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Early insight 1: The flow of data in the South African public university system

To examine the use and possible impact of open data in South African higher education, the project is currently conducting interviews with university planners, higher education studies researchers, the Department of Higher Education and Training, and other stakeholders.

As this process unfolds, early glimpses of possible findings and insights are revealed -- some expected, others surprising. Some of these insights will be shared on the ODDC website, and this is the first of these early glimpses. What is shared here should not be taken as definitive or final. Comments are welcomed. 

The flow of data, both non-public and open, in the South African public university ecosystem is shown in the figure below. The representation of the flow of data within institutions has been simplified although initial results show that all institutions in the sample have a management information system (MIS) in place to collect institution-wide data from various university departments and faculties. In some instances, university staff can make automated data requests to the university MIS via online or intranet portals, in other cases the MIS seems to exist for the sole purpose of collecting data for submission to the Department of Higher Education and Training's (DHET) Higher Education Management Information System (HEMIS) (in which case internal requests for data need to be made manually). The process of data validation and uploading to HEMIS (in the form of zipped and encrypted MS Access files to DHET) is generic to all public universities.

HEMIS is a SQL database hosted and managed by DHET but maintained by Praxis (whose contract ends in September 2013). The database contains student, staff and building space records. Direct public access to the data is restricted as the records contain personal data which would contravene privacy rights should the data be made public by DHET. Only four director-level staff in the DHET have access to the full dataset in HEMIS.


Francois van Schalkwyk

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