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Internationalizing Higher Education: The Development of Practice and Policy in South Africa

by Nadine Dolby - 2010

Background/Context: Internationalization has moved from the periphery to the core of many universities’ policies, mission statements, and strategic plans. In contrast to earlier paradigms of internationalization, the current period is significantly shaped by the global dominance of capitalism, the rise of the audit and accountability culture, and states’ retreat from funding of public services and goods, including higher education.

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine how the practice and policy of internationalization evolved in the specific context of a South African university from 1996 to 2006.

Setting: The research took place in the International Academic Programmes Office (IAPO) at the University of Cape Town in 2006.

Research Design: This research is an instrumental case study of IAPO at the University of Cape Town in 2006.

Data Collection and Analysis: The analysis present in this article is based on three major sources of data. First, I examined documents produced by IAPO from 1996 (the founding of the office) to 2006, including reports, strategic plans, operational plans, goals and objectives, financial reports, all publicity material, and the draft of the internationalization plan. Second, I analyzed documents produced by the University of Cape Town during this same time period, including mission statements, annual reports, documents related to the transformation process, and the university’s 2006 policy on internationalization. Third, I interviewed all key personnel (9 individuals) in IAPO in March 2006.

Conclusions/Recommendations: I identify three areas that are the focus of the major concerns and tensions regarding internationalization in the first 10 years of the office: study abroad, international full-degree students, and relationships with Africa and the rest of the world. I argue that the lack of a formal institutional policy on internationalization allowed for considerable individual and organizational agency in these areas. While the adoption of a formal policy in 2006 may hinder and channel internationalization policy, IAPO’s practices have transformed the everyday life of the University of Cape Town, though some of the outcomes have been unanticipated.

In the wake of the geopolitical, cultural, and technological shifts that accelerated and coalesced in the 1990s under the mantle of “globalization,” internationalization has moved from the periphery to the core of many universities’ policies, mission statements, and strategic plans and initiatives throughout the world.1 In contrast to earlier paradigms of internationalization that were anchored first in the post-World War II humanitarian impulses to foster world peace and cooperation through the United Nations and then the Cold War politics of the 1950s–1980s, the current period of internationalization is significantly shaped by the global dominance of capitalism, the rise of the audit and accountability culture, and states’ retreat from funding of public services and goods, including higher education (de Wit, 2002; Marginson & Considine, 2000; Oakman, 2004; O’Meara, Melinger, & Newman, 2001).

In South Africa, these global developments were refracted through an unprecedented historical moment, as apartheid and over 400 years of colonial and authoritarian rule ended and a democratic state was established. After decades of an academic boycott of South African universities and academic linkages, the world quickly descended on a nation that seemed to be a beacon of the unfulfilled promises of democracy. Yet, South Africa was conflicted about the importance of focusing on internationalization at a moment when national reconstruction and reconciliation were seen as the most important priorities—a phenomenon that Jonathan Jansen, Carlton McLellan, and Ryan Greene (2007) termed the “politics of ambivalence.” As Martin Hall (2004), then deputy vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT), asserted in his address at the International Education Association of South Africa annual meeting, “It is not automatically apparent that internationalization is beneficial to higher education . . . the case for internationalization needs to be made, and cannot be assumed” (p. 2).

Thus, at the majority of South African universities, including UCT, internationalization was left to develop haphazardly, subject to the initiatives of individuals, local and international foundations, and the particular pressures and opportunities of a specific context. This study asks, How did the practices of internationalization at the University of Cape Town evolve in the absence of any formal policies at either the university or national levels? I answer this question through tracing the history and development of the International Academic Programmes Office (IAPO). Established in 1996, IAPO is the second oldest international program office at a South African university and is today the largest and most comprehensive office in the country.2 In the absence of any formal policies on internationalization on either the national or university level,3 the practices of this office emerged as key driving forces in the creation and establishment of international higher education as a field of practice within South Africa.4 Furthermore, the office’s struggles to balance its efforts at internationalization with UCT’s commitment to transformation within a South African context illuminate the tensions and contradictions inherent in the field of international higher education at this particular historical moment globally, as universities throughout the world strive for preeminence in what is increasingly a consumer-oriented and market-driven enterprise (Deem, 2001; Giroux, 2007; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004).

In the balance of this article, I first discuss research on internationalization of universities worldwide, focusing on the contemporary period, and then specifically examine internationalization within the postapartheid context of South African universities (1994 to the present). In the third section, I discuss the specific research questions and methodology that guided this study. I then briefly present background on UCT and discuss the history and establishment of IAPO in 1996. In the following sections of the article, I focus attention on the three major concerns and tensions regarding internationalization in the first 10 years of the office (1996–2006): study abroad at UCT; international full-degree students (largely from Africa); and relationships with Africa and the rest of the world. In conclusion, I draw on Marcus Weaver-Hightower’s (2008) concept of “policy ecology” to discuss the implications of this research for broader questions about research on internationalization at higher education institutions in South Africa and worldwide.


Internationalization is a growing concern of higher education institutions globally. Jane Knight and Hans de Wit (1997) defined internationalization as “the process of integrating an international perspective into the teaching/learning, research and service functions” of a higher education institution (p. 8). A second frequently cited definition is that of Brenda Ellingboe (1998), who wrote that internationalization involves “an ongoing, future oriented, multi-dimensional, interdisciplinary, leadership-driven vision that involves many stakeholders working to change the internal dynamics of an institution to respond and adapt appropriately to an increasingly diverse, globally-focused, ever-changing external environment” (p. 199).5 However, as Carlton McLellan (2008) argued recently, these often-referenced definitions of internationalization minimize the human agency that shapes these processes. He wrote, “The process of internationalization . . . occurs not on its own but as a result of policies (written or unwritten), strategies, and specific actions of an international nature” (p. 133). As I will discuss in the methodology section, the focus on agency is a central concept for my analysis in this article as I examine how the practices of IAPO, and the agency of individuals and the office, drive UCT’s response to internationalization (see also Altbach, 2002).

As universities have begun to focus on internationalization, research on the processes, policies, and practices associated with these shifts has also increased (e.g., Bartell, 2003; Dolby & Rahman, 2008; Huang, 2006; Ma, 2008; Marginson & Sawir, 2006; Paige, 2003; Stromquist, 2007; Tabulawa, 2007; J. Taylor, 2004). The conversations about and struggles over internationalization at universities take place in the context of large-scale shifts in the higher education landscape. Marketization, liberalization, and privatization are components of this new terrain, which stresses corporate principles of accountability. In this environment, higher education is no longer primarily a public good that serves and is funded by the state; it is increasingly seen as a more privately focused enterprise in which state funding is diminished, and there is mounting pressure on universities to raise substantial portions of their own budgets (Deem, 2001; Giroux, 2007; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004). Thus, the growing focus on internationalization in universities occurs in a specific global context, in which the economic rationalization for internationalization is of generally greater concern than other rationales—for example, sociopolitical or academic.6 Perhaps most significantly, universities worldwide are influenced by what Kathryn Mohrman, Wanhua Ma, and David Baker (2008) termed the “emerging global model” of the research university. This global model, although only descriptive of the top research universities in the world, creates pressure on all universities to adopt similar characteristics and practices. As scholars such as Rosemary Deem (2001) have discussed, the local context of a particular university is often neglected in the quest to demonstrate convergence and similarity under the new forces of globalization. Such pressures are also detected in the discourse of the “world class” university (Deem, Mok, & Lucas, 2008) that focuses a university’s attention on external rankings and global university league tables at the expense of concentrating on local concerns (see Marginson, 2007, on the normative power of global rankings). Yet, as Simon Marginson and Erlenawati Sawir (2005) argued, “to understand the global in higher education we must situate it historically in terms of local individuals and institutions in contexts, even while ‘agency’ and ‘context’ are endlessly changeable” (p. 282). As Marginson and Sawir (2006) discussed, the “global” is not simply a set of policies and processes imposed from above; it also involves the specific actions of local actors whose agency maps “the capacity for self-determined global initiatives with shaping effects” (p. 345). Such attention to what Deem termed the “local-global” axis can provide insight into the ways in which local conditions, priorities, and constraints shape the possibilities of internationalization and create unanticipated opportunities.


