Knowledge Management Solution to Challenges of Higher Education in South Africa

Knowledge Management Solution to Challenges of Higher Education in South Africa

Stephen M. Mutula (University of Botswana, Botswana) and Daisy Jacobs (University of Zululand, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-783-8.ch414

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Introduction

As centres of knowledge, universities have long been under public scrutiny because of the special status they enjoy in society and their dependence on public funding. The World Bank (1999) observes that there is always a push for higher education to become relevant to the changing needs of society out of various drivers and trends including the transition towards a knowledge-based economy, massification and democratisation of higher education, and the integration and assimilation of information technology into the academic environment. Internationalisation of higher education and proliferation of research collaboration coupled with the growing student mobility and increased competition for funding have, recently occasioned global ranking of universities based on their research outputs, quality of graduates, use of ICTs, visibility on the Web, number of international faculty, number of Nobel Prize, laureates, impact of research, etc.

Universities of today are expected to meet more complex society expectations. The early universities were not necessarily centres of scientific discovery as they merely collected knowledge, preserved it and passed it on without the need to create or apply such knowledge (The Higher Education Working Group, 2005). The role of a modern university as espoused by the founder Wilhelm von Humboldt, who in 1809 established the Berlin University, includes knowledge creation; knowledge dissemination; and academic service to society. Moreover, a modern university is expected to guarantee the most efficient contact between university research results and their possible applications in society. Universities also promote lifelong learning because in some disciplines, what students learn today, will be obsolete tomorrow and in order to prevent this, universities must offer a wide-range of courses and seminars to make sure that graduates can keep up with scientific developments.

There is increased external and internal pressure on universities with regard to information needs of faculty and administrative staff. The pressure arises because of the need to keep abreast of changing standards, curricula, and pedagogical methods; the need to expand universe of knowledge; limited budgets for conference and research; demands for accountability and improvement in education. Moreover, though some universities have information systems in place, a number of barriers limit their use. Such barriers include the lack of staff to provide analyses of raw data, variant standard of data collection within departments, lack of leadership due to high staff turnover, lack of integration of technology in the curricula, lack of integration of information management systems in the missions and visions of universities, and distrust about sharing of data among staff due to risk of misrepresentation.

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