International Research Conference, Lancaster UK, 18 - 20 July 2016
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Higher education and social justice and transformation: Contemporary and emerging challenges for universities in Kenya

Nickanor Amwata Owuor, University of Kurdistan, Hawler


This paper aims to explore some of the major issues that have cropped up in the public domain that may occasion the interpretation that universities in Kenya may have lost their imperative on social justice. Unfortunately for the Kenyan society there are a myriad of challenges that have remained unresolved. Hence calling for universities as the beacons of knowledge to essentially be at the centre of mediating to help the Kenyan society to overcome them. In the truism that is the knowledge economy, a country’s socio-economic well-being depends critically upon the state of her higher education. There is increasingly an ever changing role of higher education which entails a dual development imperative, i.e., not only creating knowledge but also transforming their nations. The paper establishes that the burgeoning of several issues, well highlighted in the Kenyan media and the discussions that emerge definitely point towards a systemic problem that require debate as to what role universities should play in taking the lead in the country’s transformation and enhancement of social justice. The constructivist paradigm forms the heart of the research and the study adopts a qualitative approach employing a combination of discourse analysis and critical narrative inquiry developed through documentary evidence gathered from various published sources and in the media about the state of higher education in Kenya. Qualitative approaches are the dominant state of the art in this kind of inquiry where a majority of the work range from exploratory to explanatory as well as conceptual to contemplative pieces. The paper seeks to stir discussions and debate amongst policy makers, practitioners and scholars within the country and at large on the role of higher education institutions in furthering social justice and transformation, particularly for developing countries, in the light of the four roles for higher education institutions as delineated in the book Rethinking knowledge within higher education: Adorno and social justice by Jan McArthur. The study further ascertains an apparent weakness of the stewardship theory that has hitherto been used to direct the institutions and hence advances a thesis that comes from the agency theory thrust that calls for a more proactive approach which is arguably more malleable.


Kenya, social justice, universities, higher education, higher education institutions, transformation

Link to Full Paper


Conference Organisers

Paul Trowler
Lancaster University, UK

Alice Jesmont
Lancaster University, UK

Malcolm Tight
Lancaster University, UK

Paul Ashwin
Lancaster University, UK

Murray Saunders
Lancaster University, UK

Chrissie Boughey
Rhodes University, South Africa

Suellen Shay
University of Cape Town, SA

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