‘We teach them to be university students'. The role of peer educators in the provision of ontological access to higher education


In South Africa, we have been concerned with students’ epistemological access to disciplinary knowledge, but perhaps not sufficiently concerned with their ontological access into disciplinary identities. This paper argues that undertaking university studies requires the integration of epistemological access with ontological formation within disciplinary communities, and, thus, personal transformation, as well as knowledge acquisition. The focus of this study is the role of peer educators in the provision of ontological access to disciplinary identities at a South African university. The study found that student assistants who ‘are from the same backgrounds as the students’ and ‘understand where they are coming from’ were well positioned to provide ontological access to disciplines and fields. The University has developed a strong culture of students supporting students, and the paper draws on concepts of social and epistemic justice to theorise how this was achieved for the purpose of generalising these insights more widely.


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Author Biographies

Chris Winberg, Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Professor Christine Winberg is the Director of the Fundani Centre for Higher Education Development at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town, South Africa. The Fundani Centre is responsible for enhancing teaching, learning, and educational research at the institution. Her work involves academic development, policy work, and programme evaluation. She is also the project leader of the Work-integrated Learning Research Unit, which is supported by the South African National Research Foundation. Her research focus is professional and vocational education and technical communication. Previously she lectured in applied linguistics and language education in South Africa and in Sweden. She was chairperson of the South African Association for Applied Linguistics from 2010- 2012.
Manyane Makua , Mangosuthu University of Technology
Dr Manyane Makua is the Senior Director of the Teaching and Learning Development Centre at the Mangosuthu University of Technology in Umlazi, Durban, South Africa and also serves as a member of the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC). His research interests are in teaching and learning, academic development, and language education.