Equity and in/equality

PROJECT TITLE: Transformation towards sustainability in higher education: Interactional dynamics in gender and intersectionality
Collaborators: Dr Nandita Banerjee Dhawan (School of Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University), Dr Dina Belluigi (Higher Education studies, Queen’s University Belfast) with the collaboration of Dr Grace Idahosa (Centre for Social Change, University of Johannesburg)

UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) identify a number of global challenges that affect Lower-Middle Income Countries (LMICs), including quality education (4), gender inequality (5), and strong institutions for peace and justice (16). Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are intended as key drivers of these SDGs, with outcome targets of the transformative HE agenda including gender equality and inclusion to be fit-for-purpose to promote sustainable development by 2030. This pilot project considers the relation between policy-practice in the participation of the diverse academic staff (across markers of difference including gender, race, caste/ ethnicity, religion, ability, etc.) in HE in India and South Africa, to study the interconnectedness of sustainability and the transformation agenda in teaching, research and governance within higher education institutions.

The aim of this pilot project is to map an evidence base of the policy-practice relationship within six representative institutions within each national context, thereby identifying the critical focal areas for a larger comparative study on sustainability and equality in the drive for building world class universities.

Sign up to the blog page for informal information as the project grows. For research related information as the project progresses, go to ResearchGate Projects.

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PROJECT TITLE: Positioned on a ‘tight rope’: The reception of equity-agenda development programmes in a rapidly transforming higher education context
Collaborating researchers: Dr Dina Zoe Belluigi (Queens University Belfast) and Dr Gladman Thondhlana (Rhodes University, South Africa)

This research project is concerned with the complexities of relational and interactional diversity of academic staff which have emerged once the minimum expectations of standards of numeric access of black student participants were met in an historically white university. In the national context of South Africa, a number of well-funded, meticulously planned, and prestigious affirmative action programmes were created precisely to ‘assure’ the quality of individuals selected from historically under-represented groups to be ‘future leaders’ in key academic positions in higher education. Structured institutional evaluation processes and relationships were established to ensure the quality of the recipients of such programmes through the ‘development’ of the recipients’ research, teaching and civic engagement. These programmes have been deemed largely successful in terms of safeguarding quality while increasing staff diversity, and thus have been rolled out nationally, with funding now mainstreamed by the state.

However, this study surfaced the ways in which those represented as a supplement to transformation have paid a tremendous cost by being positioned on the continuum between transformation as redressing demographic imbalances and the quality assurance of academic faculty. Our role was not to ascertain the quality of such programmes, but in response to a request by some of the recipients, we aimed to explore the more fundamental and nuanced problematic of institutional transformation through inviting insights into the lived experiences of the programmes’ recipients. Of the 27 who actively participated, data was generated via a questionnaire, followed by presentation of our analysis to small discussion groups. Additional engagement occurred through postcards with metaphors chosen from the questionnaire responses which invited participants to compose messages to imagined readers of their choice within the institution.

Journal article outputs currently being peer-reviewed from this project:

  • Belluigi, D. Z. & Thondhlana, G. 2019. ‘Why mouth all the pieties?’: Lived experiences of the recipients of faculty equity-agenda programmes for the transformation of South African higher education.  Higher Education [online]. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-019-00380-w
  • Transformation or ‘training the dog’? Faculty insights into approaches to access and equity within an historically white institution in South Africa
  • Beyond numbers: The paradox of belonging as black and women academics at ’transforming’ South African university

Impact for this project see here

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