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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Presentation Details

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The Role of the Humanities in a changing South African Higher Education Environment

Izak van der Merwe.

South Africa is entering a millennium of enormous societal, environmental and scientific challenges towards which no academic field can remain indifferent. The Humanities, therefore, will have to position itself anew within an evolving and transforming institutional environment – a twofold landscape, comprising both the relevant subject disciplines and the higher education framework within which the disciplines have to function. The relevant Act (1997) and the National Plan (2001) for Higher Education specify a specific set of goals and principles for all tertiary institutions and their disciplines/faculties as a norm for planning their academic future. In order to do this, every academic will have to find clarity on the following four questions: (i) which realities and changes regarding the broad national and international environment are relevant for the future of universities in general; (ii) what are the salient goals and principles of the hew higher education system in South Africa; (iii) what is the expected profile of university academics within the context of this changing situation; and (iv) what are the challenges and implications of this new institutional environment for the future of the Humanities in South Africa? The socio-cultural and political relevancy of the Humanities, linked with a unique set of skills, offers a wide range of opportunities in this framework, but we will have to make innovative adjustments.


Izak van der Merwe  (South Africa)
Dean (Retired on 31 December 2002)
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
University of Stellenbosch, South Africa

Professor Izak Johannes van der Merwe, age 61, obtained a Masters (cum laude) and a Doctorate at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. He was previously Professor and chairman in the Department of Geography before he became Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Stellenbosch from 1997 to 2002. At present he is a Research Fellow of this university. His most salient professional affiliations is the prestigious Stals-prize for Geography by the SA Acadamy for Science and Arts; Award as Fellow of the SA Geographical Society; President of the Society of SA Geographers; Visiting Professor at the University of Ancona, Italy. His publication list contains 51 scientific articles in South African and International accredited journals; 15 books/atlases and 12 research reports. His research and teaching foci are on higher education structures; urbanization/urban problems and socio-cultural spatial patterns.

  • South Africa
  • Post-Apartheid Universities
  • Challenges for the Humanities

(30 min Conference Paper, English)