The humanities in a changing South Africa: challenges and opportunities

  • IJ van der Merwe University of Stellenbosch


For centuries the humanities and natural sciences were the two main pillars upholding the fundamental knowledge tradition of a university. A stronger focus on science, engineering and technology is necessary in South Africa to correct the present imbalances of student numbers and manpower in those fields. This, however, should not diminish the importance of teaching and research programmes in the social sciences, languages and arts domain. South Africa is entering a millennium of enormous societal, environmental and scientific challenges to which no university or scientific discipline can remain indifferent. The humanities, therefore, will have to position themselves anew within an evolving and transforming framework. Against the background of the new South Africa higher education institutional landscape and the changes in the external national and international environment, this paper explores the challenges for an appropriate humanities. South Africa's academics should not see this new environment as a threat, but as an opportunity for adaptation, adjustment and innovation. The changed environment offers the humanities opportunities and challenges to apply their very relevant knowledge and skills and to make valuable contributions to the scientific body of knowledge, to society and to the resources of the universities.

SAJHE Vol.18(1) 2004: 127-139

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eISSN: 1011-3487