Many of the global changes discussed in the preceding section have had particularly severe consequences on the African continent, where universities have already suffered from decades of neglect under World Bank policies that favored investment in primary and secondary education (Olukoshi & Zeleza, 2004). However, unlike other African countries, South Africa’s higher education system is large and (relatively) well resourced, though of course under the apartheid system, education was racially divided and unequal. The process of transformation began in the late 1990s under the auspices of the Higher Education Act (101) of 1997. In 2000, under the then minister of education, Kader Asmal, efforts were focused on merging and consolidating institutions, faculties, departments, and programs. Such efforts—not uncontested—served multiple purposes: (1) to begin to address the history of inequality through merging (in some cases) historically privileged and unprivileged universities; (2) to align university priorities with national priorities for training and development so as to strengthen and grow the South African economy for global competitiveness; (3) to streamline and consolidate costs; and (4) to ensure that the remaining institutions were financially viable.7 Given the overwhelming and all-consuming nature of the internal and national processes of mergers and consolidation, the majority of South African institutions had scant resources to devote to developing policies on internationalization, even as the numbers of international students on campuses grew significantly (Jansen et al., 2007). Yet, this growth has not been without controversy, as multiple tensions have saturated international student admission policies: South Africa’s commitment to the education of its own citizenry; South Africa’s commitment to Southern African Development Community nations that supported the antiapartheid struggle for decades at great cost;8 the legacy of South Africa’s relationship with the whole of the African continent; and the perception that, even in the postapartheid era, South Africa was more interested in creating and maintaining ties with North America and Europe than with Africa. In the South African macropolitical context, an early commitment to large-scale government programs and financial investment through the launch of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) in 1994 was short lived. By 1996, the South African government had adopted GEAR (Growth, Employment, and Redistribution) as its macroeconomic policy, in line with global imperatives that emphasized privatization and reduction of government subsidies and funding (Streak, 2004). As Molathlegi Trevor Chika Sehoole (2005b) commented, “South Africa’s transition to democracy in the mid 1990s took place in the context of a rapidly globalizing world that was influenced by neo-liberal policies” (p. 3). Because of this emphasis, much of the research on South African universities since 1994 has focused on the impact of global economic shifts on university practices, though without a specific focus on internationalization (Colete, 2002; Ensor, 2004; Kraak, 2000; Jansen, 2006; Nash, 2006; Ntshoe, 2004; Soudien & Corneilse, 2000).

However, in the last few years, research on internationalization in South African universities has grown rapidly. Of particular concern to policy-focused researchers is the lack of a national policy on internationalization. Jansen et al. (2007) have argued that South African universities are decidedly ambivalent about endorsing internationalization of higher education given the necessity of focusing on internal policies to remedy the inequities of apartheid. At the level of national policy, McLellan (2008) analyzed recent national education policy documents and argued that internationalization is implicitly, if not explicitly, discussed through a focus on the need for South Africa to complete in a knowledge society. In contrast, Roshen Kishun (2007) contended that current South African higher education policy neglects internationalization but argued that this situation must change for South Africa to compete globally.

In other relevant research, Sepideh Rouhani (2007) provided an overview of internationalization in higher education in the postapartheid era, and Michael Cross and Rouhani (2004) specifically discussed the dynamics surrounding international students on South African campuses. A special issue of the Journal of Studies in International Education (2004) was focused on internationalization in South Africa (with some discussion of Africa as a whole) and included an introduction by Rouhani and Roshen Kishun (2004),9 essays on the concept of the African university and its relationship to internationalization (Mtembu, 2004), GATS and African universities (Sehoole, 2004), and a case study of internationalization at the University of Zululand (Welch, Yang, & Wolhuter, 2004) and the Tshwane University of Technology (Dunn & Nilan, 2007).10 Despite this growth, there is little research (with the exception of Welch et al.) that specifically examines the practices of an institution in regard to internationalization. Although analysis of policy documents, overviews of current statistical data, and philosophical inquiry into the tensions between Africanization and internationalization are useful contributions to the discussions, there is a need for research that situates itself at the nexus of global and local pressures and developments and that uses empirical data to lend complexity to theoretical debates about how South African universities situate themselves in regard to national and international contexts.11


In response to the concerns of Deem (2001) and Marginson and Sawir (2005) discussed earlier, this research situates overarching questions about internationalization in higher education within its specific national (South Africa) and local (University of Cape Town) context. In addition, the research questions for this study are informed by a focus on the agency of local actors, even within the constraints of global economic forces. As Marginson and Sawir (2005) asserted,

Universities are shaped by individual and organizational practices, susceptible to imaginings and discourses, and politics formal and informal and public debate. The local potential of all universities is over-determined by relations of power in higher education, which are more constraining in the developing world . . . but not completely so. (p. 288)

My primary research question is, How did the practices of internationalization at the University of Cape Town evolve in the absence of any formal policies at either the university or national levels? Following Bob Lingard (2003), I am cognizant that policies do evolve without formal policy guidelines as practitioners look to their own resources and draw on multiple sources to formulate practical solutions to their everyday concerns and devise strategies that become de facto policies. My two secondary research questions were: (1) How was the process of internationalization at the University of Cape Town affected by an increasingly market- and consumer-driven higher education environment globally? (2) How did the process of internationalization at the University of Cape Town interface with the process of transformation (the postapartheid era)?12

The research discussed in this article is a case study of the International Academic Programmes Office (IAPO) at UCT in 2006. I made a preliminary research visit to IAPO in May 2005 to secure research permission and returned in March 2006 to collect and examine documents, observe daily operations of the office, and conduct interviews. Following the typology of Robert Stake (2000), I classify this case study as an instrumental case study. Stake distinguished between an “intrinsic” and an “instrumental” case study. In an intrinsic case study, the research is undertaken “because, first and last, the researcher wants better understanding of this particular case” (p. 437). In contrast, in an instrumental case study, the researcher is interested in studying a specific case to understand a larger or more general phenomenon. In this case, my research objective is to investigate how universities worldwide formulate international education policy and practice in differing national contexts.13 Nelly Stromquist (2007) further argued that

case studies provide an in-depth look into phenomena that might easily be missed when using questionnaires that cover a large number of universities but minimize the particular context and location in which they operate. Case study approaches bring to life the interrelated parts of an organization while enabling us to see the interplay between the organization and its environment. (p. 85).

