Inclusive higher education learning outcomes for rural and township youth: developing a multi-dimensional capabilities-based higher education index

Lead Research Organisation: University of the Free State
Department Name: Ctr for Res on Higher Education & Dev

Abstract

South African higher education (HE) is characterised by inequalities of access, participation and success, and hence youth disadvantage, yet it is also seen as central to economic development and social mobility. The aim of the research, captured in the production of an innovative HE Index, is to develop an integrated, policy-oriented theorisation of pathways to learning outcomes that foregrounds equality and quality for young people from rural areas and townships when they are preparing for university, their experiences at university, and their graduate outcomes, and to understand what enables the realization of the transformative potential of HE for them. The project conceptualises raising learning outcomes as a process of multi-dimensional 'capabilities' expansion and realization of plural valued 'functionings'. Using the capability approach allows an understanding of how various factors interact to inhibit or enable capabilities that are valuable to individuals and to building a decent society. The project will uncover interrelated personal, educational and social challenges that account for the inequities in outcomes experienced by young people from challenging backgrounds, and standing in the way of quality HE for all. In particular, the project will focus on HE students supported by Thusanani Foundation (http://www.thusananifoundation.org), a youth-led not-for-profit organisation. Working with the Foundation provides access to disadvantaged youth and their educational pathways into, in and beyond higher education, and is a site through which important user insights can be gained. The mixed-method study will explore contextual factors - families, schools, university educational and social arrangements, and work-readiness activities - that enable and inhibit higher education pathways for these students. In particular, it will investigate what learning outcomes are valued by students themselves and by other stakeholders, why they are valued, and whether and how they are achieved. Engagement with stakeholders and impact activities are built into the project from the outset; the evidence-informed and consultative process will generate practice recommendations and policy options.
The main research participants are Thusanani Foundation supported students, attending four historically diverse universities, over four years from 2nd HE year to post graduation. Against a backdrop analysis of documentation, literature and national statistical data of inequalities and learning outcomes (cohort analyses), we will use quantitative (survey of n=700 Thusanani supported students; final year students n=1600), longitudinal qualitative methods (life histories; interviews, n=48 x 4 years), as well as notes of stakeholder meetings and visual methods to explore, at macro and micro levels, student experiences and learning outcomes. The methodology includes a participatory element with young people (students plus mentors) as researchers (n=32) and the interviews they conduct (n=40), to allow co-construction of ideas and to explore how participation in research might enhance learning outcomes. Interviews with Foundation student mentors (24); Foundation Board members (5); and, ethnographic field notes of Foundation work with school pupils will provide insight into the motivations, strategies and possibilities of raising learning outcomes. The project thus provides an integrated analysis of access, higher education experiences and graduate outcomes, with attention to educational, social and economic impacts. The data will be analysed in terms of: (1) structural distributive patterns of opportunities and achievements, including an analysis of the differences made by Thusanani Foundation; (2) a framework of capabilities inhibition and expansion, profiled inductively and deductively; and, (3) multi-dimensional HE learning outcomes Index of practical use to policy makers and development agencies, going beyond narrow measures of completion rates.

