South African Journal of Higher Education

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Some myths on equity and access in higher education

EM Bitzer


This paper is not a direct response to any particular contribution in the debate on the race-based affirmative action policy at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Rather, while I try to understand the essential line of argumentation of each of the UCT authors, my article points to the importance of equity and access as crucial factors in higher education
participation. I argue that these issues cannot, and should not be separated from the notion of affirmative action and race as a university admission criterion. Drawing mainly on James’s (2007) work on equity and access, I highlight a number of myths related to equality of access. I also indicate how institutional reputation can play a possible part in creating an image of systemic equity, while the majority of ‘black’ undergraduate
students in South Africa are enrolling at less reputable and even poor quality higher education institutions. The article finally argues for admissions policies that are wider in scope and not based solely on racial criteria, but also on applicants’ socio-economic status – particularly at universities that have largely achieved their ‘racial targets’.

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