Implications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the vortex of higher education in South Africa

Narend Baijnath, Shireen Motala, Kirti Menon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The paper explores the genesis and potential of the 4IR, and what it portends for a developing economy and society such as South Africa and its impact on the global stage. It reflects on the value that is promised for tertiary education, teaching, and learning. Separating hype from the realistic possibilities, the connections between advances in technology, policy, and development challenges are critically examined to consider how the 4IR could impact on tertiary education, and teaching and learning, in the future. It then proceeds to examine the enabling conditions which need to be cultivated at national, institutional, and individual levels, and the challenges and obstacles to be overcome at these levels, for enduring benefits to be realized. The paper explores what the phenomenon of the 4IR is, drawing on the arguments of key proponents, including skeptics. It explores what kinds of changes are envisaged as the phenomenon progresses. It then proceeds to examine how institutions may be positioned to harness the 4IR for the benefit of human wellbeing, and in support of national and international social and economic benefits. The promise of the 4IR to resolve our developmental challenges has been sharply questioned—perhaps being overhyped, given existing and enduring disadvantage and marginalization that was not ameliorated in previous industrial revolutions. These are elaborated upon. At the institutional level, more sophisticated use of digital technology is called for—in administration, teaching, learning support, and e-learning. Online data and information management; aggregation of vast amounts of data; and analyses of data for student success and student support promise a positive impact on success and throughput rates. Key imperatives for action include redesigning, streamlining, and aligning the education system. This requires flexibility in admission criteria, curriculum design, learning and teaching modes, and assessment, with appropriate support systems and services across the institution.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of Education
Subtitle of host publicationFourth Edition
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9780128186299
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • 4th Industrial Revolution
  • Curriculum design
  • Digital technology
  • Higher education
  • e-learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Implications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the vortex of higher education in South Africa'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this