In this context, the term ‘access’ is defined as extending opportunities for those who were previously excluded from higher education (HE). However, increasing access does not ultimately make the system ’fair’. The access debate thus shows two faces: invitation and exclusion. It also raises the question of cost, debates about which are not new to HE. These questions remain a challenge for both developed and developing countries. Governments globally have developed different strategies to ensure that keen and capable but financially disadvantaged students are not hindered from enjoying HE. In this, South Africa is no exception. However, access is not an end in itself, and a distinction should be made between formal and epistemological access. Formal access concerns registration, including fulfilling entry requirements, determining student fees and accessing financial resources. Once this has been completed, the student will need to be engaged in the academic programme for which he or she has registered. This initiation into the discourses and practices of the discipline is termed ‘epistemological access’. A useful concept to describe the essential nature of access, it was coined by Rollnick (2010), citing Morrow’s (1994) work on epistemological access, which described the relationship of such access to the culture of an institution.
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