Many of South Africa's historically black higher education institutions may be absorbed by neighbouring universities if changes recommended by a government-appointed task team are implemented.
The team suggests mergers between the universities of Natal and Durban-Westville, and the universities of Rhodes, Fort Hare and Transkei, among others.
The report recommends that the country's three distance-learning institutions become one, while six historically black institutions are felt not to qualify to remain independent as they have fewer than 4,000 full-time students.
Up to 14 of South Africa's 21 universities and nine of its 15 technikons (polytechnics) should merge with other institutions, the report says.
After a period of expansion, student numbers have been declining, especially at historically black institutions with reputations for poor quality.
Mergers are seen as an attempt by the government to draw crisis-torn campuses under the wings of better-resourced and managed institutions.
The report also suggests lengthening first degrees from three to four years.