Protestors clash with security at Stellenbosch University. Picture: REUTERS
Protestors clash with security at Stellenbosch University. Picture: REUTERS

A WAVE of panic could spark a brain drain from the country‘s top tertiary institutions as academics look for job prospects overseas.

No official survey has been conducted but a group of concerned academics said most of them were afraid to speak out against current events and they were looking for more stable institutions.

 A “mass exodus” looms as a stalemate between university managements and free-fee protesters continues to dog institutions.

A recent study by the International Monetary Fund found that skilled workers were exiting sub-Saharan Africa at rapidly increasing rates and the number of migrants living in developed countries could increase from 7million in 2013 to 34million by 2050.

An academic in the humanities faculty at the University of Cape Town, who did not want to be named, said he was looking for a post elsewhere and said other academics were doing the same.

“The gradual effect of the continued protests will be the eventual impoverishment of South African tertiary education institutions. The very best academics will look for, and easily secure, employment at more stable international universities.

“Top researchers will choose to do their PhDs elsewhere. This will be disastrous, not only for South Africa but for Africa as a whole, since much of the research into challenges facing the continent emanates from South Africa.”

A lecturer from UCT‘s science department said “a number of colleagues in my department, faculty and in the entire university research and academic community are looking for posts overseas”.

“I personally am looking at job options in Europe, US and other countries” what with “freedom of speech vanishing” and “insufficient funds now a reality”.

Another lecturer, who also did not want to be named, said: “This is a double-edged brain drain.

“Top academics will leave and the knowledge and skills they pass on to students will come to a halt.”

Members of the Wits Black Academics Caucus said although they were going through tough times, they believed academics should stay and fight rather than flee.

They said they had “the burden of enduring the same system our students are rejecting”.

President of the Academic Staff Association at Wits professor David Hornsby said he did not foresee a brain drain. But the 780-member association was “deeply concerned about the higher education project and wanted to see it get going again”.

Achille Mbembe, a professor at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, said: “We‘ll see the collapse of the intellectual infrastructures without which there will be no universities.” - The Times

Please sign in or register to comment.