John Higgins 2014. Academic Freedom in a Democratic South Africa: Essays and Interviews on Higher Education and the Humanities

By Ngarsou, Voudina | African Studies Quarterly, September 2015 | Go to article overview

John Higgins 2014. Academic Freedom in a Democratic South Africa: Essays and Interviews on Higher Education and the Humanities


Ngarsou, Voudina, African Studies Quarterly


John Higgins 2014. Academic Freedom in a Democratic South Africa: Essays and Interviews on Higher Education and the Humanities. London: Bucknell University Press. 272 pp.

Human history has been marked by endless struggles for freedom. Although the 1996 Constitution of South Africa protects academic freedom, the exclusion of the humanities by reform policy makers constitutes a big challenge for humanists and social scientists. Therefore, Higgins' Academic Freedom in a Democratic South Africa is a scholarly book, bringing to the readers' attention the limitations of academic freedom and the humanities under apartheid and the African National Congress (ANC).

The way the book is presented enables the readers to quickly interpret its contents as a fight between the universities and the State, and a competition between the STEM disciplines and the NAIL disciplines. In reality, it is about the marginalization of the humanities, and what caused it is not perceived until one gets to chapter five, where the author argues that "the force of this excluding consensus was strong enough to inhibit arguments and insights generated within two key institutions most associated with the globalisation of higher education policy, the World Bank and the OECD" [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] (p. 170). These institutions are therefore seen as the proponents of scientific disciplines, excluding the humanities. The governments are just agents of these institutions.

The author proves to be a defender of the humanities. In the well researched, enlightening, most important, and formal concluding chapter five, the author has indeed accomplished his intention of "making the case for the humanities" (p. 141) giving evidence of the tremendous contributions of the humanities worldwide. Therefore, this very chapter may make a book on its' own. Higgins argues that "the advanced forms of literacy" (p. 80) cannot be found in science and technology, but in the humanities and social sciences, and they "constitute the very ground of educational possibility, the substance of both efficient and reflexive communication, as well as a significant element in critical and creative thinking" (p. 80). Other strengths of the book include the presentation of historical analyses of concepts such as academic freedom, institutional culture, and neo-liberalism as well as writing. Higgins argues that the humanists help "to train new generation of intellectuals, civil leaders and change agents for building a just democratic society" (p. 142). He carefully corrects spelling errors from other sources. The success of the book also lies in the clear distinction between academic freedom and freedom for everyone, and the prospect for a change for an equal opportunity as can be seen in Higgins' suggestions, and in the resistance of humanists to "policy internationalism" (p. …

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