n South African Journal of Higher Education - Some issues in affirmative action in higher education in South Africa

Volume 24, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



The purpose of this article is to attempt a surfacing of the assumptions and discourses surrounding the affirmative action debate in higher education in South Africa. The article draws attention to two dominant discourses - the first being that of the patriotic university, and the second being that of the global university. In terms of the first idea, the argument is made that the university should be a mirror of the society in which it operates and therefore, an instrument for realizing its most important policies and ideals. The second insists that the university as an institution arises out of an international commitment to knowledge production, and that this framework provides it with its legitimacy. The article argues that neither of these discourses is able to fully understand and engage with the complexities of affirmative action and its ancillary challenges of racism and racialisation. The first subsumes the university entirely within the dominant politics of the day, whatever they might be, while the second extrapolates the university from the society in which it finds itself.

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