Conceptualising transformation and interrogating elitism: the Bale scholarship programme

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 4
  • Abstract:

    In this article, we consider the extent to which a scholarship programme at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) engages with the challenges of transformation. This scholarship programme highlights the transformative potential of a programme that focuses on excellence for a previously under-represented group, but also demonstrates how this type of programme reaffirms the dominant notion of excellence within the university space, which could be read as a reproduction of inequitable practices. Theoretically, we make use of Bourdieu’s concepts of ‘field’ and ‘capital’ to understand how a space that is socially elite, such as a university, engages with the issue of change. Transformation efforts such as Bale have meant that previously disadvantaged individuals have opportunities to pursue a university education, these efforts have also served to maintain and perpetuate elitism. This happy “marriage” between elitism and transformation ensures that the university remains elite, while simultaneously pursuing demographic equity and diversity. Bale students who successfully complete a university education reap many benefits, through their access to the cultural capital of a Wits degree. However Bale consists of an exclusive group of students who will personally benefit, while the broad interests of a top-notch University are served.