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Higher Education for the Public Good

Our first featured ‘Book of the month’ is ‘Higher Education for the Public Good – Views from the South’ edited by Brenda Leibowitz.

by Dr Gillian Klein

‘The time has come for universities to take sides ­– and that side should be the public good’. These words from the Rector of Stellenbosch University, Professor Russell Botman, apply as much to western universities, including our own, as they do to his.

This book is very relevant at a time when education in the developing world is being increasingly targeted at higher rather than primary level, in pursuit of optimal public good. When the ultimate aim is the public good, the rewards can be great, benefiting the whole country and not just the graduates. But the challenges are immense.

Higher Education for the Public Good is a key text for every country that follows a programme of widening participation. This Trentham Book is published in association with SUN MeDIA in South Africa. Here, the perspective from the South gives it added value.

Editor Brenda Leibowitz and many of the contributors teach at Stellenbosch – less than 30 years ago a university for whites only. Now it is resolved to deliver first-rate education to non-standard entrants whose early schooling was hijacked by apartheid. The insights its academics offer are not easily obtainable in the North and we can learn from them. They give us an evaluative framework for a socially just institution, they explore the role of curriculum in advancing public-good education, and they identify the attributes of graduates for the public good.

Academics from four other South African universities add their views, along with others from Brunel and Anglia Ruskin universities, and from Ohio, USA and Valencia, Spain. These authors identify a pedagogy of hope in the social and allied health sciences, look at decolonizing pedagogies, and seek to cultivate global citizenship in engineering courses – all of which are conducive to education for the public good.

This feast of original, authoritative, and inspirational ideas, theories, and reflective accounts of good practice is seasoned by Mala Singh’s overview of the primacy of the public good in transforming higher education. But as she observes, such transformation ‘requires not only tenacious commitment but also clarity of conception about what is required, and the mobilization of a range of role-players around it’. This book shows the way.

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