‘Number of female VCs is low’

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande this week decried the low number of female vice-chancellors (VCs) in public universities, saying more must be done to bring in female leaders in the sector.

“I remain concerned about the gender transformation at vice-chancellors’ level as we only have four out of the 26 universities we have in South Africa. We, however, have many female deputy vice-chancellors,” said Nzimande, noting that the technical and vocational training colleges have 17 female principals of which four are on an acting capacity. “This is a significant progress compared to the university sector.”

The most high-profile female leader in South Africa’s postschool sector is University of Cape Town’s VC Mamokgethi Phakeng.
The university is regarded by many as the best higher education institution on the continent. Other female VCs include University of Zululand’s Xoliswa Mtose, Thoko Mayekiso of the University of Mpumalanga and Nelson Mandela University’s Sibongile Muthwa. Nzimande has tasked the Council on Higher Education to commission an inquiry into the salaries of VCs and senior executives at public universities.


The probe is expected to be completed in March. Data from Stats SA last year showed that Unisa’s boss, Mandla Makhanya, was paid R5.2-million in 2018, making him the highest-paid VC in the country.

Makhanya was followed by University of Johannesburg’s Tshilidzi Marwala, who earned R4.9-million. Wim de Villiers of the University of Stellenbosch earned R4.8-million, while Mtose and Wits’ head honcho Adam Habib got paid R4.4-million.

Meanwhile, in a response to a question from DA MP B elinda Bozzoli, Nzimande said the financial impact of the global pandemic on universities’ expenditure is nearly R4-billion. “Considering all of these aspects, including the funding required to assist the National Student Financial Aid Scheme-funded students to acquire laptops, the total financial impact is R3.85-billion,” Nzimande wrote.

Universities South Africa has recently convened a special board meeting to focus on the financial status of the higher education sector, especially as a consequence of COVID-19.

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