Exploring the problem of authorship and authority in academia

How is agency shaped, impacted and nurtured
in those with the responsibility for representation?

Varying approaches to the critique and interpretation of artefacts have been debated since the very beginnings of philosophy. In my doctoral study, I chose not to engage with those intractable, well-tilled debates. Rather, I sought insights into unchartered terrain – how approaches to intepretation play out during the assessment of the precarious and uncertain development of artist-students’ practice, metacognitive skills and identity as artists. What emerged was a problematic – of fragile (but sometimes surprisingly resilient) desire for growth, and powerful traditions of communal academic authority.

I have extended this concern with authorship and authority, to explore how systems of judgement and assessment in higher education interact with individuals’ intentions, because I believe it provides important insights into their significance for our ability to exercise agency. One research trajectory explores the relationships between how academic staff are evaluated, and how such assessments as to what is valued impact on transformation and equity. Another trajectory seeks to chart the ways in which staff members’ agency, to implement educational change in their professional practice in higher education, is impacted by their vastly different geographic and socio-economic contexts, cultures and structures. As you will note in my blog postings, I keep wrestling with how situating the author may work towards challenging authority. And so, I attempt to create a space for such authoring centrally within my teaching programmes.

I’m interested in how such insights can inform productive shifts to the larger mechanisms of power in higher education institutions, in the hopes of enhancing the possibilities of the academic project. Below I share some of the related projects, in order of those most recent. 

Belluigi, D. Z. 2018. ‘Conjuring the spectre of authorship: Ethical concerns for studies of higher education in a globalised world’. Paper presented at ‘Higher Education in a Global World’, 2nd Annual International Symposium on, Athens, Greece, 09/07/2018 – 12/07/2018. https// Open Access slides accessible here

Belluigi, D. Z. 2017. ‘Questions of authorship: A Higher Education Studies programme connecting international contexts’. Paper presented at the Society for Research in Higher Education (SRHE)Annual Research Conference, Newport, United Kingdom, 06/12/2017 – 08/12/2017 . 10.13140/RG.2.2.23289.31846. Slides accessible here.

Belluigi, D. Z. 2016. ‘Situating ‘the author’ within the development and assessment of teaching portfolios’ International Consortium for Educational Development (ICED) 2016, Cape Town


Central to the history of universities across the globe, and the continued systemic problems and barriers it enacts on people and places, are colonial and imperial notions of quality as exclusion and sameness, and the concurrent delegitimation of knowledges and ways of being that do not fit with the western-oriented university’s image of itself. This Project hopes to contribute nuances and complexity to the stories of change in author-ity in our societies. As part of its process, a collection of video artworks were created by artists interpreting, engaging and re-imaging first-generation academics’ life experiences within universities in South Africa, India, Syria and Zimbabwe. Data about the conceptual impact of the artworks and dialogue is being generated through various audience reception engagements; in addition to data from the artists and academic participants about counter-narrratives and authorship. 

See the website for more –

A recent video paper we produced about the project is below.

Belluigi, D. Z. & Meistre, B. A. 2021. Authoring author-ity in transition? The ‘Counter // Narratives of Higher Education’ Project. Video of paper for the conference Visualising Social Changes: Seen and Unseen of the International Visual Sociology Association Annual Conference.

A Higher Education Studies Arts Archive

ROLE: Curator

Banner Pic Arts archive-2
screenshot from H.E. Studies Arts Archive

From the outside peering it, the world of academia is often represented as shrouded in myth and nostalgia. For many, though, it is experienced as an outdated relic carrying a massive price tag. Within its walls, large cracks are becoming increasingly impossible to ignore –  between street smarts and conventions of authority, between private profit and societal good. Most poignantly, the promise of fortune and freedom in the ways higher education is sold to the public, rubs salt in the wounds of both those baring the cost of exclusion from such dreams, and those squeezing themselves into the tight moulds set for students and academics to succeed. Snippets of this discontent arise frequently in the media and are often shamelessly abused by politicians across the world to get young voters’ attention. But because the dispassionate, rational and disembodied are the most valued characteristics of objective study, the insider perspectives of participants of higher education are largely dismissed by those in the academy as anecdotal.

This online archive places such lived experience centre stage, by drawing insights from international music, visual arts, plays, books, memoires, blogs and films across various contexts, perspectives and times, which touch on the messiness of life in higher education.  Through excerpts of stories, splices of scenes and exhibition walkabouts, alongside interviews with participants of higher education, we’ll explore how these creative artefacts offer us rich counter-narratives to challenge the taken-for-granted myths of educational systems, in nuanced and provocative ways. Whether the university features as backdrop, a protagonist or a space of possibility, these artefacts provide openings for us to journey, alongside students and staff, as they tell us their stories of negotiating the demands and diversity of personal and professional relationships, while they meander through the unexpected mazes of curiosity and learning.

You are invited to peruse and to contribute to this archive – either by suggesting titles or events to me (Dina Belluigi via or by sending your own brief take on those texts you’ve engaged with. Any language or format. Let me know how you’d like me to cite you, and if you’d me to hyperlink to you directly – to create further openings for engagement by those interested.

Link to archive here: H.E. Studies Arts Archive