South Africa and UCT were chosen for numerous specific reasons. First, South Africa is uniquely positioned worldwide as both a “developed” and “developing” nation and is routinely caught between the politics of its position on the African continent and its position vis-à-vis other British Commonwealth nations, Europe, and the United States. Its relatively well-financed universities (in comparison with other African nations) also provide for some engagement with international education beyond the role of aid recipient. I have conducted research in multiple sites and contexts in South Africa since 1995 and am thus familiar with the history and context of South African education and higher education. The University of Cape Town was chosen for this research because, of all universities on the African continent, it had the highest combination of (1) number of international students, and (2) academic ranking on the Top 500 World Universities List, as compiled by the Institute of Higher Education, Shanghai Jiao Tong University.14 Thus, UCT was selected because of its prominence and corresponding influence on the development of international education policy in South Africa, and in Africa more broadly.

Although it is undoubtedly true that conversations about internationalization are ongoing in many departments, faculties, and offices at UCT, IAPO was chosen as the major focus of this case study because it is a centralized location for the development and promulgation of international education practice and policy at UCT. Unlike many equivalent international student and study abroad offices in the United States, which are student service offices only, IAPO reported directly to a deputy vice chancellor and had a significant influence in its first decade in developing the internationalization practice and policy of the university.15 In addition, the income generated from the Semester Study Abroad program (discussed in the next section) gave IAPO considerable stature at the university level because it was a steady (and growing) source of revenue during a time of uncertain state support.

My analysis in this article is based on the following data sources. I examined the following categories of documents produced by IAPO from 1996 to 2006: reports, strategic plans, reports of activities and highlights, tactics and action matrixes, operational plans, goals and objectives, progress reports, financial reports, the draft of the internationalization policy (2001), student survey reports, the IAPO Web site, brochures and publicity material produced by the office, and conference papers presented by IAPO staff analyzing their own practices and policies. I also examined documents related to UCT more broadly, including its Web site, mission statement, publicity materials, annual reports, documents on transformation at the university from 1996 to 2006, and the university’s policy on internationalization, which was adopted in March 2006, shortly after the conclusion of my data collection at UCT. Finally, I interviewed all key personnel in the office (9 individuals, including the deputy vice chancellor who oversees the office) in March 2006 (see Note 16 for the listing of titles).16 Interviews were approximately 1 hour and took place in the participant’s office at IAPO or in a nearby conference room. Interviews were semistructured and tailored to the specific role of the individual and his or her history at the office and the university. So, for example, the interview with the founding director of IAPO focused on the initial motivations and priorities of the office, whereas the interview with the current director of internationalisation (who had only been in that position for a few months when I was there in March 2006) focused on her understanding of how the office had been positioned, and future directions. Despite these differences, all the interviews included questions regarding the current, past, and future priorities of the office; the changes in priorities, practices, and orientation from 1996 to 2006; perspectives on the relationship between transformation and internationalization; the positioning of UCT as a “world class” and “African” institution and what this means; the most significant challenges for the office (past, present, and future); perspectives on the evolution of a formal national policy on internationalization at UCT from 1996 to 2006; and perspectives on the evolution of a formal policy on internationalization in South Africa.

All interviews in this article were transcribed and returned to participants for comment and correction if necessary.17 Interviews were then coded thematically and analyzed concomitantly with the themes emerging from my analysis of the documents surrounding the tensions between the processes of transformation and internationalization at UCT. Following Stake (1995) on analysis of case study data in instrumental case studies, I focused my analysis on what he termed “categorical data.” Whereas in an intrinsic case study, the researcher concentrates on direct interpretation and narrative description, in an instrumental case study, the researcher is concerned with looking for patterns and “correspondence” that will answer the initial research questions. Thus, in this analysis, I do not focus on telling the intrinsic story of IAPO but on how the specific challenges facing IAPO can inform larger conversations about internationalization at universities worldwide. As Stake suggested, the patterns I found in the coding and analyzing of the data were based on my initial research questions. However, some patterns could not be predicted and thus emerged inductively from the data. For example, while my initial research question led me to code for various practices surrounding internationalization, the specific focus on the three identified practices—semester study abroad, full-degree international students, and the tension between “African” and “international”—emerged inductively from the coding of the interview data and documents.


A historically white university, the University of Cape Town’s process of transformation began in the 1980s, when the 1983 Universities Amendment Act allowed historically white universities such as UCT legally to admit black students. Prior to the 1980s, UCT, like other historically English universities, were technically “open” and did admit a small number of black students, but such limited admissions had almost no impact on university policy, staffing, and curriculum. Unlike many other institutions, UCT was protected from the mergers and was allowed to maintain its identity and integrity as an autonomous university.18 However, in the period 1994–2006, UCT also underwent a contentious period of transformation that included desegregation and consolidation and curriculum realignment while being subjected to the same external pressures and concerns as other South African institutions. As Crain Soudien and Carol Corneilse (2000) discussed, the Academic Planning Framework, adopted by the UCT university senate in 1996, set the parameters for the academic transformation of the university, including the eventual consolidation of 10 faculties into 6. As UCT endeavored to transform itself into a “world-class African university,” it contended with pressures both internal (e.g., the development of policies on transformation and the prolonged debate about the African studies curriculum) and external (e.g., the new National Qualifications Framework, and reduced and redefined financial support from the state).19 At the same time, UCT faced a significantly different set of challenges compared with other South African universities, given its elite status. For example, in 2005, UCT was ranked in the 203-300 section of the Top 500 World Universities, ranked number 1 in Africa, and ranked number 1 in South Africa. The only other African universities represented on the list were the University of Witwatersrand (301-400), the University of KwaZulu-Natal (401-500), and the University of Pretoria (also 401-500).20 The pressure on UCT to situate itself as a world-class university is also nested inside a broader range of discourses surrounding the use of “world-class” in South African society more broadly. Most significant, the discourse of “world class” structures the city of Johannesburg’s (Egoli’s) plans to transform Johannesburg into a world-class city in time for the 2010 World Cup (see http://www.joburg.org.za/). Such plans underscore the class tensions that are endemic in South African society at the current moment as universities such as Cape Town and cities such as Johannesburg strive to attract international economic investment and confidence through separating themselves from their poorer (less than world class) neighboring nations, strengthen linkages to first-world countries, and create a destination that is inviting for tourists and international visitors (see also Friedman, 2005).

Like other institutions, the dynamics of race and class at UCT are still saturated with the legacy of apartheid and the strains of a nation struggling to establish a democracy for the first time in its history. It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss the extensive history of educational inequality in South Africa, but it is important to stress that although the dynamics of race and class have shifted since the end of apartheid in 1994, they are still the central axes of tension and conflict in South African society.21


As South Africa’s isolation from the rest of the African continent formally ended in 1994, South African universities began to investigate the possibilities of linkages with universities throughout Africa. The first institutional internationalization program at UCT, University Science, Humanities, and Engineering Partnerships in Africa (USHEPiA), grew out of early collaborations between UCT and seven other African universities. Funded initially by the Rockefeller Foundation (and later by additional foundations, including Carnegie and Mellon), USHEPiA provides for cooperation and capacity building in African research by funding postgraduate fellowships at UCT for staff at universities outside South Africa, with the explicit requirement that staff return to their home country after receiving their UCT degree. Collaborations also include visits of UCT staff to partner universities, visits of the student’s home supervisor to UCT, and opportunities for cooperative research ventures.22

At the same time, UCT began to field inquiries from all over the world from study abroad and international offices eager to explore exchange and linkage opportunities for their students, and a trickle of American students began arriving on the UCT campus in 1996. Using funds generated from fees paid by these American students, UCT established the International Academic Programmes Office in March 1996. Initially, the office was charged with developing and centralizing student and staff exchanges and research agreements with institutions in other countries; meeting with foreign visitors; serving as a point of contact with international academic associations; contributing to the research culture at UCT; pursuing overseas funding; managing and developing the existing USHEPiA program; and maintaining databases pertinent to international academic collaboration. Shortly after the establishment of the office, it became clear that UCT also required a centralized administrative program for international students already on campus, and that was added to IAPO’s responsibilities.

