1. Introduction

In December 2002, the Ministry released its proposals for the restructuring and consolidation of the institutional landscape of the higher education system, through mergers and incorporations. The institutions, which are to be merged/incorporated, including the Ministry’s preferred dates for implementation are listed in Appendix 1.

The Ministry recognises that implementing the mergers and incorporations will be complex, time-consuming and place an enormous burden of additional work on the affected institutions as well as on the Department. This is made all the more onerous given capacity constraints, both systemic and institutional. The Ministry is therefore committed to ensuring that the appropriate human and financial resources are leveraged and mechanisms set in place to support the merger process. In this regard, and as announced in the Government Gazette Notice No 23550 of 24 June 2002, a Merger Unit has been established within the Higher Education Branch of the Department to manage the merger process. The details of the merger unit, its structure, functions and the services it will provide are outlined in section 2.

In addition, the Ministry has decided that in order to further strengthen and support the management of mergers a Reference Group will be established to monitor and assess merger processes and progress. Furthermore, it is strongly recommended that all merging institutions establish a single merger office to support and co-ordinate overall merger processes, with lines of reporting and accountability to the councils and senior executive management of the merging institutions. These processes are described in more detail in section 3.

2. Merger Unit

2.1 Structure and Functions

The Merger Unit is located within the Higher Education Branch of the Department of Education and for reporting, accounting and administrative purposes, it falls within the line functions of the Chief Directorate: Higher Education Planning and Management.

The Unit will oversee, support and monitor the mergers, including providing technical support to institutions in the following areas:

The Merger Unit is headed by a Co-ordinator who is responsible for managing and co-ordinating the functions and services of the merger unit and providing leadership and direction on merger implementation. The Co-ordinator is supported by a deputy co-ordinator and section co-ordinators to manage the provision of technical support in the areas identified above. In addition, a pool of technical support staff and resource persons with specialised expertise will be contracted by the Merger Unit as and when required, to assist with delivery of technical support to institutions. The Ministry is currently in the process of recruiting personnel for the Merger Unit to ensure that it is well positioned to provide the necessary technical support and guidance to institutions.

The senior management of the Higher Education Branch together with the Merger Unit will function as the overall management team for driving and overseeing the merger process.

An organogram depicting the merger management structures and illustrating the lines of accountability and communication between the various structures is outlined in Figure 1 on page 5.

2.2 Services

The Merger Unit will provide the following services to institutions:

It should be noted that the Merger Unit has already begun work on developing guidelines for institutions. These will be available for distribution at the end of March 2003. However, guidelines to facilitate the development of a Memorandum of Agreement between merging institutions, as well as the Ministry’s financial support framework and the procedures required to leverage such support are enclosed.

3 Further Mechanisms to Support the Management of Mergers

3.1 Reference Group

The Ministry intends to establish a Reference Group to monitor and assess merger implementation processes and progress. The group will consist of individuals who have experience of the structures, operations and culture of higher education institutions and/or of large-scale organisations in general, who are sensitive to the imperatives for transformation and who are highly respected both within and outside the higher education sector.

The intention is for the Reference Group to monitor ‘on the ground’ merger planning and implementation processes with a view to ensuring that the central principles underpinning the restructuring agenda, namely, transformation, equity, efficiency and development are infused into the merger implementation process. Furthermore, they will seek to ensure that institutional management of the process accords due regard and sensitivity to issues of participation and decision-making, so that the process is validating of the voices and concerns of all institutional stakeholders and constituencies. The role would also include offering clarification and guidance to institutions and, where required or requested, assistance with facilitation and mediation.

The Reference Group, which will work under the auspices of the Merger Unit, will be an additional link between the merging institutions and the Merger Unit, providing regular feedback on the implementation process and progress, including alerting the Merger Unit to potential problems and areas of contestation which are likely to de-rail or undermine the merger process. On-going engagement with the Reference Group will also enable the Merger Unit to gauge its effectiveness in service delivery and management of the process. The Reference Group will also meet with the Minister of Education from time to time, to keep him abreast of merger developments and progress.

Members appointed to the Reference Group will be clustered into teams, with each team assigned specific responsibility to monitor and assess one to two mergers. A team approach would lessen the onus on individual members, allow for a pooling of skills and expertise and, equally crucial, provide a support network. The teams will be available to institutions four to six months prior to the establishment of the Interim Council or earlier in the case of institutions to be merged in 2005.

The Minister will in due course announce the membership of the Reference Group.

3.2 Institutional Mechanisms to Co-ordinate and Support Mergers

The Ministry strongly recommends that all merger partners establish a single merger office as soon as possible to support and co-ordinate the merger processes, with lines of reporting and accountability to the councils and senior executive management of the merging institutions. In addition, a person preferably with experience in project management should be identified to head the merger office and to facilitate, co-ordinate and manage the merger processes. The establishment of a single merger office would provide an important point of reference for the Merger Unit, enabling better co-ordination and streamlining of services and support to institutions. Likewise, it would streamline management of the merger processes and enable clear communication with all stakeholders.

The Ministry would like to emphasise that this does not preclude any of the institutions from setting in place alternative mechanisms to co-ordinate merger processes internally, provided that there is an over-arching structure or mechanism to guide, co-ordinate and monitor the overall implementation process.

Institutions, in the first instance, should consider seconding a member of staff to co-ordinate the overall merger processes, provided that the person carries the support of all merger partners. In the event that institutions are unable agree on an internal candidate, they could look to appointing an external person to fulfil this function. A small core of staff could also be seconded from the merging institutions to support the functions of the merger office.

Figure 1


Minister of Education


Deputy Director General: Higher Education Branch

Chief Directorate: Higher Education Planning & Management





Appendix 1: Institutional Mergers and Incorporation and Recommended Dates for Implementation

January 2004


  1. University of Durban-Westville/University of Natal
  2. University of North-West/Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education
  3. Technikon Northern Gauteng/Technikon North-West/Pretoria Technikon
  4. University of South Africa/Technikon South Africa/and the incorporation of Vista University Distance Education Campus
  5. Incorporation

  6. University of Fort Hare/Rhodes University East London Campus
  7. All the satellite campuses of Vista University, incorporated as follows:

January 2005


  1. Cape Technikon/Peninsula Technikon
  2. University of Port Elizabeth/Port Elizabeth Technikon
  3. Rand Afrikaans University/Technikon Witwatersrand
  4. University of the North/Medical University of Southern Africa
  5. Border Technikon/Eastern Cape Technikon/University of Transkei

6. Durban Institute of Technology/Mangosuthu Technikon/Umlazi Campus of University of Zululand