Original Research

The human spirit as a necessary condition for higher education: a risk assessment

J S Wessels
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 11, No 2 | a75 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v11i2.75 | © 2015 J S Wessels | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 February 2016 | Published: 01 November 2015

About the author(s)

J S Wessels, Department of Public Administration and Management at Unisa, South Africa

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Risk management can either protect or endanger higher education institutions (HEIs) in South Africa. A crucial determining factor is how the core risks for these institutions are identified and mitigated. This article contributes to the continuing discourse on both risk management and managerialism in higher education. The thesis for this article is that the presence of a caring human spirit within HEIs is a necessary condition for them to fulfil their reason for existence. The purpose of this article is thus to reflect on the risk of HEIs not being able to fulfil their fundamental reason for existence due to the smothering or absence of a caring human spirit in these institutions. A reading of official and scholarly texts has shown that HEIs’ primary reason for existence is embedded risk, namely a concern with the new or the unknown and by implication a critical curiosity about an uncertain future. The presence of a caring human spirit is not only a necessary condition for fulfilling the reason for the existence of an HEI, but also a crucial risk category currently absent from the standard list of institutional risk categories. Risk assessment reveals that the absence or smothering of a caring human spirit in HEIs poses a high to very high risk for their survival.


Higher education; risk management; managerialism; human spirit; care; science


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