An investigation into managers' observations of transformation in the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State
Machedi, Sophia Constance Kelebohile
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On taking over the government after the first democratic elections in 1994 the ANC inherited a fragmented, inefficient higher education system, characterised by structural inequities and distortions based on racial legislation. It found itself faced with the challenge of having to transform this system. A blueprint for transforming the education system was set by the National Commission on Higher Education, which clearly stated how the system should be transformed. The Faculty of Health Sciences, to transform itself, had to observe this blueprint which demanded the creation of equal opportunities, educational programmes which are relevant for immediate communities, the country and current times, new instructional approaches, educational structures and changing student and staff populations. The Faculty of Health Sciences, except for being a part of higher education, is also responsible for health personnel education. As a result, it has to observe the recommended model for health personnel training and health care, which requires certain structural and organisational changes, increased community involvement, changes in financial management and an emphasis on primary health care. Since 1994 the Faculty has been involved in transformation interventions to overcome historically determined patterns of inequality and fragmentation; however, these seemed to be slow and not intrusive enough to make a meaningful difference. To assess the process of transformation in the Faculty, a study was conducted to investigate managers' observation of transformation in the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State. The goal of this study was to inform and contribute to the process of transformation, thus assisting in creating an environment that will attract, accommodate and support a diverse population in the Faculty. The aim of this study, was to investigate Managers' observation of transformation in the Faculty and to identify mechanisms to further promote transformation in an effective and sustainable manner. To achieve the aim of the study, the following objectives were pursued: to clarify the concept transformation within the context of higher education, to identify factors that promote and those that impede transformation in the Faculty of Health Sciences, to determine Management's interpretation of the process of transformation and suggestions on how the Faculty should be transformed and to make recommendations on the process of transformation. An extensive literature review was done to clarify and investigate the process of transformation in higher education. Transformation was studied as a development and as a redress process. As a development tool it is mostly evolutionary and as a redress tool it is typically revolutionary. Higher education has gone through an evolutionary and a revolutionary period in South Africa and elsewhere. During these periods of change, leaders and managers should be change agents by practicing astute change management skills. Literature review was further used as the basis of the study in that it assisted in determining research tools and enabled the designing of the interview guide. In this study a qualitative research approach was used to study the concept transformation in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Free State. This study further had practical applications and is therefore applied research. Data was collected using semi-structured interviews. Participants consisted of Heads of different units and administrators or their representatives in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Free State who are broadly involved in student issues, and have at least two years teaching experience in the Faculty and have consented to the interview. The data was analysed qualitatively. The results were tabled, the findings were described and discussed. The findings of the study supported by the literature review provided a clear view of the respondents' perception of how they experience transformation in the Faculty of Health Sciences. Factors that promote and those that impede transformation were identified, the impact of transformation on personnel and students was stated and mechanisms to address transformation issues were recommended. Findings revealed that transformation in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Free State does exist; however, it exists in a skewed manner and to a limited extent, which could mean that transformation is quite slow in the Faculty. Findings further suggested that to improve and fast-track transformation, Management should be committed to transformation, and roles and functions of different stakeholders should be stated clearly. The personnel development unit should have a programme that supports transformation. The establishment of the transformation unit and the naming of the Faculty facilities that reflect all groups in the Faculty were seen as critical to the advancement and sustenance of transformation. The researcher believes that the study will be useful in guiding the Faculty in identifying the progress of transformation and towards its realisation of the process of transformation. The findings of the study should be presented to the Faculty Management for consideration and possible implementation and should be disseminated in the Faculty. Workshops should be held in an open and friendly manner with all the roleplayers and in the different Schools. The workshops should aim at clarifying the concept transformation and at promoting transformation in the Faculty. The researcher further believes that the findings of the study should be published in accredited scientific journals and should be presented at national and international conferences. This study could benefit different institutions of higher education especially the Faculties of Health Sciences.