Centre for International Education Research (CIER)
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Development Discourses: Higher Education and Poverty Reduction in South Africa

Project information

Start date

July 2008


Professor Melanie Walker


Dr Monica McLean

Senior Research Fellow

Dr Arona Dison

End date

December 2009

Research Fellow

Dr Rosie Peppin-Vaughan

South African Coordinator

Associate Professor Uta Lehmann



The research focus of this project is the transformation of higher education in South Africa to meet the challenges of poverty reduction, economic development and social transformation in the 21st century. Specifically, the lens of professionalism and professional education in universities has been identified as a measure for evaluating the barriers, bridges, negotiations and interpretations of pro-poor transformations.


The project aims are to: 

  • investigate the equity trajectory of higher education institutions and their role as 'engines of reform', using the lens of discourses of development and professional education
  • make a contribution towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) by developing a conceptual and practical application of human development and well-being through professional education and graduate professionals


Three leading South African universities, each of which has a different historical genesis, are the case study sites. One professional site in each university was chosen and documentary, statistical, survey and interview data collected. 

A research working group at each university advises on the generation and refinement of metrics constituted by pro-poor dimensions and specific indicators to evaluate University transformation and professional education in relation to the MDGs and poverty reduction. 

Producing a professional capabilities index - the project case studies:

  • Higher Education and Poverty Reduction: the formation of public good professional in Universities. University of Nottingham, 2009. Melanie Walker, Monica McLean, Arona Dison and Rosie Vaughan.





University of the Western Cap



Centre for International Education Research

School of Education
University of Nottingham
Jubilee Campus
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

+44 (0)115 951 4543