University and Society research theme invitation

STIAS is calling for expressions of interest in its youngest research theme “University and Society: Disruption, Discourse and New Directions”.

Projects under this theme should attempt to understand and unpack the deep complexities of the South African university against the background of global discussions on the changing role of the university.

Although many of the higher education challenges facing South Africa are true of universities almost everywhere, they are especially pertinent in South Africa because of the crises of the past few years. The sector is faced with urgent societal challenges warranting advanced and forward-looking scholarship and research with the aim of generating not only scholarly output, but also societal impact.

The research theme was conceptualised in several meetings of invited experts over the past two years (read report1 and report2), culminating in the publication of a concept note (on the STIAS website, see Research > Themes > University and Society, or click here to download the pdf).

The concept note identifies four sub-themes which will form a broad framework within which potential contributors are invited to locate their scholarship and research. The four sub-themes and their designated convenors are:

  • Understanding the colonial legacies and post-colonial realities of the university
    Convenors: Peter Vale (University of Johannesburg),
    David Hornsby (University College London and University of the Witwatersrand),
    Ruksana Osman (University of the Witwatersrand).
  • The entanglements of knowledge traditions and transitions in the university
    Convenors: Francis Nyamnjoh (University of Cape Town),
    N’Dri Assie-Lumumba (Cornell University)
  • Understanding the contemporary university
    Convenor: Chris Brink (Emeritus Vice-Chancellor, Newcastle University, UK)
  • The university of the future
    Convenors: Peter Vale (University of Johannesburg) and
    David Hornsby (University College London and University of the Witwatersrand),
    Ruksana Osman (University of the Witwatersrand).

[STIAS is currently negotiating the participation of additional convenors; as soon as this process is concluded their details and role will be communicated as an addendum to this announcement.]

Please consult the concept note for more information on the sub-themes. Note that (1) while the first three areas emphasise the unfolding of past and present processes, the last area focuses more pertinently on future developments. (2) In each of these four areas, the focus on the South African context could be progressively broadened – where appropriate – to invite or invoke perspectives describing developments in Africa or other parts of the globe or, more broadly, global contexts and trends.

Apart from the usual mode of participation by means of a fellowship at STIAS, other forms of collaboration in joint projects are also envisaged to be organised by convenors from time to time.

Interested persons are hereby invited to participate in this theme, either by submitting an independent project proposal according to the regular STIAS application process, or as participants within one of the sub-themes by contacting the respective convenor(s) for information about ongoing joint projects.

Interested persons can also sign up to receive a bi-annual newsletter about projects and developments in this theme. To contact the convenors or to sign up for the newsletter, please send an email to Johann Groenewald at .

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