Yet, funding for the office was still limited; South African universities entered an uncertain and transitional era in the immediate postapartheid period. As a result, the founding director of IAPO began to investigate potential sources of income that could flow directly into the office so that it would be assured a steady fund for daily operations and expansion. As she explained, “By the end of 1996, beginning of 1997, it became clear to me that there was a huge opportunity in study abroad for the University of Cape Town because we were a well-known university, in a wonderful position.”  Thus, in 1997, the then director of IAPO undertook an extensive tour of eight Australian universities. Australia, which was seen as similar to South Africa in many ways, had become a leading destination worldwide for both study abroad and international degree-seeking students, and the director saw it as a model for the development of a professional, consumer-driven study abroad program:

I went to Australia to find out how they did it [study abroad]. My priority was to set up a business, encouraging students to come in, charge them market-related fees, and provide them with excellent service. So we had to do absolutely top-class, top world quality if we were going to do it. So building on that model, my first priority was to get an American study abroad program going. That program was self-sufficient within a year or so, and they were getting excess funds. Now with the excess funds, I was then able to get a staff member specifically dedicated to the other students, the full-degree students.23

In 1997, the year of the director’s tour of Australian universities, UCT hosted 50 undergraduate semester study-abroad students; by 1999, that number had climbed to 205 (145 from the United States) and continued to grow to 602 students (plus 71 exchange students) in 2006. In 1997, the Council on International Educational Exchange approached IAPO about setting up a permanent office for study abroad at UCT. The first office manager (1996–1997, now manager, Internationalisation at Home) described their incentive for partnering with CIEE:

We saw this as the potential of bringing study abroad students into UCT, and not having to provide too much of an extra infrastructure. We could feed them all through Council. The sort of vague idea with Council at the time was that they were going to be able to provide people other than Americans: they could get students from Australia, from Europe. That didn’t actually pan out. It’s been almost exclusively American students. . . . We came up with this formula where we would be able to fund operations within IAPO without taking money, resources, UCT resources, away from the vast majority of the students who were local students.

Using funds generated from the (predominantly American) study abroad program, IAPO expanded its responsibility and mission steadily throughout the next 10 years. By 2006, the 10th anniversary of the founding of the office and the year in which the data for this research were collected, IAPO’s operations and influence had expanded significantly. From the initial three staff members in 1996, 10 years later, the office employed 22 staff and served 3,631 international full-degree students, 602 semester study-abroad students (who generated R 15.7 million in revenue), and 71 exchange students.24 The office’s primary functions continued to include oversight of the USHEPiA program, administration of Semester Study Abroad, oversight and management of international full-degree students, and coordination of UCT’s collaborations and exchanges with institutions throughout the world. In addition, the office also began to take on the Internationalisation at Home initiative and launched an African student leadership exchange program between UCT and the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. In 2006, the director of internationalisation (IAPO director) reported to the deputy vice chancellor for external relations, whose portfolio included responsibility for internationalization. The office employed four managers—African academic links; finance; mobility and links; and Internationalisation at Home—and 17 support staff.

With no formal policy in place at either UCT or the national government level, IAPO crafted a vision for itself that sought to recreate UCT as “Africa’s international research university.” In June 2001, the office produced the “Draft Policy on Internationalisation” which laid out IAPO’s vision for UCT to be a “world-class African university” marked by numerous key principles, including excellence, equity, and a recognition of UCT’s position in Africa. Despite the increasing presence and influence of IAPO (predominantly because of the revenue generated from Semester Study Abroad students), in 2001, there was still no clear commitment to internationalization from the university, as the tensions and ambivalences regarding international priorities continued. Furthermore, the increasing internationalization of UCT—without a formal policy in place—was creating its own set of complications and contradictions. These tensions rotated around three of the major functions of IAPO: management of Semester Study Abroad; management of full-degree students; and its function as a centralized university site for the coordination of formal relationships with institutions worldwide. As IAPO’s internal policies and priorities began to have an impact on the UCT campus, it became clear that “internationalization” was not a straightforward, simple, or uncontested process. Instead, embedded within the internal policies and procedures of IAPO were ongoing and conflicted conversations about UCT’s national priorities in a globalizing economic context, UCT and South Africa’s position vis-à-vis the world and the rest of Africa, and the role of African studies and the humanities more generally in South Africa’s future.


As the Semester Study Abroad program grew in numbers through the late 1990s and early 2000s, the university, as the first IAPO director recalled, “put much more pressure on us—seeing us as a cash cow.”25 Yet, the growing numbers and the physical presence of largely white female American students on campus began to impact the internal dynamics of the university at many levels, including finances and curriculum.

The majority of Semester Study Abroad students were enrolled in the Faculty of Humanities, fulfilling liberal arts requirements through taking courses in literature, politics, history, music, dance, and language. Thus, as the numbers of Semester Study Abroad students increased, the impact of their presence was felt disproportionably in the Faculty of Humanities; lecturers become aware of the changing dynamics in their classrooms, and many began to feel that they deserved to be directly compensated for their efforts to teach international students. As the manager of the mobility and links section of IAPO explained,

The issues are very straightforward. The students are in my classroom, I need to teach them, I know they bring significant profits to the university, and I see none of it. And why should I teach these international students, who are profit engines, and see no profit? It’s always the same argument. Sometimes they’ll throw in a bit of American students are very loud and I shouldn’t have to tolerate them without anything extra in it for me or my department, and along with that would come they’re needy.

As lecturers and others on the UCT campus began to realize, the profits from Semester Study Abroad were significant. In 2006, Semester Study Abroad students were charged US$4,000 per semester, with an anticipated increase to US$4,600 per semester in 2007. The manager of mobility and links explained that the faculties did see profit from the students, but sometimes it did not flow directly to the lecturers who did the bulk of the teaching:

They are getting funding, but it’s a complicated mechanism, we keep our retainer, and the way that the fee income which normally reaches them is the same, and then all the profit money which is left goes to the faculty, goes to the dean. The bulk of the students are in the Faculty of Humanities, which is the most cash strapped of all of the faculties, and so the dean with a committee will sit down and allocate income according to faculty priorities, not according to the proportion of teaching done. So yes, they’re getting money as a faculty, but no, they’re not getting it proportionally as a department who is doing the teaching. And that’s the trouble.

At the same time, it became increasingly clear that while Semester Study Abroad students were specifically deciding to attend UCT so that they could learn about Africa and African heritage, UCT was able to make spaces in those courses available because South African students were no longer choosing to enroll in those classes.26 The deputy vice chancellor of external relations explained the changes in the South African student population at UCT and how those changes influenced curriculum:

Your present-day student wants to get a bachelor of commerce and go and work for a multinational. In a sense that might be rejecting African languages, but basically it’s saying it was never even a possibility . . . what he wants to do is to get a job: the UCT diploma has a reputation that all of them get hired. A parent making strategic choices about where to put their monies would go for UCT, secure that their son or daughter will get a job.

