(Re)imagining and (Re)enacting Competing Policy Imperatives. The Case of Post-Apartheid South African Higher Education
Upenyu Majee

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Wisconsin-Madison

Primary Discipline

Following international isolation, regional destabilization, and racial discrimination during apartheid, South African public universities face increasing pressures to respond simultaneously to conflicting policy imperatives. First is the pressure to internationalize, understood as integrating within the competitive, globalized knowledge economy that places high value on elite, world-class and research-intensive universities. Second is the pressure for regional cooperation, linked to South Africa’s indebtedness to neighboring countries for, among other things, the destabilization that they suffered for supporting the anti-apartheid struggle. Third are national demands for racial equity and redress through higher education transformation/decolonization, necessitated by the legacy of exclusionary policies and practices enacted during apartheid. I draw and build on sociological institutionalism (Barnett & Finnemore, 1999, 2004) to understand how higher education stakeholders (re)imagine and (re)enact the internationalization, regionalization, and transformation/decolonization imperatives of the country’s post-apartheid public universities – to whom they belong, who they serve, and what knowledge they value and generate. The dissertation is based on a six-month institutional ethnography at one of the country’s leading historically white research-intensive universities. It explores how public universities position themselves as institutional actors globally, regionally and nationally; and how South African and international students experience the competing imperatives shaping higher education policy and practice. The study’s findings will help explicate the tensions that arise for countries with entrenched histories of racial conflict, as they navigate post-/neo-colonial relations, re-invent their educational missions in response to new mandates, and carve out their place in an increasingly competitive, globalized marketplace for higher education.
About Upenyu Majee
Upenyu Majee is a joint PhD candidate in Educational Policy Studies and Development Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research interests include the nature and implications of engagements between Global South and Global North entities that create and constitute the global higher education policy infrastructure. Upenyu holds MA degrees in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis and African Languages and Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and a BA degree in English Literature and Linguistics from the University of Zimbabwe. While at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Upenyu has worked as an Academic Lead for a Pre-college program serving college-bound students from minority backgrounds; Teaching Assistant at undergraduate and graduate levels; and Academic Coordinator for the State Department-funded Mandela Washington Fellowship/Young African Leaders Initiative. Prior to coming to the United States for graduate studies, he spent eight years with the Ministry of Education in Zimbabwe teaching High School English, and serving as Headmaster/Principal.

Pin It on Pinterest