Planned Impact

The beneficiaries have a common interest in social inclusion related to raising the achievement of higher education (HE) learning outcomes for young people from disadvantaged circumstances. All groups will gain understanding of what enables or inhibits pathways into and through higher education for these young people. Through engagement with research evidence and developing a capabilities-based HE outcomes Index, they will gain understanding of which capabilities allow for HE access, participation and success and of how to support this. Impact will include academic impact through contributions of the knowledge produced by the project. This knowledge base in turn will contribute to society, benefitting individual students and society through the contributions they will be in a position to make socially and economically, and through research to advance understanding and practical educational application towards quality of life and well-being. The key beneficiaries are students from challenging rural and township contexts, whose HE achievements have been constrained. The production of the HE Index, to be developed in collaboration with, and as a result of research with young people, will be of direct benefit to students from challenging contexts who seek to participate and achieve worthwhile learning outcomes through HE. They will benefit from the processes of participatory research which provide spaces for them to voice perceptions and experiences which will contribute to socially innovative conceptions of higher education learning outcomes and to policy making about how to raise them. Students as key beneficiaries are linked to benefits for specific stakeholder groups: the Thusanani Foundation; South African Union of Students (SAUS), National Student Bursary Fund (NSFAS), South African Graduate Employers Association (SAGEA), Rural Education Access Programme (REAP). Below we list further beneficiaries.
Policy-makers and policy brokers: Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), the Council for Higher Education (CHE), Higher Education South Africa (HESA), the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Gauteng and Limpopo provincial governments. This group of beneficiaries will benefit from knowledge about how learning outcomes for youth are mediated in challenging contexts, which can be used to inform policy decisions about enhancing well-being and development. These beneficiaries will deepen their understanding of the potential of the capabilities approach (CA) by participating in developing capabilities measurement dimensions and methods (resulting in a CA-based HE Index).
NGOs and donors: British Council, Carnegie Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Oppenheimer Foundation, Equal Education (for NGOs). This group of beneficiaries will benefit from participation in developing the Index, which will be of practical use in raising learning outcomes of disadvantaged young people from challenging contexts. The knowledge they gain through development and application of the Index will be of use in helping to convince policymakers of the benefit of this intervention designed to support such young people to enter into and succeed in higher education.
HE practitioners: Cape Higher Education Consortium (CHEC), Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association of South Africa (HELTASA), DHET, CHE, HESA. This group will benefit from increased understanding of how educational arrangements in HE enable and constrain development of capabilities and learning outcomes which predict success, in particular transformative individual experience and contributions to society after graduation.
Academic researchers based in universities & research organisations: Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), National Research Foundation (NRF), South African Educational Research Association (SAERA). The capacity of this group will be built to research the relationship between contexts and educational outcomes from a human development perspective.
 
Description The project is at the mid-way point.
From the first two waves of life history data it is clear that student poverty (lack of income) has a serious contextual impact on access and participation at university, and hence on student learning outcomes.
In addition quality in teaching and learning provision is uneven across the five case study universities, and critical thinking appears under-developed.
All the students hold an instrumental view of higher education.
All the students see higher education as the key to social mobility for themselves as individuals but primarily for their families.
The context of rurality appears to have less effect than that of low-income.
Students exhibit perseverance, determination and navigational skill in dealing with obstacles - social, educational and financial.
Using the fame of the capability approach the key capability that emerges as foundational learning outcome for inclusive higher education is that of Miranda Fricker's epistemic contribution capability (epistemological access, reciprocal knowledge and learning).
Exploitation Route The capability approach and the emergent set of capability dimensions can inform policy and practices in the direction of inclusion.
Sectors Education

 
Description Our work with Thusanani Foundation - and the collection of data from students they support - is assisting them in reflecting on and reviewing their own processes and improving their own data bases.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Education
Impact Types Societal

 
Description Colloquium 2018
Geographic Reach Africa 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Research Colloquium in September 2018 provided four early- career researchers from sub-Saharan Africa to present papers, act as chairs and discussants.
 
Description PhD Conference
Geographic Reach Africa 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact The PI of the Miratho project initiated and organised a PhD conference for her own UFS students, as well as students from the University of the Western cape and the Witwatersrand University. Fifteen PhD students presented papers on their own research for discussion and feedback. Post-doctoral fellows at the UFS had the opportunity to co-organise, act as chairs, discussants, and so on.
 
Description Postgraduate capacity building
Geographic Reach Africa 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact In May 2018, workshops were held at the University of the Free State by the the two UK members of the Miratho team with 10 PhD students (9 from sub-Saharan Africa) from the Higher Education & Human Development research group, as well as early career researchers to respond to and discuss their own research projects and writing.
 