Thus, almost 10 years after the launch of the Semester Study Abroad program in 1997, UCT began to grapple with a new reality in which the study of Africa is financially and intellectually supported and promoted by the Semester Study Abroad program. The deputy vice chancellor for external relations reflected on the unanticipated impact of the Semester Study Abroad students on the curriculum:

So for instance [in the past], you could come to places like this, and UCT wasn’t the only one, and get a degree without believing that there’s an African philosophy, the philosophy would have been Kant and Hegel and Marx, and John Stuart Mills, and Thomas Hobbes. And it became clear to me and to a lot of people—it’s always been clear—that curriculum is the most difficult think to change. Well lo and behold, the market is giving the lie to this, because with the advent of international students, particularly, and I have to say—and this is another irony—American ones, and those from Western Europe, we are getting the revival and the sustenance of courses that were going down the tubes, because African students don’t want to take those courses, like African languages, and they are being ironically revived by the foreigners.

With declining to nonexistent enrollments of local students, the Faculty of Humanities at UCT was now dependent on enrollments of Semester Study Abroad students to remain financially viable. At the same time, questions emerged as to whether Semester Study Abroad students were displacing local students at the level of overall university admissions. The manager of the mobility and links section described the concerns about the impact of Semester Study Abroad students on the academic courses, departments, and faculties at the university:

South African students are not trying to be in those classes [history, politics, African studies]. Maybe you could argue that the fact that South African students are not in those classes, then departments which should otherwise close are staying open, and thus resources that could be going elsewhere don’t, and in that way, indirectly, it changes the enrollment of students.

Although not originally anticipated in 1996, the internationalization of UCT through the Semester Study Abroad program began to raise difficult issues about the relationship between transformation and internationalization on the UCT campus. As the university endeavored to serve the needs of a new, postapartheid student generation, South African students moved away from taking liberal arts courses and became more concerned about obtaining a degree that would secure a job immediately after graduation. The growth in numbers of the Semester Study Abroad students has prevented, at least for the moment, the further consolidation and shrinkage of the Faculty of Humanities, but not without sparking troubling concerns about who on campus is now studying and learning about South Africa—its politics, history, and culture—and to what end. Such conversations and debates are, of course, not unique to South Africa; humanities (and liberal arts) education has become increasingly marginalized on campuses across the world. As Cary Nelson (2003) argued, there is nothing new about economic forces bearing down on the humanities; what is new, in specific reference here to literary studies, is “a potential decoupling of the destiny of the nation-state from academic disciplines” (p. 10). As Nelson observed, the study of the humanities has historically played an important—though of course not uncontested—role in the continuation of the nation-state. For example, national literature, poetry, and the arts are often a source of national pride and identification. But as is evident at UCT, the study of these areas has become superfluous to the academic preparation of South African undergraduates. Instead, South African literature, arts, politics, languages, and history are packaged as products to be consumed by international students in a manner akin to tourism. Thus, market forces have had contradictory effects: ensuring the survival (at least short term) of arts and humanities on the UCT campus, but also creating a reality in which South African students have little to no exposure to their own national cultures.


Similar to the Semester Study Abroad program, the number of international full-degree students at UCT has grown significantly in the past decade. By 2006, international student enrollment at UCT (excluding study abroad) was 17%, with 12% (2586) from Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries.27 According to SADC protocols, universities in SADC countries agree to allow at least 5% enrollment of nationals from other SADC countries at local tuition and fee rates.28 At 12%, UCT far exceeds the base 5% requirement, and questions began to circulate about whether and how to cap the enrollment of international full-degree students. As Jansen et al. (2007) asked in the national context, the question became, “Put bluntly, should the South African taxpayer subsidize foreign nationals?” (p. 5).

As the deputy vice chancellor for external relations explained, in previous years, some faculties—for example, the Faculty of Law (where he was an academic staff member earlier in his career)—had policies in place that deliberately preferenced South African students:

I think, with the experience at the Law Faculty and the fact that we used to do interviews, because at the time we had a preference for South African students. The students from Lesotho, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe were better performing—at the time those countries had a much better schooling system than South Africa had: the school leaver had better English. We had to keep those on quota, in preference for roughing it with our own from Bantu education schools because that was the mission.

Yet, more recently, such preferential policies have been abandoned, and as the deputy vice chancellor for external relations noted, in the Faculty of Law, “they’ve got a very nice profile on paper, but almost none of the black29 students are South African, which is very scary.”

Tensions between South African and other African students at UCT were a constant source of concern for IAPO staff, and the dynamics of xenophobia on campus are mentioned frequently in annual reports and internal memos and documents. The deputy vice chancellor for external relations discussed his frustrations with the xenophobia on campus:

It’s a huge disappointment to a lot of us, who are aware that the liberation struggle was basically underwritten by poor African countries who are our neighbors, who couldn’t afford it at the time, and who suffered at great odds from the South African army’s incursions into their territory. But they stood fast. So to reveal our ignorance, black ignorance of other blacks from the rest of Africa is pretty disappointing, but it is a fact of life.30

This xenophobia, as Steven Friedman (2005) argued, is intimately related to South Africa’s desire to position itself as “world class” in all endeavors and to particularly respond to “sentiment in those countries in the North believed to harbor doubts about black competence” (p. 759).

The deputy vice chancellor continued, relating this xenophobia to a growing internal class divide at UCT:

It’s like the city versus country divide, with your city dwellers thinking they are sharp, and your country bumpkins, not worth much, on a continental scale. South Africans thinking that about other black, non–South Africans: that anything above the Limpopo is not worth talking about, thinking about. So you have those kids, and this thinking has led to all sorts of things. I’m pretty certain on this campus, they don’t socialize with people from the DRC, with Zimbabweans, and so on, they don’t date them probably.

But also, what has happened in our schooling system, and now your Model C student is here, and that student may be black, but classwise, has nothing in common with his counterpart, not even from outside South Africa, but from Limpopo. . . . The challenge in actually housing students who have to share is being exacerbated more by class than by race now. You put two black kids in a room, but one is from a well-off, Model C kind of family, and a youth from Limpopo province, just across the room from the other bed, the other table and sees an array of laptops and the hi-fi equipment and iPods and things, and he’s sitting there from a poor family, and he’s happy to have just sneaked into UCT, they’ll take anything they get as a job after.

Such reflections echo Jansen’s (2004) assertion that issues of class, not race, will be of paramount concern on South African campuses in a postapartheid, black-majority state. Issues of class and regional divisions permeate the South African educational system at all levels—from concerns about Model C schools and the promulgation of class divides, to school fees, to the privatization of higher education (Chisholm, 2004). Rob Pattman’s (2007) research on student identities at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal underscores the growing class tensions on campuses. As he noted, black students who gathered in a particular spot on campus were called “Model Cs,” which refers to their matriculation from a specific type of high school—but more generally, a class position.31

As the presence of the South African black middle class grew on campus, concerns about class were compounded by worries about the displacement of local South African students in favor of full-degree international students. The issue of whether to actively recruit (relatively) wealthy students from poorer, less resourced African countries was a source of ongoing tension at UCT. In her report (1997) on her visit to Australian universities, the first IAPO director recommended that  

full fee-paying postgraduate diploma and degree courses should be developed for specific markets . . . and in areas in which the University of Cape Town has special expertise which could be of value to other countries in Africa. . . . The post-colonial collapse of many of the top African Universities should be seen as a key opportunity for the University of Cape Town.

