n South African Journal of Higher Education - The `idea of engagement' and `the African university in the 21st Century' : some reflections

Special Edition 1
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



The theme of the 2005 biennial SAARDHE conference, `The African University in the 21st Century' provokes a discussion of fundamentals, in a similar manner to JH Newman's grapple with `the idea of the university' and more recently, the question proposed by the Association of Commonwealth Universities of whether universities should embrace `engagement with the wider society' as a core value? In this article I wish to critically reflect on recent debates on `the idea of engagement' and in which sense such debates have pertinence for `the African University in the 21st century'. Specifically, I shall look at engagement through the lens of research and examine what spaces the discourse of engagement might offer for the inclusion of indigenous knowledge in research processes. Since universities have traditionally specialised in knowledge production and manipulation it is fitting to focus on the role that the African University might play in knowledge production processes in the context of a global society that is fast becoming what is referred to as a `knowledge society' and in the context of local communities amongst whom indigenous ways of knowing reside.

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