Pre-Conference Workshop:  22 November   |  Park Inn by Radisson Newlands & Southern Sun Newlands

Conference:  23 - 25 November  |  Baxter Theatre, Park Inn by Radisson Newlands & Southern Sun Newlands

Keynote Speakers



JoanTrontoProfessor Joan Tronto 

Joan Tronto is a professor of political theory at the University of Minnesota and is the author of numerous studies on care and gender, on women in American politics, and on feminist political theory. She is most known for exploring the intersections of care ethics, feminist theory, and political science. Many of her philosophical studies resonate with the practice of academic development. In Caring Democracy: Markets, Equality, and Justice (2013), for example, she argues that care is best when practiced democratically, and democracy can only be fully inclusive when it is attentive to care and practiced in a caring manner.She supports a feminist care ethic designed to thwart the accretion of power to the existing powerful, and to increase value for activities that legitimize shared power. She identifies moral boundaries that have served to privatize the implications of care ethics, and highlights the political dynamics of care relations which describe, for example, the tendency of women and other minorities to perform care work in ways that benefit the social elite. She expands the phases of care to include “caring about”, “taking care of” (assuming responsibility for care), “care-giving” (the direct meeting of need), and “care-receiving”. She coined the phrase “privileged irresponsibility” to describe the phenomenon that allows the most advantaged in society to purchase caring services, delegate the work of care-giving, and avoid responsibility for the adequacy of hands-on care.


Joan Tronto’s ‘think piece’: Higher Education for Citizens of Caring Democracies

Many of us (including myself) became involved in higher education because we felt its transformative power upon ourselves and we wanted to pass this gift on to others. In the cultural revolutions of the 1960s, universities were criticized for failing to be “relevant” and for being an “ivory tower” separate from the rest of the world. Now, universities are measured by metrics of engagement. But this was not that call to abandon the ivory tower was meant to do! I suggest that the big question that we need to address today – as developers, as faculty, as members of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) – is a more fateful one (and it may already be too late to ask it).   Have universities become too deeply enmeshed in the affairs of the world, surrendering their own unique location and powers in the world? Does educational development lead towards transformation or does it nudge HEIs more closely to accepting the world as it is, and towards convincing people to accept their place in an increasingly unjust, if interconnected, world order?

We live in a democratic age. Yet increasingly, profound inequalities of circumstance determine people’s life chances when they are born. Higher education, though now more widespread, has never been for everyone, and those who are lucky enough to complete a degree still end up with better life chances. The expansion of higher education has thus not changed its divisive effect. Rather than being an engine for greater democracy, then, has higher education simply become another engine for greater inequality?

The peril of this situation is a real one, and using the language of “development” to describe the improvement of teaching and learning is perhaps symptomatic of the problem. In the social sciences, the term “development” was used throughout most of the second half of the twentieth century to describe a process by which “less developed” states were expected to follow the path of development of capitalist, northern, “first world” states. The logic of the idea of development presumes that there is some end point towards which development aims. What should that “development” try to achieve?

Without serious thinking about the meaning of development, what we try to accomplish as developers will fall into the prevailing ideologies of the day. These ideas now presume a neoliberal global economic order, characterized by a “flatness” that puts everyone in a situation of anxiety. Well-off people fear falling behind; people who have little fear not getting ahead. Efficiency, better “delivery,” not the unique transformation of the individual, seems to have become our unstated goal.

To what end should we be developing our capacities as teachers and learners? I propose that if we believe in democratic life, then higher education has a critical role to play, not in producing an economic or cultural elite, but in producing citizens who are capable of ensuring that democratic values are deeply embodied in the leaders of societies. This requires that citizens care about democracy itself and that leaders ensure that respect exists for all and trust can thrive among all people. That step requires in turn that institutions, including HEIs, operate in a caring manner in order to ensure that people are cared for and to foster the value of care.



Professor Achille Mbembe -  

Achille Mbembe is a Research Professor in History and Politics at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of the Witwatersrand. He was born in Cameroon, obtained his Ph.D in History at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1989 and a D.E.A. in Political Science at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques (Paris). He was Assistant Professor of History at Columbia University, New York, from 1988-1991, a Senior Research Fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C., from 1991 to 1992, Associate Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania from 1992 to 1996, Executive Director of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (Codesria) in Dakar, Senegal, from 1996 to 2000. Achille was also a visiting Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2001, and a visiting Professor at Yale University in 2003. He has written extensively in African history and politics, including La naissance du maquis dans le Sud-Cameroun (Paris, Karthala, 1996).  On the Postcolony was published in Paris in 2000 in French and the English translation has been published by the University of California Press, Berkeley, in 2001. He recently co-authored a chapter on "Mandela’s Mortality” (2014) In The Cambridge companion to Nelson Mandela.


