ANIE Network | How can higher education bring socially-just change?
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How can higher education bring socially-just change?

In 2007, Nelson Mandela stated that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” and in some ways, this concept was reflected in the series of articles published over a year straddling 2016 to 2017 in University World News in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation, on the University World News Transformative Leadership hub.

The partnership was the most ambitious in University World News’ 10-year history. Here, authors from all over the world examined the role of universities as potential change agents within rapidly shifting societal contexts. These articles ranged widely from inspiring stories of individuals engaging in ambitious mentoring and community development initiatives to a stirring address from Michael Higgins, president of Ireland.

Not surprisingly, the collection of articles covered a potpourri of topics and approaches emphasising the challenges of the digital age, the need for curricular revision, the necessity of ethical approaches in higher education, and an appeal for gender equality both in education and in society in general. For some, transformative leadership was the basis for an important emphasis on anti-corruption and ethics, while for others, the emphasis was on radical social change.

Many articles reported the impact of The MasterCard Foundation’s innovative scholarship programme in developing young entrepreneurial leadership in Africa. Here we were challenged by the potential of a radically improved future when young people with dreams, a sense of mission, and a vision of the possible put their education into practice for the good of their communities.

Taken together, although these articles inspire hope that change can occur, something seems to be missing. In some ways, the series suffers from the same ailment as leadership studies more generally – a lack of theoretical grounding and definition.

In some cases, authors still call for definitions both of leadership in general and of transformative leadership; others continue to use transformational and transformative leadership as synonymous, perhaps leading to a diffusion of the possible impact of each concept.Continue reading