A university without ruins: Some reflections on possibilities and particularities of an African university

Y. Waghid


Ron Barnett’s (2016) Understanding the university announces that 'the university is a task without end … [and] since the university is always on the move, always moving in its spaces – economic, social, political, cultural, institutional and so on – its possibilities will always be moving on' (Barnett 2016, 9). I concur with Barnett’s cogent analytical take on the contemporary university, and draws on his three-pronged analysis, namely that a university is an institution and an idea; it is an institution in the present with future possibilities; and that it embodies a set of particulars and universals. The particulars and universals want to offer, firstly, a defence of a university as a democratic institution.  Secondly, in line with Jacques Derrida’s (2004) novel thoughts on a contemporary university, I make a case for a university as a responsible institution-in-becoming within an African context, thereby bringing into contestation the notion that a university can ever be ‘in ruins’.


University, Africa, responsibility, particulars, universals

Full Text:



Barnett, R. 2013. Imagining the university. New York, NY: Routledge.

Barnett, R. 2016. Understanding the university: Institution, idea, possibilities. New York, NY: Routledge.

Derrida, J. 2004. Eyes of the university. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Giroux, H.A. 2007. The university in chains. Boulder, CO: Paradigm.

Readings, B. 1996. The university in ruins. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.20853/31-3-1337


  • There are currently no refbacks.

eISSN: 1753-5913

Copyright © 2016 South African Journal of Higher Education

Hosted by Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service since 2016.

Creative Commons License -CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

This journal is hosted by the SU LIS on request of the journal owner/editor. The SU LIS takes no responsibility for the content published within this journal, and disclaim all liability arising out of the use of or inability to use the information contained herein. We assume no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any breaches of agreement with other publishers/hosts.