Stellenbosch University
Welcome to Stellenbosch University
Suellen Shay Symposium: Critical Conversations on Knowledge, Curriculum and Epistemic Justice
Author: Prof Karin Wolff
Published: 19/04/2022

Suellen Shay Symposium: 
Critical Conversations on Knowledge, Curriculum and Epistemic Justice

In memory of Suellen Shay's life and as a testament to the ongoing impact of her scholarship, colleagues from the Teaching in Higher Education journal, the University of Cape Town and collaborators hosted a one-day hybrid Symposium on 4 May 2022.

The aim of the symposium was to generate broad, deep and critical contemporary engagement with her body of work and its implications for higher education scholarship and practice. Presenters generated conversations, emergent perspectives and ideas around the themes Suellen worked on and/or the theoretical resources she drew from.


Suellen Shay has made a significant contribution as a scholar, a teacher and supervisor in Higher Education Studies. Driven by her commitment to working for change for greater justice and equity in higher education, Suellen contributed to student and staff development, established and led a postgraduate programme in Higher Education Studies, contributed to institutional and national policy development and served as Dean of the Centre for Higher Education Development at the University of Cape Town. She also served for almost a decade as Executive Editor for Teaching in Higher Education. For her many colleagues and collaborators, Suellen has left behind fond memories of working with her and also a rich body of scholarly work. Her scholarly career began with the completion of a Ph.D. on assessment as a socially-situated practice. Thereafter she embarked on a programme of theoretically-informed empirical research that informed policy work on assessment, access in the South African context, re-framing education development and theorizing the field of higher education more broadly. Working in the social realist tradition of sociology of education, she made a substantial contribution to researching and theorizing the differentiation and progression of curriculum knowledge, including the theorization of vocational and professional knowledge and higher education as a professional field. Through this body of work, Suellen has had an on-going impact on policy and practice in the HE field – both internationally and locally in South Africa.

​Themes of the symposium

  • Innovations and challenges to working for equity, access and epistemic justice in higher education, including rethinking student development, curriculum and assessment policy and practice;

  • Theorizing the higher education field, (as professional practice) including conversations around staff development and programmes in Higher Education Studies;

  • Shifts in assessment in higher education – policy and practice;

  • Contestations around reforming or decolonizing the higher education curriculum for epistemic justice;

  • The implications of institutional and /or knowledge differentiation for curriculum and pedagogy;

  • Theoretical conversations that engage critically with the Bernsteinian or social realist tradition of sociology of (higher) education.

For more information about the symposium, visit: or contact Prof Karin Wolff:​