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South African Journal of Science

On-line version ISSN 1996-7489
Print version ISSN 0038-2353

S. Afr. j. sci. vol.120 n.1-2 Pretoria Jan./Feb. 2024 



The university of global excellence



In many ways, and this is as it should be, the South African Journal of Science is at the heart of what may be termed the 'establishment' of academic and research life in South Africa. As a journal soon to celebrate 120 years of operation, we are part of our country's science history and present, marked by the intertwining of science with instruments of power and influence. In recent years, we have been very active in trying to increase access to our pages and to broaden our readership, as evidenced, for example, by our Inclusive Language Policy. But we are not a journal which sets up to disrupt, and our Vision and Mission, are cast in very general terms, with a wish to include and diversify, rather than to take a specific political stand as a journal. Although we do not have the data to support this view, we imagine that among our authors and readers there are wide differences of opinion on what the statement "excellent South African research for the local and global academic community," part of our Vision, does and should mean in practice.

This said, the heart of good science (and of good academic practice more broadly) is constructive, robust debate, and we are pleased that we are able to showcase debates in our journal. No academic, however much a part of the 'establishment' they may be, should shy away from critique and contestation. Dogma is the enemy of sound academic practice. It is in this spirit that when we came across Sioux McKenna's poem, 'Welcome to the University of Global Excellence', we asked her if we could include it in an editorial in our journal. We are delighted she agreed. Sioux McKenna is the Director of the Centre for Postgraduate Studies at Rhodes University in South Africa, a globally known expert on higher education and a disciplined and thoughtful scholar on a range of topics - including the neoliberal university. We like her poem for a number of reasons; for example, it is great fun, and it speaks directly to experiences that many academics globally (and especially in South Africa) will recognise. Everything is there in the poem: the corporatisation and branding of universities, the peddling of 'wellness' in a context of increasing academic demands and precaritisation of the academic workforce; the chasing of numbers and rankings when true quality in context is much harder to measure; the universities in the Global South still being in thrall to metrics designed from and for the Global North; and even the peddling of 'decolonisation' as a marketable product. And to top it all, this poem is meticulously referenced, with pointers to very important scholarly works.


Welcome to the University of Global Excellence

Dear New Staff Member,


You are joining a prestigious brand,

ranked in the Top Five1

hundred or so2.

Most of our permanent academics3

rated working for us to be satisfactory4.

Student evaluations indicate that our lecturers5,

are four and a half on a scale of 5.

Please ensure that you sign your performance agreement.6

KPIs are publications.7 Terms and conditions are not negotiable.

Please join the Division of People's Wellness and Culture8

for online Meditations-at-Midday9

to enhance productivity in afternoon meetings10.

Our Division of Customer Services is here to serve our students11,

who are reminded to sign the disciplinary code12.

Every assignment must include a statement of originality,

and be added to Turnitin's® database.

Our Division of Teaching Excellence and Policy Compliance13

drives throughput in regulation time.

Please join their monthly NAFFE workshops:

Necessary Acronyms For Full Engagement.

The Division of Quality Enhancement, Assurance, Reporting,

Monitoring and Evaluation14

kindly requests that templates be completed quarterly15.

They must be signed off by the

Executive Head of Department,

Executive Dean16,

and the Executive Director of the Division of People's

Wellness and Culture.

Welcome to the University of Global Excellence!

We are an African University committed to decolonised education.

Sioux McKenna

Not everyone will agree with all the sentiments in the poem, and not everyone will agree with our decision to publish it, but that is the nature of debate. We enjoyed reading the poem and learned things at the same time - and we hope that our readers do as well.



1. Hazelkorn E. Reshaping the world order of higher education: The role and impact of rankings on national and global systems. Policy Rev High Educ. 2018;2(1):4-31.        [ Links ]

2. Marginson S. Global stratification in higher education. In: Slaughter S, Taylor B, editors. Higher education, stratification, and workforce development. Higher Education Dynamics vol. 45. Cham: Springer; 2016. p. 13-34.        [ Links ]

3. Shihaam S, Du Plessis M. Temporary academics in South African higher education institutions: Their lived precarity experiences. J Psychol Afr. 2023;33(5):522-529.        [ Links ]

4. Loveday V. The neurotic academic: Anxiety, casualisation, and governance in the neoliberalising university. J Cult Econ. 2018;11(2):154-166.        [ Links ]

5. Darwin S. What contemporary work are student ratings actually doing in higher education? Stud Educ Eval. 2017;54:13-21.        [ Links ]

6. Kairuz T, Andriés L, Nickloes T, Truter I. Consequences of KPIs and performance management in higher education. Int J Educ Manag. 2016;30(6):881-893.        [ Links ]

7. Kenny J. Academic work and performativity. High Educ. 2017;74:897-913.        [ Links ]

8. Badr S. Re-imagining wellness in the age of neoliberalism. New Sociol J Crit Praxis. 2022:3-9.        [ Links ]

9. Carvalho A, Grácio R. The dark side of mindfulness: Workplace socialization, neoliberalism and the self. Commun Lang Work. 2022;8(2):63-77.        [ Links ]

10. Deem R. New managerialism in higher education. In: Teixeira PN, Shin JC, editors. The international encyclopedia of higher education systems and institutions. Dordrecht: Springer; 2020. p. 2083-2088.        [ Links ]

11. Bunce L, Baird A, Jones SE. The student-as-consumer approach in higher education and its effects on academic performance. Stud High Educ. 2017;42(11):1958-1978.        [ Links ]

12. Naidoo R, Williams J. The neoliberal regime in English higher education: Charters, consumers and the erosion of the public good. Crit Stud Educ. 2015;56(2):208-223.        [ Links ]

13. Alvesson M, Spicer A. (Un)Conditional surrender? Why do professionals willingly comply with managerialism. J Organ Chang Manag. 2016;29(1):29-45.        [ Links ]

14. Shore C, Wright S. Audit culture revisited: Rankings, ratings, and the reassembling of society. Curr Anthropol. 2015;56(3):421-444.        [ Links ]

15. Churcher M, Talbot D. The corporatisation of education: Bureaucracy, boredom, and transformative possibilities. New Form. 2020;100:28-42.        [ Links ]

16. De Boer H, Goedegebuure L. The changing nature of the academic deanship. Leadership. 2009;5(3):347-364.        [ Links ]

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