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Globalization, democratization and knowledge production at three South African Universities Muthayan, Saloshini

Abstract

Following the demise of apartheid in 1994, new higher education policies have placed high expectations on universities to play a pivotal role in the transformation. This study examines the responses of academics, graduate students, senior managers and librarians at three universities to the changes resulting from globalization (neoliberal reforms, growth and new technologies) and democratization (redress and equity) and whether these universities have the research capacity to contribute to social justice in South Africa.. Case studies were conducted at the universities of Port Elizabeth, Fort Hare and Rhodes. In-depth interviews and surveys were conducted with 108 participants across the disciplines who identified the dominant changes as increased managerialism/ entrepreneurialism, the establishment of representative governance structures and equity policies and a shift from Mode 1 (pure, basic and fundamental research) to Mode 2 (applied, transdisciplinary and transinstitutional) form of research. Adopting critical postmodern, feminist and decolonising methodologies, I find that the tension between the dual goals of globalization and democratization has made it difficult for universities to pay equal attention to achieving growth and social redress. The effect of the neoliberal policies embedded in modernist assumptions has been to silence the redress intentions of these policies, thereby bringing into jeopardy the transformation of South African higher education. First, managerialism redirects the energies of these institutions away from the democratization project. Second, neoliberal economic reforms place pressures on researchers, reducing their research capacity. Third, the equity emphasis on representativeness and numbers serves the project of modernity instead. Fourth, the neoliberal preoccupation with merit reproduces the hegemony of the dominant group. Fifth, Mode 2 research is not being applied appropriately in research involving communities and indigenous knowledge systems. Sixth, decolonizing methodologies, as well as critical postmodern methodologies, are needed to deconstruct and 'de-struct' the modernist and hence colonial and racist apparatuses of these institutions. Although the three universities evince commitment and hope for the future, their capacity to contribute to growth and redress through research remains constrained by the dissonance between policy intents and implementation. The study makes a number of recommendations for building research capacity that will advance the transformation of these institutions and allow for stronger research partnerships with indigenous communities.

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