Building a Rainbow nation : A field study of the integration process at the North-West University in South Africa
Abstract: North West University is a creation of one of many mergers between previous universities in South Africa. The process is partly thought to integrate previous advantaged and disadvantaged universities, often also previous white or black dominated universities. Even though the merger of NWU has been perceived as successful by many, there are still problems and tensions between the campuses. This report will describe the integration process at NWU as well as handle people’s perceptions towards it and towards the changes brought by the merger. The study has been done through thematic open interviews by staff, management and students at two of the three campuses in the merger of NWU, Mafikeng and Potchefstroom. In our report we have found six clusters which we examine; responses to the merger, within and outside group, differences, history, social status, and within and outside process. All through the report the traces from history and Apartheid are still visible in people’s minds and in the clashes between the groups. History also affects the social status of the groups, affects that today create problems for integration. The merger was opposed by both parts, however inevitable. People from Mafikeng were found more critical to the merger, highlighting the different power relations between the campuses and fear of being swallowed by Potchefstroom. Potchefstroom in general did not see many changes and white people seem to be more worried about their individual future. Once united as one university there is still a low grade of integration or interaction between the campuses and between the groups within them. There have been initiatives to enhance integration at an organizational level, this has though not affected the social level in a significant way. One reason to the lack of integration might be the domination of one culture group at each campus, at Potchefstroom Afrikaans, and at Mafikeng SeTswana. This domination has shown to hinder integration since minority groups either feel left out or have to assimilate to fit in. Differences between the groups also create misunderstandings and clashes in the integration process. However we have seen that the persons within the merger process tend to be more positive than the people outside of it. This might be due to increased interaction, better information and a possibility to affect the outcome that makes the people involved more positive then the ones not involved.
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