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PhD Topics and Projects

The field of higher education is complex and includes a vast range of broad areas such as teaching and learning studies, policy studies, management studies, historical studies and so on. Applicants are invited to develop their own potential areas of study and are welcome to contact us for advice and support as they do so. The wide range of interests and areas of expertise of the supervisors ensures that students can be well matched to work with someone who has knowledge of and interest in the student’s chosen topic.

At present we have PhD scholars researching in the following areas:

  • Quality Assurance in Higher Education
  • Internationalization of Higher Education/ Globalization of Higher Education
  • Reform in Higher Education in an era of neoliberalism
  • Epistemological access to higher education
  • Funding of higher education

We also have two large NRF funded projects which includes a number of PhD scholars using a shared theoretical framework to analyse a joint problem.

The first project, Social Inclusion in Higher Education, has run from 2011. Social Inclusion is a relatively new area of study in Higher Education in South Africa. Higher education holds the promise of contributing to social equity, intellectual, cultural, social, economic and political development, and democracy and social justice. Institutions of higher learning potentially offer powerful opportunities for fostering the economic and social advancement of members of disadvantaged and marginalised social classes and groups, for promoting understanding of and respect for difference and diversity and forging social cohesion.

Although access to higher education has been granted to all people of our nation for some years, concerns are being raised about the extent to which such physical access is combined with access to ‘the goods’ of the university. This includes the knowledge constructed within the university and the social context of the university. Low retention rates and demographically skewed success rates indicate that for some the University is not the place of empowerment we would want it to be. The promise of higher education often remains unrealised and instead universities frequently continue to be a powerful mechanism of social exclusion and injustice, through both their own internal thinking, structures, cultures and practices and their external relations with wider society. Studies in social inclusion investigate the extent to which universities foster social inclusion and the mechanisms whereby and reasons why they might not do so.

Five scholars have already graduated from this project: Sherran Clarence, Jacqui Lück, Thandeka MkhizeKasturi Behari-Leak and Gabi De Bie. The following scholars are in the final stages of their PhD studies in this project: Siyabulela Sabata, Thabile Mthombeni, and Genevieve Haupt.

The second collaborative NRF project continues the focus on social inclusion and looks specifically at the role played by Institutional Differentiation. The project was launched in 2014 and includes 7 PhD scholars: Kevin Ncube, Renee Morrison, Puleng Motshoane, Nomathemba Ngcobo, Amanda Mphahlele, Temwa Moyo, and Evelyn Muthama.

Teaching and learning is often understood to be a neutral activity, where ‘good practice’ can be transferred across institutional contexts. But there is ample research that indicates that teaching practice emerges from the interplay of academics and students with a mass of structural and cultural mechanisms. This project looks in particular at the way in which teaching and learning practices emerge from the nature of the institution. The term 'Institutional Differentiation' in this project relates to a number of kinds of difference from institutional type (traditional, comprehensive and university of technology) through to institutional history (original construction, historical funding, programme qualification mix, institutional processes) and institutional purpose (academic goals, aims, vision and mission).


Last Modified: Tue, 14 Nov 2017 16:28:12 SAST