The role of feminisms in building a transformation framework for institutions of higher learning in South Africa

Efua Prah, Terri Maggott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The dawn of democracy in 1994 ushered in a period of radical change in the higher education sector of South Africa. This rupture represented an opportunity to avoid the replication of patriarchally informed, racially charged, neoliberal practices. More than twenty years later under the banner of Fees Must Fall, students, workers, and academics challenged the exclusionary, racist, exploitative and sexist nature of Higher Learning Institutions that have persisted since this transition from apartheid. In this paper, we reiterate a tested argument in (South) African feminist scholarship by proposing that to fulfil this goal towards transformation and change in and across HLIs, a critical starting point is to use feminist theories to deconstruct parochial, patriarchal ideologies. We review some of the key arguments that various feminists have put forth in relation to meaningfully transforming institutional cultures and pedagogies, ranging from anti-apartheid feminisms to more contemporary, intersectional feminisms and further argue that the neoliberalisation of HLIs, manifested in the capturing of private markets within the education sector, and practices of output-based productivity measurements that create bedrocks of racially charged epistemic exclusions, echo hierarchical patriarchal elements that are remnants of colonialism and apartheid.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-539
Number of pages25
JournalSocial Dynamics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • feminisms
  • Higher Learning Institutions
  • patriarchy
  • transformation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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