Higher Education in South Africa

For university entrance, a "Matriculation Endorsement" is required, although some universities do set their own additional academic requirements. South Africa has a vibrant higher sector, with more than a million students enrolled in the country's universities, colleges and universities of technology. All the universities are autonomous, reporting to their own councils rather than government. The National Qualifications Framework (NQF) system of administering higher education broadly in the country is run by the South African Qualifications Authority.

Restructuring of universities and technikons
The Extension of Universities Act of 1959 made provision for separate universities for separate races. In addition, the independent homelands were given universities of their own. After the re-incorporation of the independent homelands, there were 36 universities and technikons in South Africa, often in close proximity and offering the same courses.

In 1994, the government embarked on a restructure of the universities and technikons by a series of mergers and incorporations. This was completed by January 2005. It created 22 new institutions from the previous 36. Ten of the universities got new names.

Academic ranks in South Africa
Professor Emeritus

Distinguished/Extraordinary Professor (must hold a PhD, except in accounting)
Senior Professor (must hold a PhD, except in accounting) (not at all universities)
Professor (must hold a PhD, except in accounting)
Associate professor (must hold a PhD, except in accounting)
Senior lecturer, Senior researcher (must hold a PhD, except in accounting, although sometimes appointed while still studying the PhD)
Lecturer, Researcher (must hold a Masters degree, except in accounting)
Junior lecturer, Researcher (must hold a Honours degree, except in accounting)
Research assistant
Tutor, student-assistant, demonstrator
Administrative assistant
Senior secretary

Administrative ranks
Chancellor (titular), (honorific)
Vice chancellor
Rector/principal & vice-chancellor (dual title)
Vice-rector/vice-principal and deputy vice-chancellor/pro-vice-chancellor
Vice-dean/deputy dean
Programme directors/Programme Convenor
Departmental chairperson or head of department

In Afrikaans-speaking universities the terms rector and vice-rector are common, whereas English-speaking universities tend to favour the terms principal and vice-principal. The use of deputy vice-chancellor seems to be phasing out pro-vice-chancellor.

The appointment of professors follows the British system, and the term "professor" is never used for school teachers. However, since the university system has long been fractured between research-intensive and undergraduate teaching-focused universities, there is no absolute consistency. The description provided here refers to research-intensive universities, which are generally recognized as the top tier of the university system, and which are responsible for almost all university-based research and postgraduate (Honours, Masters and Doctoral) graduations. The academic ranking system is roughly as follows:

Associate (or assistant) lecturer (normally: contract staff)
Lecturer (full-time staff)
Senior Lecturer (distinguished by publications record, holding a Doctoral degree and/ or years of meritorious service)
Associate professor
(Full) Professor

Professor emeritus (on retirement at the age of 65, and granted on application and at university discretion)
Professor positions are clearly separated from more junior faculty positions, but only (full) Professors sit on the University Senate by virtue of their positions in faculty. Other grades may be present, but only through other appointments, such as being Heads of Departments or programmes, or as elected representatives of other staff. Full "Professor" refers to the most senior academic grade, and is ideally based upon extensive publications, postgraduate supervision, academic leadership, service to the field, and recognition in the field. Professors are expected to have PhDs, but there is no equivalent to the German Habilitation system.

Several universities have created posts such as "Honorary Professor" (for appointments of lay experts) and Distinguished/Extraordinary Professor (for the most exemplary Professors). Several undergraduate teaching-focused universities award various Professorial ranks, but criteria for appointment can vary quite widely.