n South African Journal of Higher Education - About tarbrushing and feathering : developing institutional capacity for postgraduate research within a "historically disadvantaged institution"

Volume 14, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



Often when seeking out new models of education and training systems, there is a tendency to look to exemplars from outside of one's own immediate environment: in the international context, in the more advantaged and better resourced institutions within the region or country, or even within an institution itself. Are these choices appropriate and/or relevant to our existing needs and goals, or are they simply politically expedient to buy into the dominant discourse concerning what constitutes "good quality" education? This article attempts to provide a critical description of a postgraduate research training and development model beyond the context of "external" models. Instead it draws on the experiences from within the context of an institution that has not been historically architectured to serve the goals of a "researching institution", in an institution that is labeled a "historically disadvantaged institution" (HDI). In the description I will show how strategic development of the postgraduate research sector is being undertaken at the University of Durban-Westville, Faculty of Education. Hopefully this will attempt to counteract the tarbrushing and feathering that accompanies most descriptions of the HDI sector. This article highlights the danger of homogenising all HDI's as fatalistically doomed when meeting the challenges of a fiercely competitive higher education environment in the late 1990's. This article aims to speak also to sectors within and outside the HDI sector who have disparate qualities in postgraduate research training and development, providing a counterpoint to the reports of negative experiences presented by some students from the HDI sector. The "home-grown" models arising out of the particular experiences of a HDI are perhaps most pertinent to realising the specific realities that confront the South African higher education sector. Rather than casting ourselves within a deficiency syndrome, this article will argue that the HDI sector could provide a key to unlocking the potential of a large majority of future South African researchers. The experiences of the HDI sector could provide the basis for reviewing which exemplars and models are being held up as targets towards which all should aspire.

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