A juridical foundation for accountability to enhance the security of the Higher Education lecturer in South Africa
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The widening of access to Higher Education (HE) with a concomitant call for more accountability in the HE sector locally and globally, has altered the former elitist status of the university and impacted the professional standing, autonomy, and working conditions of lecturers negatively. Lecturers are increasingly held to account for providing quality teaching and delivering employable graduates. Yet their work environment has been characterised by poor support, dwindling resources, lack of recognition and reward for teaching efforts and excellence, and absence of legal protection when failing to fulfil the undefined yet high accountability expectations in their teaching-related work. This state of affairs has had an inevitable influence on lecturers’ perceived security in their labour environment. The overarching purpose of this study was therefore to generate guidelines to improve the existing juridical foundation for accountability of South African (SA) HE lecturers with a view to enhance their security in their employment context. In order to assist in the fulfilment of this central purpose, the study aimed to develop understanding of how lecturers perceive their accountability and security in light of diverse teaching-related responsibilities and vagueness in terms of expected conduct; and the protection (or lack of protection) of their rights and professional status. An international perspective on these issues was imperative to shed some light on how regulation elsewhere could improve practices in the SA context. While SA lecturers are equally entitled to all the rights stipulated in the Bill of Rights, they are also subject to and accountable for upholding the provisions of the SA Constitution and derived labour legislation relevant within the HE environment. The founding values of the Constitution, namely equality, human dignity and the protection of human rights and related freedoms, form not only the basic standard for measuring lecturer conduct, but also the legal basis for challenging policy, system or conduct that might threaten constitutional or labour rights. Yet, despite the existing juridical foundation for the regulation of accountability and rights protection of SA lecturers, comprising the SA Constitution, general labour and HE legislation, there is an absence of HE-specific teaching-related accountability regulation, resulting in lecturer insecurity regarding expected conduct, professional recognition and support, and accountability expectations in their teaching-related work. In comparison, a number of Australian legal imperatives, including the Commonwealth of Australia Learning and Teaching Council’s standard for quality teaching with corresponding quality indicators, provide for more clearly defined teaching-related accountability regulation. In addition, the Mission Based Compacts, the Threshold Standards, and the national Modern Award for the Higher Education Industry, afford Australian lecturers the protection of HE-specific rights relevant to enhance security in their unique work environment. These legal imperatives proved to be significant for informing the improved juridical foundation for lecturer teaching-related accountability in the SA context to enhance the security of the SA lecturer. With a focus on the development of in-depth understanding of the phenomena of lecturer accountability and security via the perspectives and interpretations of lecturers themselves, the empirical study was grounded in an inductive qualitative methodology from an interpretive-phenomenological perspective. To ensure richness of descriptive data, lecturers actively involved in undergraduate teaching at three different local, and one Australian university, were purposively selected to participate in semi-structured individual and focus group interviews. The analysis and interpretation of the interview data included a comparative component to explore perceptions of lecturer accountability regulation and security protection in an Australian context with a view to identify inadequate legal provisioning for these phenomena in the SA HE environment. From the data analysis and interpretation, seven meaningful themes were identified, associated with either lecturer accountability or lecturer security. The findings offered not only a clear delineation of internal and external lecturer teaching-related accountability, but also a comprehensive definition of lecturer professional security that was found wanting in all legal sources and other literature studied for this thesis. Moreover, in realisation of the primary aim of this study, twelve significant guidelines are presented to establish an improved juridical foundation for lecturer accountability that will enhance lecturer security in the SA Higher Education context. Amongst these are: the development of a clear delineation of teaching-related roles and responsibilities articulated for different academic post levels; the establishment of a professional HE teaching-oriented career path affording professional recognition via a professional body for lecturers, and requiring continuous professional teaching development; and the development of minimum conditions of employment unique to the work of the HE lecturer.
- Education 
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