Achille Mbembe’s ‘think piece’: from Decolonizing Knowledge and the Question of the Archive

Is this the only future left to aspire to – one in which every human being becomes a market actor; every field of activity is seen as a market; every entity (whether public or private, whether person, business, state or corporation) is governed as a firm; people themselves are cast as human capital and are subjected to market metrics (ratings, rankings) and their value is determined speculatively in a futures market?

Decolonizing the university starts with the de-privatization and rehabilitation of the public space – the rearrangement of spatial relations Fanon spoke so eloquently about in the first chapter of The Wretched of the Earth. It starts with a redefinition of what is public, i.e., what pertains to the realm of the common and as such, does not belong to anyone in particular because it must be equally shared between equals.

The decolonization of buildings and of public spaces is therefore not a frivolous issue, especially in a country that, for many centuries, has defined itself as not of Africa, but as an outpost of European imperialism in the Dark Continent; and in which 70% of the land is still firmly in the hands of 13% of the population. The decolonization of buildings and of public spaces is inseparable from the democratization of access. When we say access, we are naturally thinking about a wide opening of the doors of higher learning to all South Africans. For this to happen, SA must invest in its universities. For the time being, it spends 0.6% of its GDP on higher education. The percentage of the national wealth invested in higher education must be increased.

But when we say access, we are also talking about the creation of those conditions that will allow black staff and students to say of the university: “This is my home. I am not an outsider here. I do not have to beg or to apologize to be here. I belong here”. Such a right to belong, such a rightful sense of ownership has nothing to do with charity or hospitality. It has nothing to do with the liberal notion of ‘tolerance’. It has nothing to do with me having to assimilate into a culture that is not mine as a precondition of my participating in the public life of the institution. It has all to do with ownership of a space that is a public, common good. It has to do with an expansive sense of citizenship itself indispensable for the project of democracy, which itself means nothing without a deep commitment to some idea of public-ness.

Furthermore – especially for black staff and students - it has to do with creating a set of mental dispositions. We need to reconcile a logic of indictment and a logic of self-affirmation, interruption and occupation. This requires the conscious constitution of a substantial amount of mental capital and the development of a set of pedagogies we should call pedagogies of presence.

Black students and staff have to invent a set of creative practices that ultimately make it impossible for official structures to ignore them and not recognize them, to pretend that they are not there; to pretend that they do not see them; or to pretend that their voice does not count. The decolonization of buildings and public spaces includes a change of those colonial names, iconography, ie., the economy of symbols whose function, all along, has been to induce and normalize particular states of humiliation based on white supremacist presuppositions. Such names, images and symbols have nothing to do on the walls of a public university campus more than 20 years after Apartheid.

Another site of decolonization is the university classroom. We cannot keep teaching the way we have always taught. Numbers of our institutions are teaching obsolete forms of knowledge with obsolete pedagogies. Just as we decommission statues, we should decommission a lot of what passes for knowledge in our teaching. In an age that more than ever valorizes different forms of intelligence, the student-teacher relationship has to change. In order to set our institutions firmly on the path of future knowledges, we need to reinvent a classroom without walls in which we are all co-learners; a university that is capable of convening various publics in new forms of assemblies that become points of convergence of and platforms for the redistribution of different kinds of knowledges.

Universities have always been organizational structures with certified and required programs of study, grading system, methods for the legitimate accumulation of credits and acceptable and non- acceptable standards of achievement. Since the start of the 20th century, they have been undergoing internal changes in their organizational structure.

Today, they are large systems of authoritative control, standardization, gradation, accountancy, classification, credits and penalties. We need to decolonize the systems of management insofar as they have turned higher education into a marketable product bought and sold by standard units.

We might never entirely get rid of measurement, counting, and rating. We nevertheless have to ask whether each form of measurement, counting and rating must necessarily lead to the reduction of everything to staple equivalence. We have to ask whether there might be other ways of measuring, counting and rating which escape the trap of everything having to become a numerical standard or unit. We have to create alternative systems of management because the current ones, dominated by statistical reason and the mania for assessment, are deterring students and teachers from a free pursuit of knowledge. They are substituting this goal of free pursuit of knowledge for another, the pursuit of credits.