UCT has never openly pursued such policies, and national policies made it quite difficult to secure work visas for individuals from outside South Africa. As the current director of internationalisation (director of IAPO) explained, “We’ve always reserved spaces for students from other countries, but it’s not—not—instead of. It’s really, these are the applications that we have and this is what we get.” Yet, the anxiety over growing international student enrollments—fueled by the internal class issues—exacerbated perceptions that UCT was more concerned about its international and “elite” reputation than with a commitment to transformation and South African national priorities. In this case, internationalization was viewed as a threat to the education and future of South Africans. As the director of internationalisation noted, however, the xenophobia expressed by South Africans toward other African nationals rarely extends to the (majority white) Semester Study Abroad students:

What has been interesting is that while the black South Africans have xenophobic feelings about black international students, they don’t have similar feelings about white students. . . . There have been radio programs, TV programs about it. Local black students relate much better with white international students than with a SADC student.

Thus, according to the director of internationalisation, whereas on an institutional level, concerns continued about the impact of Semester Study Abroad students on the Faculty of Humanities, interpersonal tensions between South African students and Semester Study Abroad students were minimal. However, as the manager of the mobility and links section observed, there were concerns on campus about the services that IAPO provides for Semester Study Abroad students, though not for full-degree international students: “You’ve had heard the thing about the amounts we spend on orientation [for study abroad students], and how that’s not fair, and how we’re not providing the same provision of housing [for full degree international students], and there’s no housing because it’s all for study abroad.

As UCT tried to balance the formal policy goal of transformation with the growing internationalization of the campus, international full-degree students were caught in the midst of competing priorities. Unlike Semester Study Abroad students, most (those from SADC countries) brought in no extra revenue to the university and thus enjoyed none of the extra support services afforded to Semester Study Abroad students such as guaranteed and prearranged housing and an elaborate orientation that included a tour of the Cape Peninsula. At the same time, these (largely African) full-degree students were viewed with suspicion by the local South African students, who often perceived them as taking places at UCT that rightly belonged to their friends and high school classmates. Such pressures were exacerbated by internal class dynamics; UCT’s local black student enrollment is largely from upper middle-class and wealthy families. These everyday issues of UCT’s student enrollment are intimately related to larger policy concerns about the relationship of UCT to the rest of Africa and the world. Mel Dunn and Pam Nilan (2007) stated, “We cautiously endorse the internationalization of South African higher education as a means of generating domestic revenue for a cash-strapped economy” (p. 269), but they acknowledged that there is little consensus on this point in South Africa. Clearly, the tensions at UCT regarding study abroad students and international full-degree students are overlaid with extensive local dynamics regarding the processes of transformation and considerable skepticism about pursuing purely profit-oriented policies (see Dunn & Nilan).32


As IAPO and international initiatives and linkages began to gain visibility at UCT in the first decade of the office’s existence, conflicts emerged as to how to define and negotiate such terms as African, international, and world-class: how UCT should identify itself, and if and how it should establish relationships with universities both within and outside the African continent. Internally, debate centered on whether UCT should market itself as a “world-class African university”—a phrase that is prominent in IAPO documents through the 1990s and in the “Draft Policy on Internationalisation” (2001), though absent from the official internationalization statement of the university, adopted in 2006. The deputy vice chancellor for external relations explained the rationale for using this phrase to describe UCT’s internationalization mission:

There was a dichotomy, there was a false dichotomy between “Africa” and “international,” and African standards were low, and international standards were the ones to aspire to. Anything you teach which was African was lessening your place in the “world class” claim. I think transformation, as presently understood, is to refute that, and that to argue that it is perfectly possible to be of international and world-class standard, and to also promote an African identity, there’s no conflict between these two.

Yet, as the manager of the mobility and links section observed, the phrase was always controversial:

I think it’s a perfect example of how UCT faced outward in what it was saying, and didn’t realize what that communication was going to do nationally, internally. The world wants to hear “world-class African,” but do South Africans want to hear that, no. South Africa wants to be proud of itself knowing that it’s world class and African and doesn’t need to blare those things out. But the world needs to know. People are stupid in what they know. I’ve had people ask me if we have tall buildings in Cape Town—three stories or more. Lions in the street. People really talk about that stuff. So you have to tell the world in clear terms, but it gets you into trouble locally where people’s thinking is much more sophisticated.

Complicating these tensions were local and national perceptions that UCT was disconnected from local priorities, as the manager of the mobility and links section elaborated: “The potential for friction is huge, because internationalization represents an out-of-the-country effort, and transformation is largely an in-the-country effort. Why spend money on getting students mobile when so many students can’t even afford to come to UCT?”

The director of internationalisation echoed the concern that UCT was viewed locally as elitist; she commented,

It’s been quite difficult to recruit students from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. Among South Africans, most students actually avoid applying to UCT even though many of them are qualified, they avoid it because they view UCT as an elitist institution, and maybe I will not succeed, and they’ve got all these myths about UCT. So UCT, sometimes it’s a struggle to find local South Africans, and so they’ve filled up their classes with students from other parts of the world.

Exacerbating the perception that UCT was elitist and disconnected from local South African concerns was the reality of the complicated relationships that UCT has with other African universities. As the manager of the African academic links section explained, UCT had to be very careful to balance its commitment to Africa with its elite standing on the continent:

I think we are better resourced at the moment than most other African institutions, including other South African institutions. . . . There are a lot of people who work at this university who have no idea what goes on in the rest of the continent at all. One has to be very careful not to say, here we are, we’re a fabulous resource, let us benefit the region—back into neocolonialism again. And certainly our people have a huge amount to learn, although it may not be technical so much as social.

In addition to the USHEPiA program, in 2006, IAPO funded a pilot student leadership exchange program for undergraduate student leaders at UCT and the University of Dar Es Salaam (UDSM) in Tanzania: UCT undergraduates traveled to Tanzania in January/February 2006, and UDSM undergraduates traveled to South Africa in April 2006. This initiative was part of a new emphasis on creating and strengthening linkages with African universities, and particularly to extend such opportunities to students. As Mel Dunn and Pam Nilan (2007) discussed, there are continuing tensions in South African universities between the imperative to contribute to the economic and educational development of Southern Africa, the need to generate revenue from African (non-SADC) international students, and the desire to reverse neocolonial relationships between South Africa and poorer African countries. Whereas Dunn and Nilan suggested that South African universities must move away from a philanthropic philosophy vis-à-vis Africa to a market-based neoliberal practice, Paul Zeleza (2005) argued that South Africa plays a unique and critical role in higher education on the African continent, and its policies in relationship to the rest of Africa must reflect that role. Furthermore, Zeleza strongly asserted that the internationalization of African universities must happen “on African terms,” a discourse that is muted at UCT because internationalization is juxtaposed to national, not regional or continent-wide, concerns.33 As Jansen et al. (2007) reminded us, such complex and thorny issues regarding the development and path of policies of internationalization at both the institutional and national levels may explain the ambivalence about the adoption of formal policies.


Unconstrained by formal policy, IAPO at UCT developed its own practices and priorities regarding internationalization on campus. As the director of internationalisation commented,

Although there was no policy, in fact, it’s ironic that even today, as we speak, there’s no formal policy [there’s a draft]; it’s amazing how the work of the office has developed even without a formal policy. But the decisions that have been made have been strategic; it’s just that there has been no definite policy.

