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Promoting Social Change amongst Students in Higher Education: A Reflection on the Listen, Live and Learn Senior Student Housing Initiative at Stellenbosch University

Munita Dunn-Coetzee
Magda Fourie-Malherbe


Twenty-two years after apartheid South African higher education is still struggling with challenges around access, success and transformation. Stellenbosch University (SU), as a historically white university, is striving to become significantly better and different in terms of relevance and active roleplaying. SU wants to prepare students to become South African citizens who bring about and enable positive change in society. The Listen, Live and Learn (LLL) initiative at SU is a senior student housing programme with the aim of providing experiential opportunities for students to make contact with ‘the other’. By being in closer, more regular contact with ‘the other’, students’ stereotypes, biases and discriminatory attitudes should start changing for the better. This article focuses on the evaluation of one of the proposed outcomes of the LLL programme – increased levels of interaction among students in a LLL house lead to reduced stereotyping and diminished bias. A quantitative investigation by means of an electronic survey was conducted. The second phase of the research was of a qualitative nature and consisted of focus group interviews. The conclusion can be made that LLL participants are a self-selecting group and that students who tend to apply for the LLL programme probably already have low levels of prejudice, bias and stereotyping. For the programme to effect social change, it needs to be considerably expanded in order to include more students who may not necessarily share the ‘openmindedness’ of this cohort.

Keywords Listen, Live and Learn initiative; social change; stereotyping; social change model; higher education