The system of business principles and statistical accountancy has resulted in an obsessive concern with the periodic and quantitative assessment of every facet of university functioning. An enormous amount of faculty time and energy are expended in the fulfillment of administrative demands for ongoing assessment and reviews of programs and in the compilation of extensive files demonstrating, preferably in statistical terms, their productivity – the number of publications, the number of conference papers presented, the number of committees served on, the number of courses taught, the number of students processed in those courses, quantitative measures of teaching excellence. Excellence itself has been reduced to statistical accountancy.

We have to change this if we want to break the cycle that tends to turn students into customers and consumers. We have to change this – and many other sites - if the aim of higher education is to be, once again, to redistribute as equally as possible a capacity of a special type – the capacity to make disciplined inquiries into those things we need to know, but do not know yet; the capacity to make systematic forays beyond our current knowledge horizons.


 MichalinosZembylasProfessor Michalinos Zembylas  - 

Michalinos Zembylas is Associate Professor of Educational Theory and Curriculum Studies at the Open University of Cyprus. He is also Visiting Professor and Research Fellow at the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice, University of the Free State, South Africa. He has written extensively on emotion and affect in relation to social justice pedagogies, intercultural and peace education, human rights education and citizenship education. Recent books include Teaching Contested Narratives: Identity, Memory and Reconciliation in Peace Education and Beyond (with Zvi Bekerman, Cambridge University Press) and Integrated education in conflicted societies (with C. McGlynn and Z. Bekerman, Palgrave). His latest book is titled Emotion and Traumatic Conflict: Re-claiming Healing in Education (Oxford).


Michalinos Zembylas’ ‘think-piece’: Practicing an Ethic of Discomfort as an Ethic of Care in Higher Education

Attention to caring during the last few decades (Dance, 2002; Gilligan, 1988; Noddings, 1984, 1992; Thompson, 1998; Katz, 1999; Rauner, 2000; Valenzuela, 1999) emphasizes its importance in teaching, learning and the student/teacher relationship. Caring, writes Noddings, one of the most recognized and cited scholars of caring in education, “is the very bedrock of all successful education” (1992, p. 27) and caring can transform education at all levels, if it becomes an integral part of teaching and learning. As opposed to an ethic of justice, an ethic of caring, she asserts, emphasizes receptivity, relatedness and responsiveness rather than rights and rules (Noddings, 1984).

Caring requires educators to elicit and listen to how students are feeling, to evaluate their purposes, to help them to engage in self-evaluation, and to help them grow as participants in caring relations (Noddings, 1992). This orientation, especially at the higher education level, suggests that educators have to shift their perspectives in teaching, become more receptive and learn new pedagogical skills. When this stance becomes a professional practice in the classroom, caring takes the shape of encouraging dialogue, showing sensitivity to students’ needs and talents, and providing engaging materials and activities to the students. In other words, it is argued that the whole orientation of education has to change to develop a system that nurtures people in becoming caring human beings (Noddings, 1995).

Caring, however, means different things to different theorists and is often interpreted through perspectives that ignore the social, cultural, racial and gender context in which caring is enacted (Zembylas, Bozalek, & Shefer, 2014). Thus caring “is a symbolic concept charged with multiple political, social and cultural meanings” (McKamey, 2004, p. 6). Hamovitch (1995) also rejects assumptions about uniformity in the interpretations of caring and raises the question: “Who is going to be doing the caring, within what context, based on what assumptions about why it is that students are in need of caring?” (p. 3). One of the ethical issues raised as a consequence of this question is how far educators can ‘push’ their students and use discomfort as a caring pedagogical practice (Berlak 2004, Boler 1999, 2004, Boler & Zembylas, 2003, Faulkner and Crowhurst 2014, Kishimoto and Mwangi 2009, Mintz 2013, Zembylas & McGlynn, 2012). Or to put this differently: What are the ethical implications of pedagogies that evoke discomfort in students in the name of caring?

This keynote has three purposes: to clarify some theoretical conversations regarding caring in education; to outline some implications in higher education, particularly in terms of the emotional labour involved when an ethic of caring teaching is practised; and to consider some ways with which higher education practitioners may begin to formulate and sustain an ethic of discomfort that is aligned with an ethic of caring. The position formulated here critiques elements of educational development that do not pay attention to ethics of caring—particularly, the notion of ‘development’ itself in relation to the ethical and epistemological shifts suggested by ethics of caring in higher education.


