Carnegie Corporation of New York Announces Strengthening South African University Program


The board of trustees of Carnegie Corporation of New York has awarded three South African universities grants of approximately $2 million each toward projects that will advance the institutions as they work to attract, train, retain and promote a new generation of South African academics, that will include more black and female scholars, and develop new university cultures aligned with national goals.

The Corporation asked five universities to compete for "transformational support" that could be used as institutions move toward national goals set by the new South African government aimed at bringing more equity to its higher education system. The University of Cape Town in Cape Town, the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg were chosen after Corporation program staff and external advisors reviewed all proposals.

"These three universities are institutions of excellence and have international reputations for scholarship and teaching," said Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York. "We believe that supporting these institutions to build a corps of national scholars will not only continue the universities' growth and excellence, but over time, will serve society itself by ensuring that South Africa's best and brightest students become its leaders of tomorrow."

"This new South African university strategy aligns our work in the country with what the Corporation is doing to strengthen universities in other African nations," said Narciso Matos, chair of the Corporation's International Development Program. "As many of the great teachers and scholars at these three universities face retirement, programs at each university will seek to fill their ranks with young black and female scholars who will be nurtured, mentored and offered incentives to build careers at their home universities."

The African faculty at the University of Cape Town (UCT), a strong research university, make up only 6 percent of its members while the national target for UCT is 40 percent. Corporation support will help the university accelerate black and female academics through mentoring, staff development and a policy and management system within the university. Other foundations joining the Corporation on what is called UCT's "transformation interventions" include Atlantic Philanthropies, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Ford and Andrew W. Mellon foundations. Carnegie Corporation's grant provides $2 million in support over three years.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal is the result of the merger of two academic institutions, the University of Natal and the University of Durban-Westville. Currently, 43 percent of its university contract and permanent academic staff are black and the Corporation's support will help the new university reach its ambitious goal of becoming the national leader in a multiracial faculty. The institution’s plans include training and retention projects for academic staff along with leadership and capacity-building programs. Atlantic Philanthropies and the Mellon Foundation are also supporting this work. The Corporation grant is $2 million for five years.

The University of the Witswatersrand boasts four Nobel laureates and its current vice chancellor is a Rhodes scholar. Since 1994, measures such as financial assistance and academic support programs have successfully changed the student body. Still, though "Wits," as the university is known, has an African faculty complement of 17 percent—close to the national average of 20 percent—that cohort remains below the national target, which has been set at 40 percent. Women are also concentrated at the lower levels of the academic hierarchy and white men still dominate senior and management positions. While Wits has the second highest publication output in the country, it is far below the average for black academics, with less than one percent authored by black African scholars. With Corporation support, the university seeks to break decisively with its identity as a formerly white institution by transforming its culture and by training and retaining top South African academics, especially black and female scholars. The Corporation’s grant is $2 million for three years.

"Working together, we hope to use the foundation’s resources as a lever to help advance both the participation of new members of the academic staff, especially among our black and female faculty, and to transform the institutional cultures of universities in South Africa, in line with national development objectives," said Courtenay Sprague, a Carnegie Corporation program associate who is managing the South African University program. "We view these three institutions as agents of change that will build intellectual capital within the universities, ultimately transforming the higher education system South Africa."

The South African university strategy includes an ambitious evaluation component, and support for another three years of this long-range work will depend on whether the universities are able to meet their targets for change.

Carnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote "the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding." As a grantmaking foundation, the Corporation seeks to carry out Carnegie’s vision of philanthropy, which he said should aim "to do real and permanent good in this world." The Corporation’s capital fund, originally donated at a value of about $135 million, had a market value of $1.9 billon on September 30, 2004. The Corporation awards grants totaling approximately $80 million a year in the areas of education, international peace and security, international development and strengthening U.S. democracy.