‘Why mouth all the pieties?’ Black and women academics’ revelations about discourses of ‘transformation’ at an historically white South African university

Dina Zoe Belluigi, Gladman Thondhlana

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With inequality persistent across geopolitical contexts, ‘transformation’ continues to be expediently cited in the rhetoric of higher education institutions. Illuminating alike issues worldwide, the paper critically examines race, inequality and oppression among the black and women academics who were selected as recipients of post-apartheid academic development programmes at an historically white institution in South Africa. Utilising a report-and-respond approach, participants initially responded in a questionnaire to definitions of notions of transformation espoused within The Integrated Transformation Plans of South African universities. This was followed by non-deterministic small group discussions of the researchers’ interpretations of those responses. The recipients’ lived experiences provide deep insights, from within, into the misalignment between those discourses espoused and those practiced, which have implications for transforming the institutional culture of the dominant in-group. Emerging ahead of the implementation of a self-regulatory tool for higher education institutions across that national context, many of the participants called for structural accountability mechanisms in the face of their frustration with current ineffectual approaches. A concern about institutional responsiveness to research findings of such critical studies is raised.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)947-963
JournalHigher Education
Issue number6
Early online date23 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019



  • transformation
  • university
  • equality
  • race
  • gender
  • ethnicity
  • South Africa
  • academic development
  • higher education studies

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