Rural Students’ Transitions To and Through Higher Education in South Africa

Tuesday 30 January 2018, 3.00 PM – 5.30 PM
Room 4.10, School of Education, 35 Berkeley Square, Clifton, Bristol, UK BS8 1JA

Sue Timmis
Sheila TraharLisa Lucas and Karen Desborough, University of Bristol, SARiHE project.
Ann-Marie Bathmaker, University of Birmingham and Visiting Professor at the University of the Free State, South Africa, Miratho project.

South Africa is the most urbanised and industrialised country in Africa and yet, one of the most unequal in the world. Despite wide ranging policies to address equity and access to higher education, there continues to be a significant lack of academic achievement of students from historically under-represented backgrounds. One of the most marginalised social categories, affected by historical inadequacies, is rurality, especially as it interrelates with race and ethnicity. Despite this, there has been limited research on rural students in South Africa especially in relation to HE participation. This seminar will offer insights from two current ESRC funded projects (SARiHE and Miratho) on rural students’ transitions to and through higher education in South Africa.


Towards curricular justice? Rural students’ transitions to and participation in higher education in South Africa

Sue Timmis, University of Bristol, UK, Brenda Leibowitz, University of Johannesburg, SA, Sheila Trahar, University of Bristol, UK, Lisa Lucas, University of Bristol, UK, Karen Desborough, University of Bristol, UK.

This paper reports on phase 1 of the Southern African Rurality in Higher Education (SARiHE) project (ESRC/NRF funded). This collaborative project involving South African and UK partners, investigates how rural students negotiate the transition to university and how prior cultural and educational experiences influence their higher education trajectories. The project employs a participatory methodology where students are co-researchers. Fieldwork is located in South Africa but also draws on perspectives from nine Southern African countries. We report preliminary findings framed by research questions and theoretical concepts including the notion of ‘curricular justice’. Rather than reflecting the ‘culture of the least advantaged’ (Connell, 2017:11, original emphasis), it proposes a critique of culture, creating space for dialogue and for reframing learning as conversation. Finally we discuss the plans for future phases of the project.

Epistemic access for university students from disadvantaged backgrounds: South Africa’s Miratho Project.

Ann-Marie Bathmaker (presenter), University of Birmingham, UK and Visiting Professor at the University of the Free State, South Africa and Monica McLean, University of Nottingham, UK and Visiting Professor at the University of the Free State, South Africa.

Taking a capability approach lens, this paper conceptualises university education as expanding students’ personal, social, economic and civic capabilities. It is argued that if students are to make valuable contributions to society’s stock of meanings and understandings, the capability for university knowledge should be considered a central capability. A four-year mixed-methods longitudinal research project funded by the ESRC-DfID on inclusive higher education learning outcomes for disadvantaged youth in South Africa provides interview data for exploring how students who have insufficient economic resources were positioned in relation to the knowledge they were gaining from their courses. We show how the students are strongly engaged in positioning themselves to acquire knowledge seeing it as the route to achieving their aspirations; and we discuss the interaction between two core capabilities: the capability for sufficient and secure financial resources and the capability for epistemic contribution, or being a ‘knower’.

Please find the slides from the presentations below: