A black space: exploring the institutional constraints and opportunities on black academics’ careers in historically black universities

Zharima, Campion
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This study explores the opportunities and challenges faced by black academics in historically black universities. The universities included in this study are the University of the Western Cape and the University of Fort Hare. These universities were the products of the segregated colonial and apartheid university system that was introduced to keep black and white people apart. From the two sites of study, the research sheds light on the complexities of integration for black academics and the inherited institutional struggles that affect their roles as academics. They also present the contrast between urban (e.g. University of the Western Cape) and rural based campuses(University of Fort Hare)and the disparities between advantaged and disadvantaged institutions. To understand the experiences of black academics at these universities, the study is guided by critical race theory, politics of belonging and intersectionality. This gives insight into both opportunities and challenges faced by black academics. Through the recollection of experiences from participants, one of the purposes of this study is to illuminate the enabling and disabling aspects of institutional cultures in historically black institutions and how they affect belonging. The findings of this study are based on a sample of 27 black men and woman academics that participated in semi-structured in-depth interviews. Through athematic analysis of the data gathered, the findings suggest that the core challenges faced by black academics pertain to poor institutional finances and infrastructure, inadequate career progression measures and a lack of transformation initiatives that are aligned to institutional culture. However, this also comes with associated benefits such as a supportive atmosphere and community, diversity in leadership and funding that is aimed towards black academics. Based on the input from the participants, the following recommendations are offered: a funding structure that is sensitive to the colonial and apartheid history of deprivation of historically black universities, an increase inequity programmes and special support for black academics working at these institutions.
A research project submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters by Coursework and Research Report in the field of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, 2020