Original Research - Special Collection: Change agency in a 21st-century South Africa

Releasing Higher Education from its elitist captivity: The change agency of Unisa’s Chance 2 Advance programme

Genevieve James
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 74, No 3 | a5045 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v74i3.5045 | © 2018 Genevieve James | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 April 2018 | Published: 29 October 2018

About the author(s)

Genevieve James, Community Engagement and Outreach, University of South Africa, South Africa


In South Africa, the majority of the population suffers from the inadequacy of learning opportunities and poor access to the higher education system. This causes the widening of the knowledge gap and increased socio-economic marginalisation, which threatens community agency. Critical knowledge created by academics at South African higher education institutions often culminates in access-controlled, costly scientific publications, thus limiting public access. On the other hand, because of the distance between universities and communities, community knowledge and intelligences are never fed back into the university to enrich scholarship and enhance relevance. This paper explores the need for higher education to be freed from its elitist captivity in order to widen access to knowledge that would enhance community agency and revitalise academic agency for social change. The paper starts with a discussion on the need for change in the elitist nature of higher education. I will recount how essential shifts in thinking and action created the Chance 2 Advance programme hosted by the largest provider of higher education on the continent, the University of South Africa. This programme was designed in an attempt to re-vision academic scholarship for the benefit of the poor. Chance 2 Advance is an engaged scholarship and community-learning programme designed to bring communities and academics closer, in a mutual and reciprocal process of knowledge creation and knowledge mobilisation for social change. The programme has been replicated in urban and rural areas with success. At the end of 2018, the programme is poised to reach 100 000 participants, since its inception in 2010.


Engaged Scholarship; Knowledge Mobilisation; Knowledge gap/divide; Chance 2 Advance; change agency; University of South Africa (Unisa); Community Engagement


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