Original Research

Students’ perceptions of the influence of media on perpetuating xenophobia in South African universities

Quatro Mgogo, Oluyinka Osunkunle
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 19, No 1 | a1218 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v19i1.1218 | © 2023 Quatro Mgogo, Oluyinka Osunkunle | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 April 2022 | Published: 22 February 2023

About the author(s)

Quatro Mgogo, School of Communication, Faculty of Humanities, North-West University, Mafikeng, South Africa
Oluyinka Osunkunle, Department of Communication, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa


Immigration and emigration are inevitable however, some South Africans have shown a strong dislike of those coming from other countries, in the form of xenophobia. Several studies have attributed the prevalence of xenophobia in South African communities to socio-economic, sociopolitical and scapegoating issues, with some researchers highlighting the role of the media in perpetuating xenophobia-related violence. On the other hand, xenophobia in institutions of higher learning in South Africa, which are a microcosm of society, has been under-prioritised in exploring the prevalence of xenophobia. This article aims to explore students’ perceptions on the influence of media stereotypes of foreign nationals on xenophobia-related behaviours in selected higher education institutions. In part, it aims to explore students’ perceptions on the influence of media-perpetuated stereotypes that may be attributed to possible symbolic xenophobia among university students. Therefore, this article looked at three South African universities, namely the University of Fort Hare, Alice Campus in the Eastern Cape province; the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard Campus in KwaZulu-Natal province; and the University of Johannesburg, Soweto Campus in Gauteng province. To achieve the aims of this study, a qualitative case study approach, based on the interpretivist design, was adopted. A nonprobability sampling method, based on purposive sampling and the snowball sampling technique, was used to select participants in this study. Data were generated through focus group discussions and analysed through thematic analysis. The findings of this article revealed that xenophobic attitudes, behaviour and perceptions were prevalent among university students. The South African print media’s perpetuated negative stereotypes and its adoption of derogatory names – amakwerekwere, amagrigamba, aliens, illegal immigrants, ‘my friend’ – to represent immigrants (especially from other African countries) were highlighted as some of the contributing factors toward ongoing xenophobic violence. As part of the recommendations of this study, the Student Representative Council (SRC) and other student communities, together with students in general, have a role to play in promoting xenophobia-free university campuses through antixenophobia campaigns.

Transdisciplinarity Contribution: Most xenophobic-related studies show that media reportage has an influence on xenophobic violence in South Africa. This study therefore shifts its focus toward South African universities to investigate the prevalence of xenophobia among students and explores students’ perceptions of the influence of media in perpetuating xenophobic-related violence


frustration aggression theory; xenophobia; South African universities; media; negative stereotypes.


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Crossref Citations

1. Xenophobia Perceptions of Turkish University Students: An Investigation According to Various Variables
Barış ERİÇOK, Duran MAVİ
Participatory Educational Research  vol: 11  issue: 1  first page: 32  year: 2024  
doi: 10.17275/per.