Infusing content into higher education curricula

Rau, A. 2008. Infusing HIV/AIDS content into higher education curricula: Theory and reason - Activism and passion. Paper presented at the ‘HECU4 (Higher Education Close Up 4) Conference’, 26-26 June, Cape Town: UCT Breakwater Conference Centre.


As a humanitarian issue HIV/AIDS is mobilizing people across geographical, social, political and economic divides. HIV/AIDS has also become an industry driven by billions of dollars of funding. From transnational to grassroots levels, myriad organisations have been set up specifically to respond to the pandemic, while others have reshaped themselves around an HIV/AIDS agenda. Together these HIV and AIDS initiatives are generating vast quantities of knowledge, and a canon of literature remarkable in its diversity. In contrast, the response to HIV/AIDS in the Higher Education sector has been slow. Research reports, peer-reviewed publications and other knowledge outputs do, of course, emerge from the academy – but it is often the case that by the time these are circulated, on-the-ground innovations in HIV/AIDS responses have surged ahead.

Nonetheless, there are a number of HIV/AIDS-focused curricula currently on offer in South Africa, several of which are packaged as professional degrees. These no doubt satisfy agendas driven by social, market and political needs and widen access to funding. But ‘professionalising’ HIV/AIDS at university level means that knowledge devolves mainly to those who already have a particular interest in the field. If higher education aims to produce graduates who are able to respond appropriately to the multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral challenges posed by the pandemic, then a broader dissemination and application of HIV/AIDS knowledge across different disciplines and programmes may be more appropriate.

But to what extent is the curricular infusion of HIV/AIDS discourse – knowledge, attitudes, and practices – within and across disciplines possible? Given the internal structure of disciplines, and the particular forms and processes of knowledge within them - which are likely disciplinary sites for infusing HIV/AIDS knowledge, and which are not? Importantly - are curricular interventions interrogated in terms of these questions? In exploring these issues, this paper draws on interim findings of an in-depth review of Rhodes University’s curricular response to HIV/AIDS and brings this data into dialogue with insights from educational theorists Basil Bernstein and Karl Maton.


Last Modified: Fri, 18 May 2018 16:25:53 SAST