Accounting for change: the micropolitics of university restructuring.

  • P Gibbon Independent Consultant
  • A Habib University of Durban Westville
  • J Jansen University of Pretoria
  • A Parekh Consultant to the Department of Education


This second article in a three-part series published in the South African Journal of Higher Education, describes the various ways in which "academic identity" informed the politics and shaped the outcomes of "restructuring" at the University of Durban Westville (UDW) in the late 1990s. The authors argue that while "restructuring" appears to be a process concerned with organisational and programmatic changes within the university, the effects of such reorganisation is to challenge established identities. At UDW the restructuring process generate an intense micropolitics across the campus because it had the effect of recasting ethnic identities (the case of the Indian languages), disciplinary identities (the case of political science, philosophy, and public administration), and professional identities (the case of the engineering faculty). The authors conclude that without grasping the underlying shifts in identity that inevitably accompany restructuring, university leaders and administrators run the risk of alienating the very constituencies from which they seek "buy-in" for radical change proposals. And without taking account of the politics of identity, attempts to theorise institutional change might falter by mistaking formal or superficial reorganisation for substantive or deep change.

South African Journal of Higher Education Vol.15(1) 2001: 40-46

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eISSN: 1011-3487