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Understanding Higher Education

Alternative Perspectives

by Chrissie Bowie, Sioux McKenna

Drawing on the South African case, this book looks at shifts in higher education around the world in the last two decades. In South Africa, calls for transformation have been heard in the university since the last days of apartheid. Similar claims for quality higher education to be made available to all have been made across the African continent. In spite of this, inequalities remain and many would argue that these have been exacerbated during the Covid pandemic. 

Understanding Higher Education responds to these calls by arguing for a social account of teaching and learning by contesting dominant understandings of students as ‘decontextualised learners’ premised on the idea that the university is a meritocracy. 

This book tackles the issue of teaching and learning by looking both within and beyond the classroom. It looks at how higher education policies emerged from the notion of the knowledge economy in the newly democratic South Africa, and how national qualification frameworks and other processes brought the country more closely into conversation with the global order. The effects of this on staffing and curriculum structures are considered alongside a proposition for alternative ways of understanding the role of higher education in society.

ISBN 9781928502210 | 180 pages | 254 x 178mm | 2021 | African Minds Publishers, South Africa | Paperback


eBook ISBN: 9781928502227


“A treasure for graduate students and scholars who seek to understand higher education in ways that support social justice."

Prof. Leesa Wheelahan, University of Toronto, Canada

“This book turns on its head the idea that universities are a meritocracy.”

Dr Simpiwe Sobuwa, Durban University of Technology, South Africa

“An exceptionally rich analysis of neoliberalism in higher education.”

Prof. Fikret Adaman, Bogaziçi University, Turkey



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