Yet, it is clear that IAPO’s practices were, in actuality, the policy on internationalization at UCT even though the practices were not codified in an official manner. Thus, to return to my original research question, it is apparent that the lack of a policy on internationalization allowed for individual and organizational agency vis-à-vis internationalization (Marginson & Sawir, 2005; McLellan, 2008). Somewhat ironically, UCT’s adoption of a formal internationalization policy (shortly after my conversation, just quoted, with the director) may be a step toward the ambivalence described by Jansen et al. (2007) and a move away from the decidedly directed and strategic practices instituted by IAPO over the past decade. In this context, a policy on internationalization was put into place by an institution that felt global pressure to officially and publicly claim support for internationalization while at the same time deferring the implementation of any actual policy because of ongoing ambivalence. As Jansen (2002b) commented on policy in the political sphere, “politicians do not always invent policy in order to change practice. It often represents a search for legitimacy” (p. 212). In the case of UCT, adopting an official policy on internationalization was a central aspect of UCT’s quest for legitimacy within a global context as it struggled with continuing questions about its position in South Africa and its relationship to the rest of Africa and the world. To return to my secondary research questions, it is evident that as UCT attempted to move within the constraints of neoliberalism discussed by Sehoole (2005b), it deferred a definitive and clear policy on internationalization in an attempt to balance the conflicting demands of transformation and internationalization.

A comparison of the draft policy, developed by IAPO in 2001, and the official policy adopted in 2006 is instructive. For example, whereas the draft policy proposes, “A primary focus of all aspects of UCT’s internationalisation will be the African continent,” the final policy steps back from such definitiveness, instead indicating that “an important focus of UCT’s internationalisation will be the African continent.”34 Issues such as the impact of Semester Study Abroad on the curriculum, how and whether to limit the number of international students (including Semester Study Abroad and SADC), and the positioning of the UCT as an African institution are not codified, or even discussed in depth, in the official policy.

However, despite the limitations of the newly adopted formal policy, the terrain of UCT was already international and international in specific ways, having been shaped in the past decade by the local agency of IAPO (Marginson & Sawir, 2005). Although undoubtedly the practices of IAPO have conflicted with ideas and practices of internationalization emanating from other units of UCT, its influence in shaping the practices of internationalization at UCT has been considerable. Additionally, the decisions made by IAPO have also had unanticipated effects on areas of the university that are not normally considered part the internationalization of the campus. Thus, the local agency of individuals affiliated with IAPO, and the administrative unit itself, has had consequences despite (and perhaps because of) the lack of an overarching policy on internationalization. For example, the influx of Semester Study Abroad students has had a significant impact on enrollments in the Faculty of Humanities, where local enrollments were declining sharply because of South African students’ focus on business and other applied degrees. Humanities departments and colleges in the United States (and elsewhere) face similar (if somewhat less dramatic and sudden) challenges as students choose more applied degrees in an attempt to guarantee immediate employment after they graduate. Certainly universities in the United States (and elsewhere) are also experiencing competing priorities: to be at once local (particularly in the case of land-grant and regional institutions), national, and global in an era of declining public support.

Although a policy on internationalization at UCT was nonexistent from 1996 to 2006, and the recently adopted policy reflects ambivalence and passivity, the actual practices of internationalization have been strategic, directed, and ultimately fundamentally transformative of the everyday life of the institution. Such an understanding of the interplay of practice and policy supports Marcus Weaver-Hightower’s (2008) assertion that “policy creation is an extremely complex, often contradictory process that defies the commonly held image of singular purpose, and open, effective planning” (p. 153). Instead, Weaver-Hightower suggested that researchers need to examine policy through the metaphor of ecology, which, he explained, “leads the analyst toward accounting for diverse actors, considering more complex relationships and interdependencies, exploring multiple levels of environments and structures, and recognizing the many complicated processes that create transformations within any policy’s domain” (p. 163).

Such an approach to analysis is particularly important to consider in the realm of the development of internationalization and related policies at institutions worldwide. Although many institutions have formal policies regarding internationalization (see Note 1), it is possible that some of these policies exist largely for “political symbolism” (Jansen, 2002b) and have little impact on the daily operations of these institutions. As Deem et al. (2008) discussed, universities across the world are attempting to transform their institutions to conform to the image of the “world-class” university, thus adopting similar policies in response to national and international league tables. As universities strive to resemble such an ideal, and universities’ public policies emphasize similar themes and foci, it is critical that researchers focus on the “policy ecology” identified by Weaver-Hightower. These microcontexts are rich sources for understanding how varied local contexts interact with global factors. For example, Deem et al. discussed how, in the East Asian context, publication in international English-language journals is valued and rewarded more highly than publishing in journals in local languages for national audiences. An emphasis on the local may also reveal how universities’ formal policies on internationalization interact with the embedded everyday realities, tensions, and conflicts of formulating practice, allowing researchers to illuminate the complexities of interplay between the local and the global in internationalizing higher education throughout the world within the parameters of this particular historical moment.


My thanks to the deputy vice chancellor, external relations, University of Cape Town, for his permission to conduct this research, and to IAPO staff for their participation and support. Thanks also to Dr. Lyn Corno and anonymous reviewers for helpful feedback on an earlier draft of this essay.


1. See, for example, the mission statement of Hiroshima University (Japan); the Foundational Document for International Activities at the University of Saskatchewan (Canada); and the Report of the East Carolina Ad Hoc Strategic Planning Committee for International Affairs (United States). The specter of globalization now penetrates educational research and analysis, though of course there are multiple theoretical paradigms and positions. A complete review of the literature of education and globalization is beyond the scope of this article. For overviews of the development and application of the concept within education, see Nicholas Burbules and Carlos Torres (2000), Nelly Stromquist (2002), and Marcelo Suárez-Orozco and Desiree Qin-Hilliard (2004). For extensive discussion within the context of higher education, see journals such as this one, and Comparative Education, Compare, Higher Education, Journal of Studies in International Education, Australian Universities Review, and International Higher Education.

2. The International Office at Stellenbosch University was established in 1993, 3 years before IAPO. However, IAPO is currently the largest and is arguably the most influential international office at a South African university.

3. However, as Jansen et al. (2007) noted, several national policy and planning documents have implications for internationalization, including the White Paper on Science and Technology (1996); Education White Paper 3 (1997); and National Plan for Higher Education (2001). See also McLellan (2008).

4. An official policy on internationalization at UCT was adopted in March 2006, shortly after the data collection for this research project was completed. See http://www.uct.ac.za/about/iapo/internat/.

5. See also William Brustein (2007).

6. For historical perspective on the changing rationales for internationalizing higher education, see Sandra Meiras (2004). For a broader overview of the entire research trajectory of internationalization and higher education, see Dolby and Rahman (2008).

7. For the most comprehensive discussion of mergers and specific case studies, see Jonathan Jansen (2002a). See also M.T. C. Sehoole (2005a), Marcus Balintulo (2004), and Andrew Nash (2006).

8. Southern African Development Community (SADC) agreements allow students from the region to study at universities throughout the region without paying additional international fees. Current protocols commit South African institutions to enroll at least 5% SADC students. See Michael Cross and Sepideh Rouhani (2004).

9. At the time, Kishun was the president of the International Education Association of South Africa, an affiliate of NAFSA: The Association of International Educators.

10. The title of J. L. Lutabingwa’s (2005) article, “Internationalisation at South African Universities: The Role of a Central International Office,” seems to suggest that it is similar in content to this article. However, the actual article is based on an analysis of a central international office in the United States. Although Lutabingwa argued for the importance of a central international office at universities in South Africa, the article does not actually include any data/analysis of international offices in South Africa.

