Original Research

Social identities and racial integration in historically white universities: A literature review of the experiences of black students

Sandiso Bazana, Opelo P. Mogotsi
Transformation in Higher Education | Vol 2 | a25 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/the.v2i0.25 | © 2017 Sandiso Bazana, Opelo P. Mogotsi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 July 2017 | Published: 17 November 2017

About the author(s)

Sandiso Bazana, Department of Psychology, Rhodes University, South Africa
Opelo P. Mogotsi, Department of Psychology, Rhodes University, South Africa


South African government has been promulgating pieces of legislation aimed at ensuring racial integration, especially in higher education, and indirectly enforcing acculturation in historically white universities. Studies have proven that institutional cultures in historically white universities alienate and exclude black students’ identities. These students’ sense of social identity, which includes culture, heritage, language and traditions, and consequently self-esteem and self-concept, is altered in these institutions. Research has been scant regarding the shape and form that black students’ identity assumes when they get to these spaces. Using Tajfel and Turner’s (1979) social identity theory and Berry’s (2005) theory of acculturation, this article explores the experiences of black students in negotiating their social identities in historically white universities. Evoking Steve Biko’s analysis of ‘artificial integration’ (1986), we hope to illustrate how the ‘integration’ narrative sought to discard the identity of black students and psychologically enforce a simulation of black students into white-established identities. The study has implications for policy development as we hope to sensitise theoretically the historically white universities to, apart from mere opening of spaces of learning, understand the social identity challenges of black students in these institutions.


institutional culture; artificial integration; social identity; black students; Steve Biko


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