One of this research project's primary objectives is to establish whether open data is in fact impacting on the governance of public universities in any way. In other words, are university councils (which the South African Higher Education Act of 1997 asserts as the supreme authority in the governance of universities) using open data in their decision-making and strategic planning?
In order to find out, we will be interviewing key staff in the institutional planning units at 7 of the 23 South African public universities. An initial challenge was how to select the 7 universities. If universities in South Africa were known to have different governance structures across the system, then one approach would have been to select a representative sample across the different modes of governance. And this would have provided the opportunity to examine whether different forms of public universitiy governance are more or less receptive to the use of open data in their decision-making.
But governance in South African universities is fairly homogenous. We therefore had to devise a different set of criteria for selecting what would still be a representative sample of universities. While the sample would not be differentiable by mode of governance, we identified other non-governance differentiators: size (small/medium/large); type (research/technical/comprehensive/distance); location (rural/urban); and multi or single campus.
One 'governance criteria' was, however, introduced into the selection process. Five universities are currently under administration, four for what can be considered to be for issues around poor governance. We therefore determined to include at least one of these institutions in the sample in order to asses whether we could identify any marked difference in the use of open data for governance at an institution where governance is formally considered to be problematic.
Practically speaking, we also had to consider the budget available for travel expenses. The research team is based in Cape Town and South Africa is a large country. We therefore attempted to select universities in regionsal clusters in order to minimise travel costs without compromising representivity across the other criteria.
The spreadsheet available for download shows the final selection of universities for this research project. Interviews are set to commence in July 2013 and completed by October 2013.
Francois van Schalkwyk