Dialogue & learning concerning ‘impact’ in CUS

Updated: Sep 7, 2020

With thanks to Su Ming Khoo for this contribution


The ACUS Winter School (2019) opened a field of dialogue and learning concerning the theme of ‘Impact’ in critical higher education studies. A series of workshops, during the ‘Emancipatory Imaginations: Advancing Critical University Studies’ Winter School, acted as spaces to: explore potential modes and mechanisms for advancing African Critical University Studies (ACUS); build solidarities, networks and collaborations; shape strategies and partnerships for emancipatory impact; collate resources; and identify strategic areas for multi-stakeholder projects and funding applications.


Two main streams of impact [1] were explored, giving consideration to what CUS needs / aims to ‘Study’ and what CUS needs / aims to ‘Inform’: ‘Practice’ and ‘Policy and Regulation’.


Under ‘Practice’, three themes that we identified for CUS to ‘Study’ were:

  • Collaboration

  • Curriculum Learning and Innovation

  • Development Paradigms and Goals

A cross-cutting theme of ‘Epistemologies’ acts a lens through which each of these themes might be interrogated

This led to four identified themes for CUS to ‘Inform Practice’:

  • Informing the improvement of collaboration

  • Informing curricular learning and innovation

  • Informing professional practice and

  • Informing policy change

Under ‘Policy and Regulation’, one stream was identified for CUS to ‘Study’:

  • Policies and Context

This had three identified sub-themes:

  • Funding mechanisms and problems

  • Technology

  • Ethics and norms (this might also be treated as a lens through which the policies and context, funding and technology might be interrogated)

This led to four main areas for CUS to ‘Inform Policy and Regulation’

  • Funding models

  • Transparency and Accountability

  • Justice and Social Change

  • Values Based Education and Normative Transformation



Recording on the discussions about the impact of Policy, Practice Guidelines and other Regulations for the Transformation of Higher Education


The aim of this session was to begin to create a resource map of current policy, practice guidelines and regulations for the transformation of higher education in the so-called lower-to-middle-income-countries. It was also to critically consider the affordances, limitations, principle-implementation gaps and perverse incentives of such policies, practice guidelines and regulations in shaping this transformation, both in driving positive change and in creating discursive and practical limitations for how this transformation happens. This required both pragmatic considerations of these limitations, and the development of imaginative possibilities both within and outside of regulation.


Contributors: Mahlubi Mabizela is Chief Director for University Education Policy and Support in the Department of Higher Education and Training in South Africa. Brightness Mangolothi is a Director at Higher Education Resource Services South Africa (HERSSA). Shervani K. Pillay is an Associate Professor in the School for Education Research and Engagement in the Faculty of Education at the Nelson Mandela University. Vivienne Bozalek is Professor and the Director of Teaching and Learning at the University of the Western Cape. Michael Okyerefo is Professor and a Cultural Sociologist and a Sociologist of Religion at the University of Ghana. This sessions was chaired by Luzuko Buku, who is a PhD candidate at Nelson Mandela University and also serves on the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and is a former Secretary General of the South African Students Congress (SASCO).


More about the full Winter School programme:



[1] ‘Pathways to impact’ is a phrase prevalent in the UK funding landscape used to describe strategies for the translation of research findings to those who can make a difference or effect change. It encompasses academic, economic and societal research. ‘Pathways to impact’ might include informing policy, capacity building, practitioner involvement (including student voices, unions, transformation/diversity officers, community engagement); feeding into curricula and education across the life course; and working in partnership with the media/press and the arts, NGOs and governmental organisations.

The problematics of achieving impact for those in CUS might include institutional and disciplinary resistance, institutional/professional risk, researcher precarity, and funding mechanisms which do not support and reward this area of academic activity.


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