Prof Everard Weber, Head of the Department of Education Management and Policy Studies delivers inaugural address
“What do you profess, professor?”
Using South Africa as an example, this article discusses the scholarly and public roles of academics as they relate to policy studies and the research I have conducted. I shall review the history of policy studies and the history of qualitative methods.
A theme in policy since the Second World War and which is still evident today has been to look at the world from the top down. I argue in favour of a research agenda, informed by postcolonial perspectives, in which policy is examined from the grassroots and structure is engaged from the bottom up. This has epistemological and methodological implications for analysing the social world of the colonial other. Instead of looking to the North, to Northern publications and the glitterati of the Northern academy, we should develop research agenda rooted in the global South and ask what substantive and independent contributions to knowledge we can make to the existing literatures.
These are issues of identity, of who we as academics are, who we seek to be, and what work we do in the present political juncture at tertiary institutions. I suggest ways in which we can become more socially active: as education and cultural activists in civil society; as public intellectuals in the formulation of public policy; as supporters, without losing our independence and our critical perspectives, of state departments such as the South African Department of Education; and through curriculum transformation in teaching and learning. We can thus better serve the common good of the societies within which universities are located and play greater roles as agents of social change.