Chair for Critical Studies in Higher Education Transformation


Professor Andre Keet

Faculty: Education

2019 - 2020

As part of the current debates about the decolonisation of the University, CriSHET’s purpose is to drive the transformation agenda by grounding it in critical studies and framing it within the concept of an African-purposed curriculum. This includes being a strategic resource to various key stakeholders internally and externally and supporting the leadership team, positioning Nelson Mandela University to make strategic impact within the higher education sector.

CriSHET thus works closely with the other entities in the Engagement and Transformation Portfolio, and has provided support to the Hubs of Convergence, the Transdisciplinary Institute for Mandela Studies, and the Centre for Women and Gender Studies.

This school brought together scholars and practitioners from South Africa and countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, India, the UK and Ireland. The result has been an extensive and productive network of scholars, who have come together most recently to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the study of the university. CriSHET also supports a growing cohort of postgraduate researchers and two NRF-funded Critical University Studies projects.

Since its launch in 2018, CriSHET has made great strides in working towards its vision of being a premier national, regional and international site for critical studies and praxes in higher education transformation. It hosts a long-running seminar series entitled [Re] Directions/Ukutshintshwa Kwendlela: Knowledge, Praxes and the African-Purposed Curriculum and has also co-hosted a number of public lectures by scholars of decolonisation.

Central to CriSHET’s work has been the development of Critical University Studies and other alternative, radical approaches to studying the university. In 2019, in collaboration with Queen’s University, Belfast, CriSHET hosted a Winter School on the theme Emancipatory Imaginations: Advancing Critical University Studies.

Other recent notable activities have been Prof André Keet’s presentation on “Racism’s Knowledge, Critical Hope and the Transformation of the University” in the webinar The Contribution of Universities to Racial Justice, co-hosted by the Society for Research in Higher Education, South West Network, the International Centre for Higher Education Management (University of Bath), and CriSHET; and the publication of the first volume in the On Higher Education Transformation book series, co-edited by Prof Keet and Prof Michael Cross, entitled Scholarly Engagement and Decolonisation: Views from South Africa, The Netherlands and the United States.

“CriSHET’s purpose is to drive the transformation agenda by grounding it in critical studies and framing it within the concept of an African-purposed curriculum.”


2018 - 2019

Scholarship as transformation

Since its inception in October 2017, the CriSHET research community has grown exponentially from seven to 28 members across Africa, Europe and the Americas, collectively driving scholarship as transformation.

The Chair for Critical Studies in Higher Education Transformation (CriSHET) was established to drive the transformation agenda of Nelson Mandela University by grounding it in critical studies and framing it within the concept of an African-purposed curriculum. This is in view of the current debates about the decolonisation of higher education, and against the backdrop of national, regional and global processes.

By forging substantive networks and mutually beneficial associations with universities, research entities and foundations nationally, in Africa, and internationally, who are making similar strides in promoting debates around decolonisation and transformation, CriSHET seeks to position the university as a leader within the higher education sector in terms of its transformational impact.

“To achieve our research objectives of advancing critical scholarly engagements and outputs, CriSHET approaches the study of universities through the notions of critique and power, ” explains Professor André Keet who holds the CriSHET Chair. The Chair’s focus is on original scholarship that critically analyses patterns of inclusion and exclusion and configurations of recognitions and misrecognitions within higher education.

“To achieve our programmatic objectives of facilitating spaces for Nelson Mandela University stakeholders to engage with transformation challenges, and advancing social justice praxes within higher education, in 2018 CriSHET, amongst others, initiated the seminar series titled [Re]Directions/Ukutshintshwa Kwendlela: Knowledge, Praxes and the African-purposed curriculum.”

CriSHET hosted 12 of these seminars in 2018 to offer established and emerging academics, as well as current graduate students, a platform to present original reflections and scholarships that challenge mainstream thinking within the academy.

Other events CriSHET hosted in 2018 included five book launches, a Decolonising Music Studies colloquium, the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) Presidential Roundtable, three workshops and a writing retreat.

“In order to translate student activism and initiatives into critical scholarly discourses within higher education spaces, CriSHET, in partnership with the Office of the Dean of Students and Student Governance and Development, initiated a biannual student journal titled The Perspective Online: The Journal for In-depth Conversations,” Prof Keet continues. Each peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary issue will feature articles, columns and creative work by students and academics on the deepening of transformation, decolonisation and Africanisation of higher education.

In 2018, CriSHET’s team of research assistants, postdoctoral fellows, research associates and visiting professors, produced 28 articles in peer-reviewed journals (ISI and DoE), 22 book chapters submitted for DHET subsidy, four edited book compilations, and two books. The postgraduate agenda of CriSHET reflects an interdisciplinary mix of scholarship and is steadily increasing. Two PhDs were awarded in 2018, and this number is set to grow.

“The research and postgraduate objectives of CriSHET are reflected on our website, which include the profiles and work of research assistants, postdoctoral fellows, research associates and visiting professors,” says Prof Keet.

The research and postgraduate programmes provide the intellectual resources for CriSHET’s university transformation work at Nelson Mandela University and in the broader national and international higher education sector. Workshops, seminars, colloquia, book launches, and training programmes are all tuned into this scholarly discourse.

Within the university, CriSHET is a pivotal institutional player in a number of the university’s strategic projects and transformation policy development. It is also a key national resource on transformation architectures and praxes within universities more broadly; the development of transformative intellectual cultures; and strategies on the renewal of the academy. “Merging scholarship and praxis, CriSHET, together with our university partners, is working on an online resource for higher education transformation, whilst initiating an African Critical University Studies network collaboration,” says Prof Keet.

In addition, CriSHET is a key player on the Global (De)Centre – a platform that brings together a growing network of scholars from across the world, committed to producing new knowledge and using different epistemologies and methods by working collaboratively with a broad range of partners.