South African Journal of Higher Education

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Crossing discourse boundaries – Students' diverse realities when negotiating entry into knowledge communities

SC van Schalkwyk


Approximately one in every three students entering higher education in South Africa will have dropped out by the end of their first year of study. Under-preparedness has repeatedly been cited as one of the most common causes, with academics suggesting that many students lack the reading and writing skills they need to be successful at university. However, the widening of access to higher education worldwide has created a shift from the homogeneity typical of an elite structure, to a complex, multi-layered diversity. In response, institutions have implemented support mechanisms, such as mentoring, tutoring and extended degree programmes, for ‘at-risk' students. Recent research confronts several of the assumptions on which the establishment of such academic support interventions are typically based. This article seeks to explore these issues as part of an ongoing doctoral study. Some of the issues articulated by students as they seek to cross discourse boundaries will be discussed against some of the theoretical considerations that underpin current academic development thinking.

J South African Journal of Higher Education Vol. 21 (7) 2008: pp. 954-968
AJOL African Journals Online