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How Should Universities Play the Game?

How Should Universities Play the Game?

Publication type

Research and Project Evaluations

The role of the academic sector in sport for development and peace in South Africa.
By: Ben Sanders and Marion Keim

Multiple benefits may be achieved through sport for development and peace (SDP) initiatives. However, critics cite a lack of rigorous research and monitoring and evaluation (M&E), and urge against oversimplified notions of sport. The academic sector, with expertise in research, teaching and learning, is well positioned to fill this gap. This study contributes to SDP as an emerging field of development cooperation by analysing the role(s) of the academic sector, in particular universities, in SDP. This article forms part of a larger doctoral study that examines roles and responsibilities (current and potential) of the public sector, civil society and academic sector in SDP, providing a cooperative governance framework that may enable improved levels of cooperation and impact.

The study focuses on South Africa, with an overview of the policy environment and institutional arrangements for Sport and Recreation. The study analyses the way in which various South African universities are engaged in SDP. Qualitative methods of data collection were used, including key informant interviews, focus group discussions, desk-top review and document analysis.

Findings show that the academic sector can play a major role in SDP given the lack of rigorous evidence cited by proponents of SDP. Universities can strengthen research and evidence-based practice and assist with the institutionalisation of results-based M&E systems. Universities can promote a culture of teaching and learning, including ethical, participatory research among practitioners, while remaining a critical and independent voice for policy and advocacy purposes. However, it is clear that better collaboration is needed within and between the academic sector, government and civil society as well as an improved North-South exchange for universities.

As such, multilateral agencies, nation states, local actors, and civil society partners, including the non-profit sector, need to better recognise the unique ability of universities to strengthen them as institutions and drive the SDP sector forward. There is no point in universities existing for their own sake, as they should also be committed to serve human causes. The academic sector needs to engage more beneficially with practitioners and stakeholders to ensure efforts in the classroom are aligned to the needs of communities, who should be involved fully in these processes. The academic sector should also recognise, value and appreciate its potential community engagement impact, including SDP, besides its research focus. There needs to be closer collaboration between universities, government and civil society to ensure everyone is on the same playing field.

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Published

Friday, March 9, 2018 - 10:19