Going to University: Stories from Rural Students (2019)

Available in the 11 official South African languages here.

The stories in this booklet are told by a group of second year undergraduate students from the University of Fort Hare, the University of Johannesburg and Rhodes University. These students, together with many others, all from rural areas and studying a range of subjects, participated in the Southern African Rurality in Higher Education (SARiHE) project during 2017 and 2018. The students themselves initiated this booklet, seeing it as a way to give something back to their communities.



Academic articles

Timmis, S & Muhuro, P (2019) De-coding or de-colonising the technocratic university? Rural students’ digital transitions to South African higher education. Learning, Media and Technology. (Online first).

Despite wide-ranging policies and practices intended to address historical inequalities in South African higher education, and calls for decolonisation to include more local relevance, little attention has been paid to the experiences of rural students, especially their digital participation once at university. Previous research has highlighted limitations in technological access in rural areas and the importance of mobile phones for transitions. Whilst universities offer wide-ranging digital support, there remains a tendency towards universalist mechanisms. Drawing on a longitudinal study across three universities, and employing Holland’s theory of figured worlds, we highlight rural students’ experiences of digital transitions across different cultural worlds, prior to university and once they arrive, including the bewildering technocratic systems and practices and resulting conflicts and positionings encountered. We show how students improvise to decode the digital university and figure out new practices. Decolonisation of universities involves rethinking the ‘technocratic consciousness’ (both colonialist and neoliberal) and its apparatus including digital systems and structures. For rural students to become successful digital practitioners in higher education, universities should acknowledge prior digital experience and forms of knowledge and focus on expanding individual and collective agency in supporting transitions, as mechanisms for shaping a decolonised digital education.


Policy Briefing and Policy Research Report

Policy Briefing (2019) 

A two page summary of key findings and policy recommendations designed for policy makers. 






Policy Research Report (2019)

A four page overview of the research, key findings and recommendations designed for researchers and practitioners.






Working Papers

SARiHE Working Paper 1 Rurality and Education (PDF, 385 kB) 

This working paper is a non-exhaustive survey of research on rurality. It covers key themes in order to arrive at working assumptions for an understanding of rurality to inform the SARiHE research project. 






SARiHE Working Paper 2 Practices, transitions and negotiations to new figured worlds: Southern African rural students in higher education (PDF, 343 kB)

This working paper aims to set out some of the key theoretical concepts that frame the investigations that the SARiHE project is undertaking and to make sense of lived experiences of students at the heart of the study. 




SARiHE Working Paper 3 – Southern African Rurality in Higher Education: Towards a participatory and decolonising methodology

This paper aims to set out the influences that guided the methodology adopted in the SARiHE research project, its key principles and methods that contributed to our approach.