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Corrupted by Jonathan D Jansen

A study of chronic dysfunction in South African universities

Through investigatory reports and interviews, Jonathan Jansen reveals the structural conditions for chronic dysfunction in a sample of South African universities. He reveals the political economy at work and the intense competition for resources on campuses. He also provides interventions for these fragile institutions.

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Why do some universities seem to be in a constant state of turmoil and dysfunction? Jonathan Jansen explores the root causes of chronic instability in a sample of South African universities. Through scrutiny of investigatory reports and interviews with more than 100 university managers and government officials, Jansen finds that at the heart of the dysfunction in universities is an intense and sometimes deadly competition for resources especially on campuses located in impoverished communities. It is not the lack of institutional resources but their concentration in a university that draws a mix of corrupt actors from local politicians and taxi operators to members of council and management into a never-ending run on the material (such as money for infrastructure) and symbolic (namely, graduation certificates for sale) assets of these institutions.

Jansen argues that the problem won’t be solved through investments in ‘capacity building’ alone because the combination of institutional capacity and institutional integrity contributes to serial instability in universities. Jansen makes an important intervention to understanding the root causes and offers interventions to produce stabilities such as the depoliticisation of university councils and appointing academics of integrity and capacity in the management and leadership of these fragile institutions. This groundbreaking and long overdue study will offer a promising way forward for universities to better serve their communities and the country more broadly.