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Overview and Mandate

The National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) was formally established in December 2013 as the result of extensive work towards drafting the 2011 Charter for Humanities and Social Sciences.

The Charter aimed to:

  • Create a powerful, positive, affirmative statement on the humanities and social sciences;
  • Emphasise the role of the humanities in creating responsible, ethical citizens;
  • Define a post-apartheid trajectory of scholarship sensitive to our immediate and long-term developmental needs as a key society in Africa and the Global South;
  • Be aspirational, but with a clear road map for intervention with the means at our disposal.

The legislative mandate for the NIHSS is contained within the Regulations for the Establishment of a National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, 2013 (Government Notice No 952 of 2013) in accordance with the provisions of the Higher Education Act, 1997 (No. 101 of 1997).

The overall mandate of the NIHSS is to develop and set up the institutional and logistical framework for the envisioned higher education institution for the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS). The role of the Institute is, broadly, to enhance and support the HSS in South Africa and beyond, and to advise government and civil society on HSS related matters. It does so through its various programmes, including the Catalytic Projects, the Doctoral Schools and the African Pathways Programme, and through supporting the DHET in the implementation of the proposed corrective interventions.

Further functions of the NIHSS include:

  • Providing services to the higher education sphere within the Humanities and Social Sciences;
  • Advancing learning within its specific scope or application by ensuring collaboration or collaboration of the work of higher education institutions; and
  • Advising the Minister on matters relating to its specific scope or application, or to higher education generally.