Description Researcher Rating Incentives Fund
Amount R 100,000 (ZAR)
Organisation South African National Research Foundation (NRF) 
Sector Public
Country South Africa
Start 01/2017 
End 12/2017
 
Description South African Research Chairs Initiative
Amount R 2,700,000 (ZAR)
Funding ID 86450 
Organisation South African National Research Foundation (NRF) 
Sector Public
Country South Africa
Start 01/2018 
End 12/2022
 
Title AP Scores 
Description A detailed review and mapping of the admissions requirements of the five universities we are focusing on was conducted and used to develop a spreadsheet that can be used to map out for, a given student and comparatively, which universities they would qualify to access. This provides an indication of inequalities across the five universities from an admissions point of view. Using a set of 4 example high school learners with different school leaving results, a mapping was done to see which universities each learner would qualify to enter. The analysis shows that City and Metropolitan are more exclusive and have higher entrance criteria compared to Provincial, Rural and Country. We are in the process of accessing school leaving results from the students participating in the project and these results will be used to conduct the same analysis using actual data. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Analysis in process 
 
Title HEMIS Cohort Study No 1 
Description The study of the 2006 and 2007 cohorts of students provides quantitative details of how many rural and township youth enter higher education, for 3 or 4 degrees or diploma, for which programmes of study, and with what success rates compared to sub/urban youth. It disaggregates also by race and gender. It further drills down for four selected universities of different types. The database had to develop a way of identifying rural and township students as the raw data does not provide this information. There is no direct link between home postcode and urban rural classifications used by STATSSA in surveys. The postal codes of all new undergraduate entrants in 2006 and 2007 were included in the extraction from the DHET HEMIS data base. A list of postal codes indicating the suburb as well as area was downloaded from the Post Office's website. The list of postal codes extracted from the student records in HEMIS was linked with the postal code of the Post Office to get the suburb as well as area name. Various sources were used to classify the suburb and area names into urban, rural and township categories and to link the postal codes in the student records to the classifications needed for the analysis.This exercise had limitations as a result of some overlap of postal codes especially of townships with some urban areas. White enrolments "coming from townships" - which is unlikely - is an indication that these classifications could not be done with complete accuracy but overall it provided an acceptable level of classification into the three groups. The differences in completion rates between rural, township and sub/urban students are thus meaningful. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The impact is academic so far - on the development of a new and more refined cohort database for the 2010 cohort. 
URL http://www.miratho.com
 
Title Hemis single university study 
Description Cohort analysis focused on undergraduate students at Provincial University. This dataset draws on audited HEMIS Data provided by Provincial University to track the cohort of undergraduate students who first enrolled in 2010, up until 2016. The cohort data allows for disaggregation by school quintile, rural/urban/township area, as well as race and gender. The following qualification groupings have been analysed: 1 or 2 year Diplomas and Certificates; 3 year B-degrees; 4 year B-degrees; and the Access Programme (across two different campuses). 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact In process 
 
Title Life histories 
Description The first two waves (2017 and 2018) of 65 (2017) and 63 (2018) in-depth student life histories across five universities (currently 128 interviews), linked to this, coded data using Nvivo analysis and multiple relevant themes. It further includes shorter synopses based on each life history. A codebook has been produced. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The life histories inform the development of an Inclusive Learning Outcomes Index and measurement debates and methods in the project as well as presentations and drafting of papers. 
 
Title Master List 
Description A master list drawn from the 65 life histories which disaggregates each student by age, gender, school (and school quintile), home village or town, language spoken at home and at school, first in family to attend HE, degree programme being studied, and poverty category as developed by the project analysis. This updated annually. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Fundamental to analysis and presentations. 
 
Title National and provincial data set 
Description A data set mapping out 11 indicators comprised of 73 items or sub-indicators has been compiled drawing on national datasets, including: Census 2011, Community Survey 2016, EMIS data, and Youth Explorer data. The focus of the data set is the three main rural districts (Vhembe- Limpopo; Harry Gwala- Kwa-Zulu Natal; Joe Gqabi-Eastern Cape) from which the majority of the students participating in the Miratho project come, together with comparative provincial and national data. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact In process for research data analysis. 
 
Title Photovoice 
Description A collection of 19 visual narratives comprising photographs and text produced by project participants in three regions: Free State, Gauteng and Limpopo 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Thus far the primary impact is on the student participants themselves in the skills and confidence they have acquired. 
 
