Sociology Department Hosts SASA 2016

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SASA 2016 Full Poster
SASA 2016 Full Poster



Education in South Africa is a fundamental component of democratic consolidation, socio-economic transformation and social justice. The higher education question in South Africa is a complex web of interrelated race, class, age and gender, nationality and sexual orientation issues. The constitution with its minimalist approach to education falls far short of undoing the indelible legacy of apartheid. How to balance the competing imperatives of socio-economic transformation, access and equity, quality, accountability, transparency and global competitiveness remains a daunting undertaking particularly within the government’s commitment to a market-led education system.

RhodesMustFall, RhodesSoWhite, OpenStellenbosch and TranformWits, as student-led protests in historically-white universities in the first part of 2015, brought the fault-lines of our democracy into critical focus. Most importantly, the untransformed character of the higher education system in South Africa was challenged and questioned. The message was loud and clear: Black students have been short-changed throughout the twenty years of democracy. While controversy rages, the rationale and wider ramifications of these developments have yet to be fully appreciated amongst university leadership and management as well as academic staff and the student body. Until this is done, stability and sustainability of the sector will remain in question.

This cannot be achieved through coercive measures that further marginalise and exclude the majority. The issues raised by the students are historical and interlocking. The higher education system continues to mirror both the colonial and apartheid past, not just demographically but in terms of access, equity, funding, knowledge production, the curriculum and graduates unemployment, as well as the perennial problem of high attrition, retention, drop-out rates and academic exclusion.

Despite higher education being in crisis, demand for access to higher education is incrementally growing. At this juncture we need to revisit the education question in South Africa at intellectual, policy and pragmatic levels. Higher education institutions, as socially embedded in power relations, practices and discourses, have failed to interrogate decisively their complicity in the higher education crisis as they have instead put the blame squarely on the government. What then is the education question in South Africa? To what extent are higher education institutions ready to accommodate the ‘new’ student realities? What does it mean to construct an African university? Should global competitiveness take precedence over local needs? These are some of the key questions the conference needs to address.

This 26th annual session of SASA seeks to revisit the higher education crisis in its broadest sense. There is need to interrogate the policies, trends, patterns, debates, discourses, actors and the future direction of the higher education landscape in the country. Such a discussion cannot simply be left in the hands of bureaucrats alone but needs to find resonance with, and be animated by, academics, researchers, students and the broader public.


Zine Magubane (Boston College, US)

Local Organising Committee:

Babalwa Magoqwana (Chairperson), Babalwa Sishuta (Secretary), Komlan Agbedahin and Julia Nkoane

Email address:

Abstract deadline: March 2016

Abstract submission process: Abstract should be submitted on-line @
You should also email your abstract to the relevant Working Group Convenor. A list of the details of the Working Group Convenors is available at

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