More than half of South Africa's 21 universities have lost their vice-chancellors in the past year.
In several cases professors chosen to transform institutions after apartheid have moved on to new challenges, at least four have reached retirement and two - at North and Transkei universities - have been removed.
New vice-chancellors have taken up posts at the universities of Cape Town, the Wi****ersrand, Vista and Rand Afrikaans University. Natal, North West, Stellenbosch, Pretoria, Western Cape, Potchefstroom and the Medical University of South Africa will have new heads in the coming year.
Nasima Badsha, higher education director in the education department, said:
"Vice-chancellors move on, we wish them luck and where possible continue to use their expertise. We will miss the skills of those who have earned top positions overseas, but also see their recruitment as a compliment to the calibre of our leaders."
Natal is the most recent to face change. Brenda Gourley's appointment last week to head the Open University made her the second South African to clinch a British top job in the past year. Colin Bundy recently became head of London's School for Oriental and African Studies, making way at Wits for Irish statistician Norma Reid. Five of South Africa's universities now have, or will shortly have, female vice-chancellors.
an Jansen, dean of education at the University of Pretoria, attributes the churn of vice-chancellors to a university environment that has become "singularly unattractive". He blamed the highly public process of selecting top staff for being potentially embarrassing and involving "incredible politicking".
Professor Jansen also pointed out that vice-chancellors were less valued for impeccable scholarship and more for their managerial and entrepreneurial abilities, a state of affairs "unattractive to many of our best vice-chancellors".