Academics' conceptions of higher education decolonisation

Keywords: Africanisation, decolonisation, indigenisation, knowledges, transformation


The urgency for a decolonised university curriculum in South Africa, occasioned by student protests, demands interrogation of conceptions of decolonisation academic staff hold, seeing that the design and implementation of decolonised education rests largely with them. To determine the academics’ conceptions, the study adopted the interpretivist paradigm, using semi-structured interviews to solicit data from 13 purposively sampled academic staff at a South African university. Data analysis took a grounded analysis approach, where content analysed categories/themes emerged from the transcribed and coded data, not from apriori assumptions. Findings reflected both the conception of decolonisation as recentring and decentring. Findings also pointed to the ubiquitous use of the terms Africa and African(s) in defining decolonisation, conflating Afrocentric philosophy and Africanisation with decolonisation. Such findings represented the conception of decolonisation as a recentring of curriculum from the West to Africa as the centre. Other academics’ conceptions also represented a decentring of knowledge from Western hegemony without necessarily recentring it to African hegemony. Much advocacy was for achieving equality and parity between extant knowledges and hitherto marginalised local knowledges. There was also a manifest vacillation in respondents’ conception of decolonisation as they responded to the different questions, almost evincing a continuum between what can be termed a hard version and a soft version of the concept. The study recommends broader, intensive, institutional discussion of conceptual issues around curriculum decolonisation prior to implementation.issues around curriculum decolonisation prior to implementation.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

J. Sibanda, Sol Plaatje University, Kimberley

Jabulani Sibanda is a senior lecturer in the School of Education at Sol Plaatje University


Chikoko, V. 2016. “Issues in Africanising higher education curricula.” In Africanising the curriculum: Indigenous perspectives and theories, ed. V. Msila and M. T. Gumbo, 71–82. Stellenbosch, South Africa: SUNMeDIA.

Chilisa, B., T. E. Major, M. Gaotlhobogwe and H. Mokgolodi. 2016. “Decolonizing and indigenizing evaluation practice in Africa: Towards African relational evaluation approaches.” Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation Special issue 30(3): 313–328.

Chiumbu, S. 2017. “Why decolonise research methods? Some initial thoughts.” Presentation: HSRC Seminar series, 2 May. (Accessed 1 February 2018).

Cohen, L., L. Manion, and K. Morrison. 2011. Research Methods in Education. 7th Edition. New York: Routledge.

Creswell, J. W. 2012. Educational research Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. 4th Edition. Boston, MA Pearson.

Emeagwali, G. and G. J. Sefa Dei. (Ed.). 2014. African Indigenous Knowledge and the Disciplines. Rotterdam / Boston / Taipei: Sense Publishers.

Kasturi, B. 2019. “Decolonial Turns, Postcolonial Shifts, and Cultural Connections: Are We There Yet?” English Academy Review 36(1): 58–68.

Leedy, P. D. and J. E. Ormrod. 2010. Practical Research: Planning and Design. 9th Edition. Pearson Educational International, Boston.

Le Grange, L. 2014. “Currere’s active force and the Africanisation of the university curriculum.” South African Journal of Higher Education 28(4): 1283–1294.

Le Grange, L. 2016. “Decolonizing the university curriculum.” South African Journal of Higher Education 30(2): 1–12.

Le Grange, L. 2018. “Decolonising, Africanising, indigenising, and internationalising curriculum studies: Opportunities to (re)imagine the field.” Journal of Education 74: 4‒18.

Leibowitz, B. 2017. “Cognitive justice and the higher education curriculum.” Journal of Education 68: 93–111.

Lichtman, M. 2013. Qualitative research in education. 3rd Edition. SAGE Publications. Inc.: Thousand Oaks.

Mbembe, A. 2015. “Decolonizing knowledge and the question of the archive.” 20and%20the%20Question%20of%20the%20Archive.pdf. (Accessed 29 May 2018).

Motta, S. C. 2013, “Teaching global and social justice as transgressive spaces of possibility.” Antipode 45(1): 80–100.

Ndlovu-Gatsheni, S. J. 2013. “Why Decoloniality in the 21st Century? The Thinker for Thought Leaders.” Journal for Progressive Thought 48(10): 10–15.

Olivier, B. 2019. “Decolonisation, Identity, Neo-Colonialism and Power.” Phronimon 20: 1–18.

Samuel, M. A. 2017. Book Review of “Africanising the Curriculum: Indigenous Perspectives and Theories” by Vuyisile Msila and Mishack T. Gumbo (Eds.). Educational Research for Social Change (ERSC) 6(1): 87–92.

Santos, B. S. 2009. “A Non-Occidentalist West? Learned Ignorance and Ecology of Knowledge.” Theory Culture & Society 26(7‒8): 103–125.

How to Cite
Sibanda, J. 2021. “Academics’ Conceptions of Higher Education Decolonisation”. South African Journal of Higher Education 35 (3), 182-99.
General Articles