Cuppa Conversation: The Limits of Academic Merit in Chile

Updated: Sep 8, 2020

Dr Roxana Chiappa


This event was the first in the CuppaConversation series – a platform of engagement created for students and staff to discuss issues of race, class and gender. The series is conceptualized as an alternative learning space for students and staff. The conversations are anchored on writings of a particular author or scholar invited to be ‘in conversation’ with Nangamso Nxumalo, Awethu Fatyela and/or Nobubele Phuza. The session was held in February 2020 at North Campus, Nelson Mandela University.



This session on ‘The Limits of Academic Merit in Chile: How Social Class of Origin Influences the Careers of Academics with Doctorate Degrees’ was centred on the work of Dr Roxana Chiappa – a lecturer at the Center for Higher Education, Teaching and Learning (CHERTL) at Rhodes University. She obtained her PhD in Higher Education from the University of Washington-Seattle, with a mixed-method study that analyzed the effects of social class of origin on the careers of academics in Chile. Currently, Dr Chiappa is working on a research project that aims to unpack the effects of gender, race and class in the process of formation and the career outcomes of academics in South Africa and Chile.


The conversation with Dr Chiappa follows her work in higher education studies. Her research calls into question the validity of the expectation that doctorate holders are part of the elite in the workforce of their country. This is in light of a comprehensive analysis that examined the mechanisms through which social class of origin of doctorate holders gets reproduced throughout their career. Her research shows that social class of origin of doctorate holders in Chile is reproduced through a dynamic of cumulative advantage, triggered by unequal access to prestigious higher educations and the strategic role that networks play in finding and securing academic jobs in Chilean universities. The conversation includes a discussion around the implications of these findings, taking into account the broader demands for increasing the representation of academics who come from historically underrepresented backgrounds.


To find out more about the work CriSHET does, visit us here.

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