The institutionalisation of the SADC protocol on education and training: a comprative study of higher education in two South African countries
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Regional integration is being proposed as a means to development in Southern Africa. As a part of the formal agreements regarding this cooperation, a Protocol on Education in the Southern African Development Community region has been signed. This research set out to compare the higher education systems of two Southern African countries and to examine the extent to which this Protocol has had an impact on national policies and practices. The research sought to investigate this by means of exploring the extent to which the Protocol has provided an institutional frame which is guiding the development of higher education policy in each of the two countries. The findings of the study indicate that the Protocol, rather than providing leadership in the area of education policy, is to a large extent a symbolic document, reflective of norms already existent in national policy in the two countries studied. The analysis found that the Protocol is not strong on the regulative domain, and that this may reflect the general tensions that exist in the region between regionalism and national sovereignty. Although, in general, educational practices in the two countries were found to be in line with Protocol aims, no areas of national policy were found which could be specifically ascribed to the Protocol. On the other hand, the accounts provided of policy development in each of the national contexts illustrate clearly how policy has grown in these two contexts, and how it is connected to broader national goals and previous education achievements. The national logic thus appears to be a far stronger determinant of policy than regionalism aims. The analysis also found that differences in higher education policy between the two contexts were not as great as had been expected, and over time, the systems appear to be becoming, at policy and structural levels, more similar. There is little in the Protocol itself which appears to be driving this increasing isomorphism, although undoubtedly, the processes which the Protocol has set in motion, such as regular meetings of the Education Ministers of the different countries, is acting to diffuse models of appropriateness with regard to education policy. However, it seems more likely, given trends in the global context towards apparent increasing uniformity in higher education policy, that global isomorphic pressures are being exerted directly onto the two countries, and that similarities between their polices can be explained as a result of this.