Original Research

South African universities in a time of increasing disruption

Johan Coetzee, Brownhilder Neneh, Karlien Stemmet, Jana Lamprecht, Constance Motsitsi, Winnie Sereeco
South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences | Vol 24, No 1 | a3739 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajems.v24i1.3739 | © 2021 Johan Coetzee, Brownhilder Neneh, Karlien Stemmet, Jana Lamprecht, Constance Motsitsi, Winnie Sereeco | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 June 2020 | Published: 26 April 2021

About the author(s)

Johan Coetzee, Department of Economics and Finance, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Brownhilder Neneh, Department of Business Management, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Karlien Stemmet, Department of Economics and Finance, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Jana Lamprecht, School of Accountancy, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Constance Motsitsi, Department of Public Administration and Management, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Winnie Sereeco, Department of Business Management, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) have disrupted the higher education environment in unprecedented ways.

Aim: This article identifies the impact of increasing disruption driven by the 4IR and COVID-19 on the content and curriculum design of degree programmes in economic and management sciences offered by South African universities.

Setting: Six South African and five top-tier US and UK universities.

Methods: The study used a non-positivist qualitative research design and specifically the case-study approach. A document analysis of the information in university yearbooks and prospectuses was conducted, using a purposive sampling design.

Results: An online presence will become more important due to increased disruption, and will not only ensure an additional revenue stream, but also promote continuity in operations and mitigate threats from competitors. COVID-19 has accelerated the extent of this disruption and expedited the migration to online teaching and learning platforms.

Conclusion: Since science, technology, engineering and mathematics are integral to the majority of 4IR-related modules, South African universities must not shy away from degree programmes that ignore inter- and multi-disciplinary curriculum designs. Coupled with the challenges facing the majority of South African students to access electronic devices, data and the internet, COVID-19 has thrust this challenge to the forefront in the South African higher education landscape. By comparing the developments in South African universities with those in trendsetting, top-tier, global universities, management can assess the extent to which they are internationally competitive and adapting to the demands of the 4IR.


Keywords

Fourth Industrial Revolution; South Africa; massive open online courses; MOOC; university; COVID-19

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