Continuing Professional Development in a Neoliberalist Higher Education Context


Higher education institutions have historically invested in the continuing professional development (CPD) of academics to respond to the dynamic nature of the teaching-learning context. Neoliberal managerialism has not only penetrated the realms of higher education governance, but also invaded teaching and learning spaces. Neoliberal creep infiltrates and calibrates staff development in particular ways. In the light of this, it is important to be reflexive about our own complicity in advancing performativity discourses, critically conscious of how we breathe neoliberalism every day, and reproduce it in the CPD processes we engage with/in. Our inquiry is guided by the question: How do academics navigate neoliberal ideological imperatives that drive and shape higher education institutions and how does such ideology (re)configure staff development initiatives? Our response presents the CPD experiences of mid- and late-career academics at four universities in South Africa. Through memory work, the seven of us remember and reflect on CPD programmes in which we have been involved. In order to grapple with and disrupt the discourses revealed through our memories, we invoke an analysis using Foucauldian ‘governmentality’ as a conceptual heuristic. This analysis enables a working with and through neoliberalism in search of its generative spaces so that the possibilities for staff development initiatives might be (re)configured. We argue that collective resistance in the form of a collective standing in the cracks and collective disruptive endeavours, should be driven by the productive power of potentia (resonating with the African notion of ubuntu) and not the colonising power of postestas.


Petro Du Preez
Professor, Curriculum Studies, Research Methodology and Philosophy of Education, North-West University, South Africa

Lesley Le Grange
Distinguished Professor, Curriculum Studies, Stellenbosch University, Western Cape, South Africa

Suriamurthee Moonsamy Maistry
Professor, Social Sciences Education, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa

Labby Ramrathan
Professor, Teacher Development Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa

Shan Simmonds
Professor , Curriculum Studies , North-West University, South Africa

Sylvan Blignaut
Professor, Postgraduate Studies, Nelson Mandela University, South Africa


Presentation Type



Adult, Community, and Professional Learning


Continuing professional development, Higher education, Neoliberalism, Memory work

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