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Social transformation interventions at South African public universities

Sameera Abed (Department of Auditing, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa)
Barry Ackers (Department of Auditing, College of Accounting Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 9 April 2021

Issue publication date: 2 July 2021




The purpose of this study was to identify the transformation disclosures in the publicly available annual reports of South African public universities and to establish the extent to which universities account to their stakeholders about how they have discharged their transformation obligations.


This exploratory qualitative study involves a thematic content analysis of publicly available annual reports using ATLAS.ti software to identify and categorise transformation interventions disclosed by South African public universities.


This empirical study identifies several interventions that universities have introduced to facilitate access to and successful completion of tertiary studies by students. Some of the disclosed mechanisms include the provision of financial aid, student support and counselling, tutoring and mentoring and ICT enhancements and the introduction of language policies. The results also highlighted several challenges to sustainable transformation including funding, social and academic barriers and infrastructural challenges experienced by universities.


According to the authors’ knowledge, this study represents one of the first studies to use the public disclosures in the annual reports of public universities to identify interventions introduced to facilitate transformation of the student body. Despite its South African orientation, the observations have implications for universities worldwide experiencing similar challenges, especially in developing countries.



Abed, S. and Ackers, B. (2021), "Social transformation interventions at South African public universities", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp. 870-890.



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