New Generation of Academics Programme: A Talent Management Initiative for Early Career Academics in the South African Higher Education Context
Wednesday 3 July: Conference day one, 2:00pm – 2:30pm parallel session
Room 5 – 301-G050 Lg Chem
University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Higher education worldwide is confronted by the increasing demands for higher levels of expertise from staff, the ageing workforce, the low number of postgraduate students from which to recruit future academics, the relatively underqualified academic workforce, and the slow pace of change and transformation which have created major challenges for academia as a professional career. Nationally, the staffing profile of South African universities continues to reflect inequalities in racial groups, and differences in seniority and participation of women. The current number of academics also falls short of the projected need, necessitating the development of a new generation of early career academics (ECAs) to manage talent in the sector. While early career academic development and talent management may be related, they are rarely studied together. This connection is explored to explain how they intersect in the implementation of a novel national programme to grow a new generation of academics. Using process evaluation as a theoretical lens, this study considers ECAs’ perceptions of the programme. A qualitative approach, based on semi-structured interviews and a review of documents as data collection methods, was used to provide ECAs with a voice to influence practices and national policy enhancements. A thematic analysis informed the findings which highlighted national limitations stemming from good intentions but severe capacity constraints. Capacity and the funding structure to support ECAs also serve as both incentives and constraints. Pre-requisites for transformational change are signalled by overcoming role conflict and overload, remuneration hurdles, isolation and the misrepresentation of ECAs on the programme with mitigating factors such as exercising agency and viewing mentors and supervisors as champions. This study adds nuance to our understanding of how a government-initiated talent management initiative could be implemented at a university to foreground early career academic development and concludes with how lessons learnt could improve the programme.
Academics – Supporting ECAs