Institutional performance

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Performance indicators

CHET has undertaken a systematic programme on performance indicators in higher education starting with the first performance indicator report on the South African higher education system published in 2000: Higher Education Transformation: Assessing Performance (Cloete & Bunting, 2000) (see publications). This report attempted to monitor the progress of transformation, defined mainly in terms of the South African Government’s 1997 White Paper.

The much more extensive evaluation expounded in Transformation in Higher Education: Global Pressures and Local Realities in South Africa (see publications) assessed change during the first five years post-1994.

In 2004, CHET published Developing Performance Indicators for Higher Education (Bunting & Cloete, 2004) (see publications) which explores approaches to the assessment of performance, and by implication, performance indicators from 1999 to 2004 in South Africa.



The 1997 White Paper on Higher Education Transformation and the 2001 National Plan for Higher Education indicated that the South African government would develop steering mechanisms, involving planning and funding, to assist with the transformation of the public higher education system. The steering mechanisms which have been developed since 2001 have been a new funding framework, processes for the approval of academic programme mixes, and processes for the approval of student enrolment plans.

If this process of steering by planning and funding is to function effectively, it is crucial that University Councils understand what is implied by the Minister’s targets, and understand further how performance will be measured by the Department of Education. CHET’s experience has been that this will not be an easy task for many university councils. Currently very few institutions produce data sets which enable council members to engage meaningfully in discussions about the performance of the institution they are entrusted to govern.

Because CHET has been involved since 2000 with various aspects of performance indicators, it has decided to produce a further report setting out ways in which university Councils can begin to assess the performance of their institution relative to the Minister’s targets, and to their own institutional missions. This report will have these two main sections:

  • One section will contain a standard profile of each of the 23 public higher educations in South Africa. The profiles will present data for 2000–2006 on student enrolments and outputs, staffing inputs and outputs, and key aspects of the income and expenditure of each institution. Where this is appropriate, the performance of each institution will be related to performance measures used by the Department of Education. This section will enable a university Council to compare the performance of its institution to that of any other public higher education institution.
  • The second section will consider ways in which the 23 institutions can be clustered into peer groups, to enable a university Council to compare the performance of its institution to the average performance of similar institutions.

In addition to making limited printed copies of each institutional profile available to the relevant institutions, the data will be published on this website. The data will be made available in such a way as to allow users to manipulate and extract the data according to their particular requirements. Users will be able to select one or two indicators (e.g. student enrolments or head count enrolments and expenditure per graduate) and limit parameters such the number of institutions to compare. This data manipulation tool will be of use to institutional planners as well as to higher education researchers wishing to compare data in greater detail than the graphic data presented in the printed reports. Click here to view CHET's online indicators for South African higher education institutions.



This project entails an intellectual endeavour to better understand efficiency measurements in higher education in Africa, accompanied by the building of capacity and an increased awareness of efficiency issues in participating countries. The project will, with international participation, do an analysis of data in a number of African countries (Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania), build capacity through experts working together, and raise awareness of the issues through country specific seminars and the distribution of reports.

When it became clear that African country data was simply too ‘messy’ to make defensible conclusions, it was decided to choose a ‘premier’ institution in each country and to make an extra effort to collect comparable data. Currently the participating African universities are: Botswana, Dar es Salaam, Eduardo Mondlane, Ghana, Namibia, Makerere, Mauritius and comparable South African institutions.

Every Vice-Chancellor approached to participate reacted favourably, and some with considerable enthusiasm. An institutional researcher/data collector was nominated in each of the eight institutions. The basic data elements and supporting information needed to calculate a set of efficiency indicators were collected through a template that was provided to the participating universities in Africa. The quality and completeness of the data and information provided by the universities were very poor in most instances and, in some, clearly inconsistent and incorrect. Following an evaluation of the feedback received, CHET decided that the most viable option to improve the datasets was to send researchers to the various universities to discuss the quality and consistency of the data with the project co-ordinators at the various universities and to attempt to collect as much raw data as possible on site.

Institutions from participating African countries will be compared to relevant institutions in South Africa, using size and programme mix (such as medical and engineering schools) as selection criteria. Most of the data have been collected and comparisons are being written up. At the end of March 2009 a workshop was held with the representatives from each of the participating institutions to verify the data and the interpretations.

Click here to view programme team.


For further information, please contact Nico Cloete.