Expressing organisational autonomy: a case study of South African further education and training colleges
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The organisational governance of further education and training colleges in South Africa has been cited as an obstacle to the institutions' ability to contribute to the developmental needs of the country. In response, the government has instituted major policy reforms since 1996, including a move towards granting greater organisational autonomy to these colleges, with limited success. The purpose of the study was to gain an understanding of the causes of these governance issues by examining the effect of the organisational environment, with specific focus on the power dynamics that characterised that environment between 2010 and 2012. A qualitative research approach was adopted to answer two research questions: (i) How did the concentration of power in the external environment affect the expression of autonomy of further education and training colleges between 2010 and 2012? and (ii) How did the colleges respond to the power dynamics in the external environment? The analysis of data from case studies of two further education and training colleges revealed that the government had applied external control over the institutions, thereby constraining the overt expression of autonomy. However, the colleges were not without agency and were able to respond strategically to demands from the policy environment. Thus, this study offers a counter-narrative in South African literature on governance in vocational colleges, and the authors of this article assert that the failing governance in respect of the case studies was a result of external forces (power dynamics) rather than the internal characteristics of the colleges.