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.