Candid Statement: Dr Kasturi Behari-Leak

Dr Kasturi Behari-Leak: Appointed President of HELTASA

11 Feb 2020 - 10:15


As an academic staff developer with a PhD in Higher Education Studies, combined with almost 15 years’ experience in the higher education (HE) field, my strengths lie in theorised conceptualisation of critical professional learning courses, curriculum development as well as a solid and practical understanding of the professional development needs of university teachers and students, in relation to our current context. I have used these strengths to successfully convene, design, enhance and teach on key courses/programmes focused on the effectiveness of academics in their roles as educators at tertiary level.

The theoretical framing of my doctoral study continues to inform my current academic and professional teaching practice, positioning me as an authority in the field of professionalisation of university teaching. Amongst students and colleagues, I have a reputation as an excellent teacher and course convenor and I have been recognised at UCT, regionally and nationally as a teaching and learning specialist with an intellectual credibility that informs my pedagogical and methodological practices. My conception of teaching is underpinned by social realism which asserts that agency (lecturers) is exercised relative to the structural and cultural conditions in a social setting (university). I believe that for academics to be successful teachers, they need to understand themselves, their disciplines, their students and their social contexts very well and develop strategies to respond to these with mindful and meaningful interventions.

Professional development as it pertains to teaching and learning is now, more than ever, being challenged to address issues of transformation and decolonisation surfaced by global and local movements such as the #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall student movements. These movements have challenged HE to develop academic and mainstream programmes that are relevant, legitimate, responsive to context and socially just and inclusive of all students and academics. Based on my extensive involvement in the higher education context nationally and internationally, my contributions to teaching cover a spectrum of professional development engagements with new, emerging, developing and established academics at institutional, regional and national levels and on a continuum of formal to informal teaching.

Through the programmes I convene and teach on, I engage academics in ways that value their experience and recognise their purpose, commitment and personal projects in higher education. This makes me stand out as a transformational teacher and facilitator. Teachers’ success in their classrooms through improved course evaluations and student performance shows my relevance and influence in higher education teaching. Supervision of post-graduate students and invitations to serve as examiner and moderator indicate that the strength of my expertise in teaching and learning extends beyond the classroom. Invitations from regional, national and international universities and organisations to deliver key note addresses, to chair scholarly panels and to present scholarly perspectives attest to my professional and research profile as a leader in the field of higher education.

I contribute significantly to the intellectual leadership in all the professional and academic spaces I am involved in. My pedagogical leadership is evident in my contextual work with academics at UCT but I have a robust and engaged outward gaze to lead professional development work in the broader higher education context as well. My work on several strategic committees shows my important contribution in this category. As co-chair of the institutionally commissioned Curriculum Change Working Group (CCWG) I contribute to ‘transformation’ imperatives by responding to challenges of social inclusion and exclusion, ‘decolonising the curriculum’ and social justice concerns. At a regional level, I serve on the editorial board of the journal CRISTAL, convene courses in the region and serve as examiner for the regional PGDip. At a national level, I am the chairperson of the Higher Education Learning and Teaching association in Southern Africa (HELTASA). I have been a member of HELTASA for 15 years and have contributed hugely to the growth of the organisation as president of the organisation.

I am project leader on a national collaborative staff development project, commissioned by the SA Department of Higher Education, aimed at academic staff developers involved in new academic’ induction. At an international level, I serve on the advisory board for GHEAR, a sub group of the World Universities Network (WUN). I am involved in several research projects internationally, across a diverse set of team players and academics globally. I have recently joined IJAD as an associate editor.

I believe that the opportunity to contribute to ICED as President-elect and then hopefully President will be mutually beneficial. My specific experience in the global South context is a strength to ICED and means that emerging voices and networks hitherto not recognised as important contributors to educational development globally, will be represented in ways that my embodied engagements will enable, with parity of participation in focus. This also means that through the collaborative efforts of ICED networks from global North, South, East and West contexts, we can make a significant contribution by using our positionality towards positioning ICED more strategically and effectively, in relation to critical issues pertaining to teaching and learning as well as issues of global concern such as SDG’s, climate change, migrations, and so on. By embodying a different organisational ethos, and thinking differently about professional and personal projects, we can strengthen not only who we are together but our reach and impact as well, to be the change agents that HE needs. I have led several processes successfully following simple strategies and methodology and with good results and I am willing to learn and grow from bringing these to ICED.

I welcome the opportunity to serve as President of ICED and work collaboratively with Councillors and member networks to achieve the aims of ICED.


1. Behari-Leak, K. (2019). Disrupting single stories through participatory learning and action. In Re-imagining curriculum: Spaces for Disruption. Lynn Quin (ed). African Sun Media.

2. Behari-Leak, K., Josephy, S., Potts, M.A., Muresherwa, G., Corbishley, J., Petersen, T & Gove, G. (2019) Using vulnerability as a decolonial catalyst to re-cast the teacher as human(e). Teaching in Higher Education. DOI: 10.1080/13562517.2019.1661376.

3. Behari-Leak, K. & Mokou, G. (2019). Disrupting metaphors of coloniality to mediate social inclusion in the global South, International Journal for Academic Development, 24:2, 135- 147, DOI: 10.1080/1360144X.2019.1594236

4. Quinn, L., Behari-Leak, K., Ganas, L., Olsen, A & Vorster, J. (2019). Reflecting on feedback processes for new ways of knowing, being and acting, International Journal for Academic Development, DOI: 10.1080/1360144X.2019.1593174

5. Behari-Leak, K. (2019). Decolonial Turns, Postcolonial Shifts, and Cultural Connections: Are We There Yet? English Academy Review. The English Academy of Southern Africa.