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Research focus on Institutional Cultures

Universities have for the most part made headway with dealing with structural challenges to transformation at the level of formal policy. Most have in place policies and practices to bring about transformation and an end to discrimination and discriminatory practices. The demographics of the student bodies of universities have significantly improved over the last decade in relation to the enrolment of black students.  Yet despite the removal or tackling of the structural impediments to discrimination and transformation, racism and discrimination continue to plague Higher Education Institutions beyond the policies and the programmes that have been instituted to deal with these challenges. While structural changes and policies effected in line with the Constitutional principles of a democratic and non-racist South Africa have resulted in fewer instances and experiences of overt racism and discrimination, South Africa’s Higher Education Institutions continue to be characterised by imbalances in the racial composition of academic staff, particularly at the level of the professoriate.

Experiences of covert discrimination often take place at the level of the minutiae of day-day interactions within the institutional space. What renders covert discrimination particularly pernicious is the fact that these experiences are difficult to explain and/or report because of their often seemingly trivial, everyday nature.  Clearly there are processes and the mechanisms beyond the structural and macro policy level that reproduce and maintain discrimination. This is not to discount that that structural and resource issues play an important role in affecting who has access to universities and how they experience the university space but rather there is evidence that there are other mechanisms and practices at play in the micro-social day-to-day experiences within the institutional space that continue to resist transformation at a primary level and which have not been fully interrogated or described.

For more information about the project and scholarships contact Professor Louise Vincent.

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