Original Research

Beyond neoliberal policies: Blind spots in the Staffing South Africa’s Universities Framework

Mlamuli N. Hlatshwayo
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 20, No 1 | a1439 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v20i1.1439 | © 2024 Mlamuli N. Hlatshwayo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 January 2024 | Published: 31 May 2024

About the author(s)

Mlamuli N. Hlatshwayo, Ali Mazrui Centre for Higher Education Studies, Faculty of Education, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


Attracting the next generation of academics is important for ensuring that the higher education system is sustainable and continues to produce the much-needed graduates who will respond to the growing needs of the knowledge economy. Deeply rooted in the decolonial and transformation struggles in the Global South, academic staffing and recruitment questions are central to representation and diversity in the academy. In this article, I critique what I see as the rising neoliberal logic in South African higher education that frames national thinking and policies on attracting and retaining the next generation of academics in the country. While some policies and legislative frameworks have been proposed in response to this challenge, I particularly focus on the Staffing South Africa’s Universities Framework (SSAUF) which has served as an integrated policy framework that guides the country’s vision on attracting, retaining and supporting the next generation of scholars. I especially reveal three interconnected and intersectional blind spots that are prevalent in the policy, i.e. (1) the misframed and misrecognised conceptual understanding of early career academics and emerging scholars, (2) the lack of systemic and adequate pathways for postdoctoral research fellows to access higher education as permanent staff members and (3) the ideological (and decolonial) missed opportunities in the policy.

Transdisciplinary contribution: I provide an interdisciplinary critique of ways in which the higher education policy is socially constructed and enacted in the academe, and the glaring blind spots that have real and material implications for early career scholars in South Africa.


Staffing South Africa’s Universities Framework; early career academics; higher education; transformation; academic

JEL Codes

I23: Higher Education • Research Institutions; I28: Government Policy

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education


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