Valuing differentiation as a qualified good: the case of South African higher education

Singh, Mala (2008). Valuing differentiation as a qualified good: the case of South African higher education. Higher Education Policy, 21(2) pp. 245–263.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/hep.2008.8

Abstract

The analytical literature as well a range of policy documents in higher education indicate the extent to which diversity and differentiation have become staples of higher education reform and indicators of progress in many countries with very different histories and development trajectories. This paper examines a number of rationales in support of differentiation to illuminate the range of expectations associated with it, which span social justice, efficiency and innovation issues. It proceeds to draw on issues from the post-1994 restructuring of South African higher education in order to reflect on the conditions under which differentiation could yield optimal levels of social and educational value, especially in contexts of severe socio-economic inequality. The paper argues that the potential value of differentiation as a policy strategy must be seen in tandem with the possible risks that accompany it. It also points to the need to negotiate tensions and conflicts between differentiation and other chosen policy goals.

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