11. It is important to note that there is extensive research on the specific dynamics of South African higher education institutions within the context of transformation. In addition to the references cited in Note 7, see Mabokela (2000) and Mabokela and King (2001).

12. Some readers may reflect that this case study could also be presented as a study of the practices of leadership. That is certainly an accurate and valuable insight; however, specific development of that aspect of this research is beyond the scope of the present article.

13. Stake (2000) noted that multiple instrumental case studies that investigate the same phenomenon are then a “collective case study.” Because UCT is the first of what will eventually become a collective case study, at the moment, I classify this work as a single, instrumental study. There is certainly value in comparative case studies (e.g., see Marginson & Sawir, 2005). However, a comparative approach that discusses UCT’s efforts in comparison with other universities, whether in South Africa or elsewhere, is beyond the scope of this article. Data have been collected at a second institution in the United States, and a comparative, situated analysis of these two institutions is in progress.

14. Parallel criteria were used to select the comparative institution in the United States (see Note 13). Additionally, a third institution in Australia has been selected using the same criteria. Data collection in Australia is pending.

15. In July 2006, UCT formed the Internationalisation Management Advisory Group (IMAG) under the leadership of the deputy vice chancellor for external relations. IMAG’s members include IAPO’s management team, the deans of all of the faculties, and representatives from multiple administrative offices and the university senate. This is the first formal body created at UCT for the purposes of advising and setting policy on internationalization.

16. The following individuals were interviewed:


Deputy vice chancellor, external relations


Director, internationalisation


Director, USHEPiA program (and former director of IAPO)


Manager, African academic links


Manager, finance and administration


Manager, Internationalisation at Home


Manager, full-degree students


Manager, mobility and links


Coordinator, mobility and links

17. In some cases, interviews were fully transcribed. In others, transcription focused on key sections only. In all cases, transcripts and quotes used here were returned to participants for their review. It should be noted that IAPO itself is actively involved in the process of transformation. Most of the management team members in 2006 (with the exception of the director of internationalisation, who joined the office in 2006) were white South African. It should also be noted that many of the support staff were black (e.g., Indian, coloured, or African), and the office has a internship program in which recent UCT graduates are hired and trained for careers in international education. Nonetheless, the office’s management during its first decade was almost exclusively white South African, and that reality has contributed to its conflicted position on the UCT campus.

18. Consolidation of teacher training colleges and faculties of education began several years earlier. On mergers, see Jansen (2002a).

19. As Soudien and Corneilse (2000) argued, the phrase world-class African university was used so frequently by the vice chancellor in the late 1990s that it became “UCT’s new motto” (p. 308). On the use of the term world-class in Europe and Asia, see Deem et al. (2008).

 On early processes of desegregation at UCT, see Reitumetse Obakeng Mabokela (2000). See also Paula Ensor (2004) on issues of curriculum transformation, and Philip Taylor (2004) for a small case study that examines the perspectives of students in the School of Education at UCT in 1998. On large-scale changes in the landscape of South African higher education post-1994, see Jansen (2004) and Balintulo (2004).

20.  “Top 500 World Universities,” Institute of Higher Education, Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

21. The literature on the dynamics of race and class during and after apartheid is extensive. See Molatlhegi Trevor Chika Sehoole (2005b) for an excellent history of educational inequality and policy in the context of higher education. My earlier book on racial identity in a Durban high school in 1996 (Dolby, 2001) also provides a historical overview. See also Peter Kallaway (2002); Mokubung Nkomo (1990); Harold Wolpe (1988); and Elaine Unterhalter et al. (1991). Crain Soudien (2007) provided an overview of the research on school integration from the 1970s to the present.

22. In addition to UCT, the partner universities are Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Makerere University, University of Botswana, University of Dar Es Salaam, University of Nairobi, University of Zambia, and University of Zimbabwe. For more information, see http://web.uct.ac.za/misc/iapo/ushepia/bg.htm.

23. The Australia trip is discussed in the unpublished document, “Report on Visit to Eight Australian Universities to Investigate Internationalization in Tertiary Education,” July 1997, director of IAPO.

24. Profit from SSA in 2006 was R8.9 million, or approximately US$1.37 million, at the estimated exchange rate of 6.5 rand to the U.S. dollar.

25. See Note 32 for a discussion of the issue of the financial incentives for recruiting international students in the Australian context.

26. From 2000 to 2006, 75%–80% of Semester Study Abroad students were enrolled in the Faculty of Humanities. This was a deliberate enrollment management policy; other faculties either prohibited or strictly limited the enrollment of SSA students because of high demand from South African undergraduates.

27. Twenty percent of the total student enrollment at UCT in 2006 was international (including SSA). In comparison, in 2005, UCT’s total international student enrollment was 22.4%. Only Rhodes University, with a 2005 total percentage of 26.5% international students, had a higher percentage of international students, though it should be noted that Rhodes’s overall student population of 6,324 in 2005 was significantly smaller than UCT’s (21,731) in the same year. Rhodes enrolls very few (fewer than 50) study abroad or exchange students; thus, almost their entire international student population is full degree. Statistics on 2006 Rhodes enrollment were not available. For additional enrollment data, see Study South Africa (http://www.studyabroad.com/south-africa.html).

28. As of 2007, SADC member nations are Angola, Botswana, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nambia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

29. Elsewhere in this article, I have used the term black as an inclusive term that encompasses individuals who identify as African, coloured, or Indian (consistent with the definition of black in the Black Consciousness Movement). However, in common usage in South Africa, black refers only to individuals who identify as African. Thus, black in interview data should be understood in this way.

30. This case study was conducted in March 2006. In May 2008, anti-immigrant attacks throughout South Africa were the focus of worldwide attention (see Chilwane, 2008; UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, 2008).

31. Pattman (2007) also argued that race is of continuing significance in how students understand identities, though in a constructed and relational sense. See Pattman for discussion. Melanie Walker (2005), in her study of undergraduates at another South African university, argued that race is simultaneously nowhere and everywhere.

32. Certainly issues surrounding international students (both study abroad and full-degree) are of significant concerns in other nations. Perhaps most notably, Australia has become a leading destination worldwide for full-degree international students, though lately there are concerns about Australia’s growing dependence on international student tuition revenues. Comparative issues are not explored in this article; however, as noted, data analysis at a U.S. site has been completed, and research in Australia is pending. See Marginson and Considine (2000), Meiras (2004), and Slattery (2008) on the economics of international education in Australia.

33. Zeleza (2005) used both transnational and internationalization. Though he did not clearly differentiate between the terms, it should be noted that the larger context of his talk was on the implications of GATS for transnational education in Africa. Policies on internationalization would presumably include, and extend beyond, the impact of GATS.

34. University of Cape Town, “Draft Policy on Internationalisation,” 2001. UCT Policy on Internationalisation, 2006.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 112 Number 7, 2010, p. 1758-1791
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15865, Date Accessed: 1/25/2022 2:30:25 PM

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About the Author
  • Nadine Dolby
    Purdue University
    E-mail Author
    NADINE DOLBY is associate professor of curriculum studies and affiliated faculty, Cultural Foundations, at Purdue University. Her recent book, Youth Moves: Identities and Education in Global Perspective (Routledge, 2008) was edited with Fazal Rizvi. She has also published in numerous journals, including Review of Educational Research, Harvard Educational Review, and Comparative Education Review. Her research interests include international education, higher education, and qualitative inquiry.
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