|Type||Thesis or Dissertation - Masters thesis|
|Title||A longitudinal study of the influence of social identity, outgroup exposure and affirmative action policy on first-year student academic success in the Economic and Management Sciences Faculty of Stellenbosch University|
The student profile at Stellenbosch University (SU) has changed significantly since the 1990s. This can be linked to the implementation of various measures and policies aimed at increasing diversity and inclusivity at the institution. However, even though there has been a marked increase
in the representation of black African, coloured, Indian and Asian (BCIA) students at SU over recent decades, the demographics remain unrepresentative of the overall demographics of the South African population, of which less than 10% are white. One of the policy tools that falls under the transformation plan is the recruitment bursary (Stellenbosch University, 2019:19). The recruitment bursary is an affirmative action policy formally implemented by SU in 2014, and is aimed at increasing the representation of BCIA students at SU through providing funding for the
studies of academically strong BCIA students. The effects of the recruitment bursary, on both representation and academic performance, are
empirically investigated in this thesis. The findings build on two fields of research: affirmative action, and social identity. Regarding the former, this thesis aimed to build on existing evidence on the impacts, both negative and positive, of affirmative action policies in higher education, and
how these policies affect the academic performance and representation of minority and/or previously disadvantaged groups. Secondly, this thesis investigated the interaction between affirmative action and social identity, specifically the role of stereotype threat, in determining the academic performance of students who find themselves in the minority out-group. Stereotype threat, as described by Steele (1997), presents in situations where individuals are made aware of the negative stereotypes associated with the social group they belong to. This awareness could negatively affect performance. Additionally, this thesis investigates psychological (creative) strategies to avoid the negative effects of stereotype threat. One of these processes is known as double-valuation, in which students from stigmatised groups are made aware of positive stereotypes of their social group, leading to higher levels of motivation and performance (Derks, van Laar, & Ellemers, 2007:226). The award of academic funding by BCIA students on the basis of racial identity and academic merit can, then, have heterogeneous impacts since the identities being made salient are associated with positive (i.e. high performer) and negative (BCIA) status stereotypes. The main findings from this thesis are as follows: First, the representation of BCIA students amongst the undergraduate SU student body is indicated to have increased over the period since the recruitment bursary’s introduction. Second, least squares regression analysis provides evidence of a significant positive relationship between the receipt of the recruitment bursary and academic performance at SU. Third, results suggest important moderating relationships between a student’s social identity, relative ranking whilst at high school, bursary type (i.e. whether targeted at academic merit or financial need), and academic performance. However, the exact mechanisms through which these factors interact will need further analysis.
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