended on 11 October 1996. Pretoria: Government Printer.

South Africa. 1997a. Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997. Pretoria: Government Printer.

South Africa. 1997b. Higher Education Act 101 of 1997. Pretoria: Government Printer.

South Africa. 1998. Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998. Pretoria: Government Printer.

South Africa. 2000. Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000. Pretoria: Government Printer.

South Africa. 2008. National Qualifications Framework Act 67 of 2008. Pretoria: Government Printer.

South Africa. Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). 2013. White Paper for post-school education and training: building an expanded, effective and integrated post-school system. Date of access: 19 February 2014.

South Africa. Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). 2014a. Statistics on post-school education and training in South Africa: 2012. Statistics%20 Publication/Statistics%20on%20Post-School%20Education%20and%20 Training%20in%20South%20 Africa%202012.pdf Date of access: 29 October 2014.

South Africa. Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). 2014b. Higher Education Qualifications Sub-Framework. Government Gazette nr 38116, 17 Oct. 2014.

South African Labour Guide. 2014. Contracts of employment. /contracts-of-employment-68/649-the-importance-of-the-employment-contract Date of access: 22 November 2014.

Stanley, G. 2012. Challenges in the quest to create global qualifications and standards are driving change in education systems. In The university in the age of globalization: rankings, resources and reforms, ed. W. Bienkowski, J. C. Brada, and G. Stanley. London: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 3-25.

Stewart, K. 2012. Considering CAQDAS: using and choosing software. In Handbook of qualitative research in education, ed. S. Delamont. Cheltenham, U.K.: Edward Elgar. p. 503-511.

Tobin, G. A. & Begley, C. M. 2004. Methodological rigour within a qualitative framework. Journal of Advanced Nursing 48 (4): 388-396.

Toma, J. D. 2008. A few reflections on accountability, affordability, and access worldwide. New Directions for Institutional Research, Assessment Supplement S2: 93-97.

Van Niekerk, A., Christianson, M. A., McGregor, M., Smit, N., and Van Eck, B. P. S. 2008. Law@Work. 6th ed. Durban: LexisNexis.

Woolfolk, W. A. 2013. Indicators of faculty and staff perceptions of campus safety: a case study. Atlanta, Ga.: Mercer University. (Thesis - PhD.)



  • There are currently no refbacks.

eISSN: 1753-5913

Copyright © 2016 South African Journal of Higher Education

Hosted by Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service since 2016.

Creative Commons License -CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

This journal is hosted by the SU LIS on request of the journal owner/editor. The SU LIS takes no responsibility for the content published within this journal, and disclaim all liability arising out of the use of or inability to use the information contained herein. We assume no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any breaches of agreement with other publishers/hosts.