Crisis communication planning and management at higher education institutions in KwaZulu-Natal
Hussain, Sameera Banu
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The National Plan for Higher Education (2001) provides a framework for achieving the vision of a single co-ordinated higher education system. In order to meet the goals of this plan, various technikons and universities had to merge. Pityana (2004: 4-5) points out that, in addition to opportunities, various challenges have also emerged from these mergers. One such challenge is that higher education institutions may find themselves in tensions with their partners which may result in disagreements that could lead to crisis situations. Marconi (2005: 262) argues that, in crisis situations, the pace of the conflict accelerates dramatically. This means that the affected parties have to react very quickly or risk having their ability to protect their interests substantially reduced, hence the need for a crisis communication plan. Implicit in this plan is the importance of communication. McCusker (2006: 108) maintains that, often in crisis a situation, communication gets distorted. As a result, rumours often supplant real facts. Thus, clear communication needs to be pre-planned and increased during a crisis. This dissertation, therefore, sets out to investigate the role of communication during the planning and management of crises at higher education institutions in KwaZulu-Natal. It reports on preliminary results of in-depth interviews conducted at higher education institutions in KwaZulu- Natal and offers recommendations so that crises planning and management may be improved upon.