Political Economy of Higher Education: South Africa in a comparative perspective
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Education is one of the major linchpins of economic, social and political development of any nation. There is overwhelming evidence suggesting that higher education can produce both public and private benefits. Thus, the role of the state in making education policy, and funding education is indeed critical, and cannot be left to be determined by market forces alone. Nevertheless, the trend of inadequate government funding for universities, loss of autonomy, infrastructural decay, falling academic standards, politicization and privatization of education, etc. appear to be a worldwide phenomenon and not just restricted to the developing world. South African higher education shows much promise with respect to knowledge production and dissemination, to contributing to social equity, economic and social development and democracy, and to the development needs of the Southern African region and the African continent. However, higher education in South Africa is under considerable stress due to a number of reasons. The first part of the paper will provide an overview of the conditions that are exerting negative pressures on higher education in the global context, the developmental implications of investment in higher education, and compare South Africa to trends in other parts of the world to draw lessons for government policies on higher education. The second part of the paper will consider a case study to cope with large class sizes through the use of mobile technology. The paper will discuss the technological viability and the pedagogical implications of the use of mobile technology in large size classes. The paper argues that this mode of delivery can be implemented in a variety of settings, bridging the limitations of distance as well as campus-based universities.