Description Charles Sheppard 
Organisation Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Department Sustainability Research Unit
Country South Africa 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We developed a brief for Charles Sheppard to investigate HEMIS (Higher Education Management Informations Systems) data which all South African universities are required to report to government every year. The data allows longitudinal tracking of cohorts of students. The PI secured permission from the department of higher education to access the raw HEMIS data to undertake cohort studies.
Collaborator Contribution Charles Sheppard has completed the first cohort study of rural and township youth for the project.
Impact A working paper on the first cohort study.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Participatory research 
Organisation Linnaeus University
Country Sweden 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Invitation to UFS to contribute to discussions on using digital participatory methods. Agreement to host five Linneaus masters students.
Collaborator Contribution Training of senior researcher in digital story-telling methods
Impact Skills in making digital stories
Start Year 2019
 
Description Pavia 
Organisation University of Pavia
Department The Institute for Advanced Study of Pavia
Country Italy 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are working as a team on a key aspect of the research, that of building a higher education index.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners have expertise in development economics and capabilities and are helping us at this stage with the design of a higher education index which we can then operationalize.
Impact The collaboration is inter-disciplinary. The first output is a working paper authored by one of our Pavia collaborators.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Thusanani Foundation 
Organisation Thusanani Foundation
Country South Africa 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The PI made contact with the Foundation pre-research proposal writing and maintained the contact and consultation through the writing of the proposal and its submission. Once the grant was award the Foundation was invited to join the first planning meeting, which took place over six days in Bloemfontein in October 2016. Two Foundation members joined for the duration. This process is building a strong and reciprocal partnership with a youth-led Foundation working on higher education access and success.
Collaborator Contribution The Foundation has generously been closely involved in project planning and are enabling our access to students at the five case study universities, as well as giving us access to their own tracking data of the students they support, and the school workshops they organise in rural areas. Their contributions to planning discussions and to choosing the project name have been invaluable for their understanding of issues around rural youth and access to higher education. They have worked with us on planning the first round of intensive data collection in March-April 2017, and three Foundation members will join us for the whole three weeks to work with the project team on data collection and early analysis.
Impact There are no outputs or outcomes at this early stage of the project.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Bath 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Paper on epistemic contribution presented by Monica McLean in the School of Management at the University of Bath 27 June 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.bath.ac.uk/ichem/pdf/the-capability-for-epistemic-contribution-a-case-of-university-stude...
 
Description Bristol 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This event was part of the School of Education's 'Bristol Conversations in Education' seminar series on 30 January 2018. Ann-Marie Bathmaker and Monica McLean presented in a panel on Rural Students' Transitions to and through Higher Education in South Africa. This seminar offered insights from two current ESRC funded projects (SARiHE and Miratho) on rural students' transitions to and through higher education in South Africa.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.bristol.ac.uk/education/events/2018/bcined30jan2.html
 
Description Mikateko_UFS 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Media interview with Miketeko Hoppener for national Women's Day August 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://vimeo.com/283470464
 
Description Nottingham seminar 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Seminar in the School of Education, University of Nottingham 22 June 2018 on 'The capability for epistemic contribution as an inclusive learning outcome'. The seminar considered Martha Nussbaum's 'practical reason' capability - forming 'a conception of the good and to engage in critical reflection about the planning of one's own life', and Miranda Fricker's (distinctly bi-directional conception of human well-being, as necessitating not only receiving but also giving, which formed the premise of the paper's argument for epistemic contribution as an inclusive learning outcome- understood here as the enhancement of university students' valued capabilities and functionings, but also as the development of students as givers of knowledge, and not just takers. The seminar made a case empirically for different forms of capital as sources of epistemic materials and demonstrated why epistemic contribution ought to be considered as an example of inclusive learning outcomes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/education/events/2017-18/research-seminars/epistemic-contribution.aspx
 
