South African Higher Education: The Paradox of Soft Power and Xenophobia

Part of the Advances in African Economic, Social and Political Development book series (AAESPD)


There is a robust literature on xenophobia in South Africa. Furthermore, there has been recent, although still minimal academic interest in South Africa’s soft power credentials. However, no attention has been paid to the actual or potential role of higher education in the projection of the country’s soft power in the hearts and minds of the remarkable number of international students enroled at the country’s tertiary institutions. By extension, the effects of anti-immigrant sentiments on such power have been ignored. Against this backdrop, this chapter addresses two critical questions: First, does South African higher education elevate the South African soft power? If yes, to what degree? If not, in what ways can this sector enhance Pretoria’s soft power? Second, does xenophobia have an impact on South African higher education’s soft power potential? The study found that the South African higher education sector has enormous potential to portray the country in a positive light and enhance the state’s soft power in Africa. However, recurrent anti-immigrant sentiments circumscribe such potential.


Higher education Soft Power Xenophobia South Africa International Students 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of South Africa (UNISA)PretoriaSouth Africa

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