The Program for Research on Private Higher Education
Dedicated to Building Knowledge about Private Higher Education around the World
WP No.2

Profits and Practicality: How South Africa Epitomizes the Global Surge in Commercial Private Higher Education


Levy, Daniel C. (2003)  "Profits and Practicality: How South Africa Epitomizes the Global Surge in Commercial Private Higher Education." PROPHE Working Paper No.2. Revised and published as: Levy, D.C. (2003) Commercial Higher Education: South Africa as a Stark Example. IN: Kruss, G. and Kraak, A. (Eds.) A Contested Good? Understanding Private Higher Education in South Africa. Boston: Center for International Higher Education-Boston College and Program for Research on Private Higher Education-University at Albany. pp 33-42.


South Africa’s private higher education largely illustrates the worldwide surge in commercial private higher education. Beyond typicality, however, important features in the South African case epitomize the worldwide growth or otherwise appear in stark form.

At the core of the starkness is the for-profit nature of South African private higher education. For-profit logic plays out in nearly all matters key to the country’s private higher education, including missions, actors’ roles within and beyond the higher education institutions, ties to the job market, and relationships with public entities. In contrast, private higher education outside South Africa is usually nonprofit; more aptly stated, however, it is nonprofit in name and legal status but often for-profit in much form and behavior.

For its profits and practicality thrust, South Africa presents an intriguing case through which to explore the nature of the world’s expanding commercial private higher education. Tendencies in South Africa lead to or support significant hypotheses about this form of education, particularly in its for-profit manifestation. In turn, such hypotheses, along with data on other countries (especially the United States), help guide empirical exploration of the South African case.

Date Published:
Mar 2003