DeniseWoodProfessor Denise Wood - 

Denise Wood is a Research Professor, Engaged Research Chair and Director of the Centre for Regional Advancement of Learning, Equity, Access and Participation at Central Queensland University. She also holds an adjunct senior research fellow position at the University of South Australia and held an Extraordinary Professorial position at the University of the Western Cape from 2012-2015. Denise’s research focuses on the use of accessible information and communication technologies to increase social and educational participation, improving pathways to education and employment for under-represented groups, and participatory research design. She has been awarded more than AU$6 million in research income for projects that aim to improve educational and employment pathways for people from diverse backgrounds, and she has authored/co-authored more than 120 peer reviewed journal publications, book chapters, conference papers and government reports. She is an Associate Editor of the Higher Education Research and Development Journal and peer reviewer of several high ranked journals. She has been an assessor for the Australian Government’s learning and teaching grants and awards, and expert reviewer for the South African National Research Foundation and the United States National Science Foundation. Her work in innovative teaching and learning, and accessibility solutions for students from special equity groups has been recognised with several awards including an Australian Learning and Teaching Council Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning, an SA Great Award, the inaugural 2010 Telstra-TJA Christopher Newell award for Telecommunications and Disability, and several University of South Australia awards including teaching excellence, equity, community engagement and an Education, Arts and Social Sciences Distinguished Academic Achievement Award.


Denise Wood's ‘think-piece’: ‘Everybody’s Business’: Improving higher education access, participation and outcomes for people from diverse backgrounds through an ethic of care approach.

Inclusive education and increasing the participation of people from under-represented groups in higher education has gained increasing focus internationally in recent years. However, in the Australian context, the introduction of a demand driven system and the establishment of specific equity targets enabling more people from under-represented groups to attend university has also led to an increase in attrition particularly from regional universities that attract higher numbers of Indigenous students, students from low-socioeconomic (SES) backgrounds and students who are the first in their families to attend university. A trend that Ross (2014) observes, would appear to ‘fly in the face of research findings that SES has minimal impact on the ongoing success of students once they've secured admission to university’. This has led some writers to question whether universities are recruiting students ‘who are not capable of [or suited to] higher education pathways’; and their ability to support these students given their available resources (King & James, 2013).

Several studies into the reasons for high levels of attrition identify personal factors (such as family responsibilities, work commitments, financial challenges and/or health concerns), institution or course related reasons (such as dissatisfaction with the university courses, structure, teaching quality or facilities); and a combination of these reasons (Hobsons, 2014) as the major contributing factors. The attrition of students from under-represented groups in particular is often related to personal factors, which some argue ‘are largely outside universities’ control’ (Hobsons, 2014, p. 8). Although universities may not be able to change the personal circumstances of students, there is much they can do to better support those students so that leaving university is not their only option. Adopting the view that universities are not able, or have no responsibility to address such factors is a reflection of what Tronto refers to as ‘privileged irresponsibility’ (1993, pp. 120-121); distancing oneself from the needs of those who are unrelated. In contrast, an ethic of care advocates responsibility; the requirement to act and take responsibility for the needs of particular others.

What might the outcomes for these students be if universities were to adopt an ethic of care approach to supporting students from diverse backgrounds? Our experience in undertaking research at a regional Australian university with both commencing students as well as those who left university prior to completing their studies highlight the importance of the four elements of care identified by Tronto: 1) attentiveness; 2) responsibility to care; 3) competence; and 4) responsiveness (pp. 128-136). This think piece draws on the findings of these studies. The first study, which commenced in 2015 and is ongoing has investigated the reasons students withdrew from their studies, or failed to re-enrol in subsequent years, what they perceive might have helped to change their mind, and to determine what the university can do to enable them to return to complete their degrees if they so wish. These findings are analysed using David Kalsbeek’s ‘4Ps’ framework for student retention, which identifies student profile, progress through their studies, university processes and alignment between a university’s promises and the student experience of its delivery on those promises as critical components of an all-of-institution approach to improving student retention and success. An additional ‘P’, preparedness, was identified as another important dimension, recognising that student preparedness for study is a vital component of an effective transition and retention strategy. What might this expanded ‘5Ps’ framework look like through the lens of an ethic of care approach?

To answer this question, this presentation will outline a pre-commencement interview strategy trialled in the Bachelor of Nursing program at the same university to illustrate an effective approach that demonstrates an ethic of care that begins before the student’s journey at the university has commenced and is followed through as the student progresses through their program of study and beyond. Both these studies highlight the importance of the student voice and the critical role that all university staff can play in adopting a more caring attitude to our diverse students: transition, retention and student success is everybody’s business and everyone’s responsibility!