Review Article

Boundary knowledge in conversation: Imagining higher education through transdisciplinarity and decoloniality

Felix Maringe, Otilia Chiramba
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 19, No 1 | a1399 | DOI: | © 2023 Felix Maringe, Otilia Chiramba | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 August 2023 | Published: 19 December 2023

About the author(s)

Felix Maringe, School of Education, University of Kigali, Kigali, Rwanda
Otilia Chiramba, Department of South African Research Chair in Teaching and Learning, Faculty of Education, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


Transdisciplinarity and decoloniality are two ideas that share much in common and which we believe have the potency to underpin meaningful transformation in post-colonial African universities. Transformation in post-colonial higher education sectors in Africa has been a key developmental goal; however, progress in achieving transformation has been slow. While much has been achieved on the continent that evidences the symbolism of change and transformation, we argue in this article that the epistemic and ideological dimensions of transformation have barely been altered. As a theoretical and conceptual input, the article provides a discussion of the theoretical terrain of the idea of boundary knowledge systems and suggests that the higher education systems have developed over the years and continue to do so on the assumptions behind bounded disciplinary knowledge systems. However, as globalisation intensifies, and as the world faces many complex challenges, disciplinary knowledge models have little potential to contribute to an adequate understanding, let alone resolution of these complex challenges. We also argue that we do not yet have truly African universities but universities in Africa, many of which are copycats of Western models of higher education. We provide seven propositions, which we believe can be used as a competent framework for rethinking the future of higher education in Africa.

Transdisciplinary contribution: The article explores the concept of transdisciplinarity and its potential contribution to addressing the challenges faced by post-colonial African universities. It also provides a theoretical and conceptual framework for understanding its potential to transform higher education.


boundary knowledge; transdisciplinarity; decoloniality; decolonial transdisciplinarity; higher education.

JEL Codes

I21: Analysis of Education; I23: Higher Education • Research Institutions; I24: Education and Inequality

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education


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