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

James, Liam (2021-12)

Thesis (MCom)--Stellenbosch University, 2021.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY : 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.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Die studenteprofiel aan Stellenbosch Universiteit (SU) het sedert die 1990's aansienlik verander. Dit kan gekoppel word aan die implementering van verskeie maatreëls en beleide wat daarop gemik is om diversiteit en inklusiwiteit by die universiteit te verhoog. Alhoewel daar 'n merkbare toename in die verteenwoordiging van swart Afrikaanse-, bruin-, Indiër- en Asiatiese (BCIA) studente aan SU oor die afgelope dekades was, bly die demografie egter nie verteenwoordigend van die algehele demografie van die Suid-Afrikaanse bevolking, waarvan minder as 10% is wit. Een van die beleidsinstrumente wat onder die transformasieplan val, is die werwingsbeurs (Stellenbosch University, 2019:19). Die werwingsbeurs is 'n regstellendeaksie-beleid wat formeel deur SU in 2014 geïmplementeer is, en is daarop gemik om die verteenwoordiging van BCIA-studente by die Universiteit te verhoog deur befondsing te verskaf vir die studies van akademies sterk BCIA-studente. Die impak van die werwingsbeurs, op beide verteenwoordiging en akademiese prestasie, word empiries in hierdie tesis ondersoek. Die bevindinge bou op twee velde van navorsing: regstellende aksie en sosiale identiteit. Met betrekking tot eersgenoemde, het hierdie tesis daarop gemik om op bestaande bewyse oor die impak, beide negatief en positief, van regstellendeaksiebeleide in hoër onderwys te bou, en hoe hierdie beleide die akademiese prestasie en verteenwoordiging van minderheids- en/of voorheen benadeelde groepe beïnvloed. Tweedens het hierdie tesis die interaksie tussen regstellende aksie en sosiale identiteit, spesifiek die rol van stereotipe bedreiging, in die bepaling van die akademiese prestasie van studente wat hulself in die minderheidsbuitegroep bevind, ondersoek. Stereotipe bedreiging, soos beskryf deur Steele (1997), kom voor in situasies waar individue bewus gemaak word van die negatiewe stereotipes wat verband hou met die sosiale groep waaraan hulle behoort. Hierdie bewustheid kan akademiese prestasie negatief beïnvloed. Daarbenewens ondersoek hierdie tesis sielkundige (kreatiewe) strategieë om die negatiewe effekte van stereotipe bedreiging te vermy. Een van hierdie prosesse staan bekend as dubbelwaardering, waarin studente uit gestigmatiseerde groepe bewus gemaak word van positiewe stereotipes van hul sosiale groep, wat lei tot hoër vlakke van motivering en prestasie (Derks, van Laar, & Ellemers, 2007:226). Die toekenning van akademiese befondsing deur BCIA-studente op grond van rasse-identiteit en akademiese meriete kan dus heterogene impakte hê aangesien die identiteite wat opvallend gemaak word, geassosieer word met positiewe (d.w.s. hoëpresteerder) en negatiewe (BCIA) statusstereotipes. Die hoofbevindinge van hierdie tesis is soos volg: Eerstens word aangedui dat die verteenwoordiging van BCIA-studente onder die voorgraadse SU-studentekorps oor die tydperk sedert die inwerkingstelling van die werwingsbeurs toegeneem het. Tweedens lewer regressie-analise bewys van 'n beduidende positiewe verband tussen die ontvangs van die werwingsbeurs en akademiese prestasie aan SU. Derdens dui resultate op belangrike modererende verhoudings tussen 'n student se sosiale identiteit, relatiewe rangorde terwyl hy op hoërskool was, tipe beurs (d.w.s. of dit op akademiese meriete of finansiële behoefte gerig is), en akademiese prestasie. Die presiese meganismes waardeur hierdie faktore interaksie het, sal egter verdere ontleding benodig.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/123939
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