From ‘access’ for ‘success’ to ‘challenge’

Equity is often considered through notions of ‘access’ and ‘inclusion’, which at their most fundamental, are about widening access of certain groups who are (or have been historically) under-represented in Higher education. The possibilities and problematics of access in higher education cane be grouped according to two significant purposes, what I have loosely grouped as ‘access for success’ and ‘access for challenge’. ‘Success’ discourses have grown to acknowledge that epistemological and ontological access is necessary for individuals to succeed in their studies or their careers. However, they have been critiqued for being reproductive and assimilationist, particularly in contexts where they privilege individual private benefits over public social change. ‘Challenge’ discourses acknowledge the costs of the politics of access to, and belonging within, powerful structures and cultures.

Informed by the largely ineffectual shifts that have been effected in historically white institutions in South Africa, my orientation has steadily become more critical of gestures at such institutions made in the name of ‘peacekeeping’ and ‘inclusivity’, and as such have been drawn to work looking at the politics of belonging and representation within the gatekeeping dynamics of assessment and evaluation.

Perhaps we can use space for us to discover, through our interactions, discussions, and research, the ways in which substantive opportunities and conditions may be enabled for staff and students to challenge the de/legitimating authority of academia, and to affect substantive change for public or common good?


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