In search of a merged identity: the case of multi-campus North-West University, South Africa
South Africa’s post–apartheid governments have taken far–reaching policy measures to transform the system of higher education, do away with its strongly segregated character, and develop an efficient and internationally recognised system that provides equal chances for all ethnic groups. Since 2002 higher education has become the explicit target of a government policy, geared to cultural development and intervention, including the enforcement of a series of mergers between traditionally white and black universities and former technikons (currently universities of technology). This process has caused intense debate at the level of leadership and among policy makers in these institutions, but little is known of how this ideological battle over educational development has affected daily academic practice. This paper gives a first, somewhat tentative discussion on the current effects of the changes in higher education in South Africa, and in particular at one of the institutions affected: the newly merged North-West University (NWU). The article is based on documentary research and three personal visits to the university; in the process a joint research project was initiated between the VU University of Amsterdam (VUUA) and NWU. This paper attempts to shed some early light on how efficiency and social equity goals are met within NWU’s institutional merger, beginning from a cultural perspective that focuses on the construction of ‘merger narratives’. The paper also gives a voice to critical reactions, narratives of resistance that have emerged from the university shop floor.