n South African Journal of Higher Education - Background knowledge and epistemological access : challenges facing black women in a set scholarship programme : part 2

Volume 29, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



In promoting access to higher education in an unequal society there is a concern that universities may operate in a manner that values background knowledge associated with those who have access to a privileged class location. The authors focus on background knowledge, its contribution to epistemological access to higher education and how such background knowledge is likely to affect black women's academic success. They analyse interviews with 19 black women from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds who are recipients of a Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) scholarship, utilising Ryle's (1945) distinction between knowledge-how and knowledge-that, to understand their challenges in gaining epistemological access to university. Despite the scholarship programme's comprehensive support, the findings suggest that students who enter with background knowledge acquired at well-resourced high schools are academically advantaged. The authors argue that SET scholarship programmes which recruit low-income students are necessary, but insufficient interventions for enabling epistemological access. Further responsiveness is required on the part of the university.

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