A regional study of academic development and its roots in academic support.
This study of Academic Development in KwaZulu-Natal is exploratory and seeks to answer 3 questions. What is Academic Development? Is any model or approach to Academic Development applicable or transferable to all Higher Education Institutions? What factors can be identified that facilitate the progress (or development) of Academic Development? These questions are answered on the basis of contextual analysis and locate Academic Development as a contextually influenced change process. It is argued that although Academic Development is not uniquely South African, in South Africa Academic Development has arisen from an historical context largely as a result of, and in response to, the impact of apartheid on education and the movement to counteract that impact within higher education. The position of Academic Development within in a wider context is indicated through the literature survey. In particular, attention is paid to the United States of America where cultural and racial diversity have impacted on higher education, and, because the South African higher education system is modelled on the United Kingdom, material from that country is also examined. In order to place the South African context in relation to these the development and consequent fragmentation of the tertiary sector through the apartheid era is outlined. At the time of embarking on the research very little work had been done on the broader perspectives of Academic Development. In view of this a grounded theory approach has been adopted and the research examines Academic Development in the tertiary institutions in a specific region in South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal. This research was undertaken through a combination of survey and case study analysis. Within the case studies the data used included institutional documents, some in-house publications, group interviews in the form of report-back meetings and individual interviews. From the data analysis certain themes are identified and presented in a diagrammatic form. The first of these highlights the impact of the diversity in the tertiary context on the approach to issues of equity and quality which seem to have been the catalysts for the establishment of Academic Development. Another theme that emerged was an organic process of development evident with Academic Development that seems to be moving towards holistic notions of curriculum development and transformation of teaching and learning in higher education in South Africa. In drawing these themes together the role of change in higher education became the central focus. In view of the exploratory nature of the present study the, findings are offered as a way of opening up debate. In the conclusion Academic Development is defined as a process of innovation, stimulated by calls for equity, that points to a new line of enquiry in education. It is argued that it is not replicable and 9 guiding principles that contribute to the development of Academic Development are outlined. These principles include the role of various stakeholders in the process of change and emphasise the importance of a reflective, research-based holistic approach to the curriculum in higher education.