Re-visiting the decolonising of South African higher education question: A systematic literature review


During and soon after the #feesmustfall and decolonisation student protests in South Africa, the decolonisation topic invaded the academic world in the country. There seems to exist a heterogeneity of viewpoints regarding what decolonising higher education entails. A search for systematic reviews on this topic did not yield any results. Such reviews can reveal what we currently know, what we do not know, and guide the knowledge production process going forward. This article analyses published research articles on decolonising higher education in South Africa through the lenses of soft reform, radical reform and “beyond-reformâ€. Findings show that some papers dwell on decolonising isolated aspects of the university such as a programme or qualification, some on decolonising the entire university curriculum, and others on transforming the entire university. The article concludes that seeking to decolonise isolated aspects of the university constitute sub-soft reform strategies which leave the colonial pillars intact and therefore not contributing significantly to the decolonial project. Works that seek to decolonise the entire university curriculum are moving in the right direction towards radical reform, however, the article argues that to dismantle the colonial character of the present university requires the struggle to stretch beyond that. The South African university has a double-barrelled role to decolonise itself and to inform the societal decolonial project.

Author Biography

V. Chikoko, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Discipline of Educational Leadership, Management and Policy


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How to Cite
Chikoko, V. (2021). Re-visiting the decolonising of South African higher education question: A systematic literature review. South African Journal of Higher Education, 35(1), 21-36.
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