Description PRL South seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Paper presented by Mikateko Hoppener to the PRL organised Africa seminar for the Raising Learning Outcomes (RLO) programme, 14-16 September 2018. The papers presented in the Symposium represented the work of eleven research teams across nine countries - Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Niger, South Africa and Uganda - highlighting common challenges such as resource scarcity and inequalities in access and learning associated with gender, disability and income. The Symposium concluded with an 'impact' session based on the South African context, with research presentations on the links between leadership and learning in rural and township schools Policy actors Professor Mary Metcalfe (former director-general of the South African Department of Higher Education and now with the Programme to Improve Learning Outcomes), Carol Nuga-Deliwe (Chief Director, Planning, Research and Coorindation at the Department of Basic Education, South Africa) and Godwin Khosa (CEO, National Education Collaboration Trust) offered insights on the influence of research on national-level decision-making, and Nompumelelo Mohohlwane (Deputy Director: Research, Monitoring & Evaluation, Department of Basic Education) shared advice to researchers on how to work with the government to provide evidence for policy impact.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.theimpactinitiative.net/event/event-%E2%80%98raising-learning-outcomes%E2%80%99-africa-s...
 
Description Policy meetings 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The senior researcher in Miratho, Mikateko Hoppener met with senior people from Universities South Africa (USAF), the organization of vice-chancellors and the government Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Project Advisory Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A workshop was held to discuss the project so far and to take advice from policy makers, academics and relevant NGOs.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Research Colloquium 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact One day colloquium on 'Researching inequalities' using the capability approach. there were eight papers, four presented by early career researchers, two international presenters, one national presenter and one UFS presenter. Two discussants, one international and one national commented on the day.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008
 
Description SRHE Symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Papers presented: 1) Melanie Walker, The capability approach and higher education research: theoretical and empirical insights', and 2)
Monica McLean, Epistemological access and capability expansion at university, in the SRHE Symposium, Exploring Capability Theory in Higher Education Research : UK and International Perspectives, 7 June 2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Seoul keynote 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Keynote talk introduced the significance of democratic capabilities to education and the well-being of societies
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Stakeholder workshop 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Half day workshop in Johannesburg, May 2018 to which stakeholders were invited from all public universities. The research team discussed their capability approach to the data and shared the first round of life history data. Participants were invited to discuss the data and the emergent capabilities in relation to their own professional practice. The audience comprised mainly lecturers with some policy people (university and national) and some student participants from the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Taipei keynote 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A keynote talk introduced key ideas from the capability approach and their relevance to higher education globally.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description UCL Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Melanie Walker presented a seminar on The public good of South African higher education and the lens of decoloniality at the UCL Institute of Education, 8 June 2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description University of Birmingham symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Symposium on Addressing inequalities in higher education: theoretical approaches and evidence from practice in South Africa, University of Birmingham, UK, 6 November 2017. Monica McLean and Ann-Marie Bathmaker presented a paper on Epistemic access for university students from disadvantaged backgrounds: South Africa's Miratho Project.
Melanie Walker presented a paper on Capability theorising and the Miratho project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description University of Oxford seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Melanie Walker did a presentation on Capabilities that Count - the Miratho Project on Inclusive Higher Education Learning Outcomes at St Anthony's College, University of Oxford
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A project website has been set up with the aim of presenting information on the project in a way accessible to a wide range of stakeholders in and outside higher education. The website continues to be developed and now includes project information, video clips, working papers, resources and information on events. Four working papers have been added so far: Measurement Literature review by Alberta Spreafico 2016/1; Cohort Studies - 2016 by Charles Sheppard 20167/2; Accessing University by Melanie Walker and Mikateko Hoppener, 2017/3; Decolonization and knowledge inequalities by Carmen Martinez-Vargas 2017/4.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
URL http://www.miratho.com
 
Description Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A 'Critical Voices' workshop was organised to bring together primarily youth voices in higher education, with some participation of NGOs and academics, to discuss critically the capability approach and its relevance for higher education in South Africa and for re-imagining universities from a youth and non-academic perspective, as well as to elicit discussion of the project aims and methods. Advice was also sought on the range of stakeholders to engage with the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.miratho.com