Higher Education Ph.D. Dissertations

The UWC Breakthrough and Ascent: Factors and Transitions

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Higher Education Administration

First Advisor

Christopher Frey (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Alexander Goberman (Other)

Third Advisor

Kenneth Borland (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Patrick Pauken (Committee Member)


The purpose of this study was to identify and evaluate the critical success factors employed by the University of Western Cape (UWC) in South Africa to transform from an apartheid-era institution to one that is globally competitive. This study analyzed the strategies and processes that helped transform UWC, consolidating the critical success factors that non-western universities could develop in order to achieve their goals. The study deployed an exploratory qualitative approach based on five interviews, internal primary source materials, and a published work in the changes at the university written by administrators and faculty at UWC, based on a postpositivism paradigm. I interviewed five individuals who were/are a part of UWC regarding their experiences interacting with UWC. Five main critical success factors emerged based literature review: (1) Concentration of Talent, (2) Resource Adequacy, (3) Appropriate Governance, (4) Alignment of Success Factors, (5) Role of Other Factors (Leadership and Strategic Vision; Strategic Planning and Sequencing; Pedagogy; Internationalization; and Investing in Technology). The study explained at a greater length about the critical role of these factors in the rise of UWC. The findings align with the three research questions that guided this study based on participants’ experiences and perceptions and internal primary source materials Published by administrators and faculty at UWC: (i) What are the critical success factors that transformed UWC to improve its international standing? 1) Role of Management, 2) Changing Vision and Core Values, 3) Support from Government, 4) Academic Improvement, 5) Research and Innovation, 6) Community Engagement, 7) Financial resources. (ii) What administrative iv approaches and strategies did UWC implement to improve its educational quality and operational performance? 1) Leadership and Trust at UWC, 2) Strategic Planning (iii) What resources were developed and utilized by UWC during its period of development? 1) Training and Upskilling Employees, 2) Organizational Culture and Values, 3) Role of Vision, 4) Administrative Staff Expertise and Loyalty, 5) Partnerships, 6) Infrastructure, 7) Financial Resources. The study concludes with a brief discussion about possibilities for further research.