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S Clarence DSRO

Sherran Clarence

Senior Lecturer

Doctoral School and Research Operations Dept.

Staff Group(s)
Graduate school


I am a senior lecturer in the Doctoral School with a focus on doctoral education and development. This includes working with doctoral researchers and supervisors.  My role is centred on creating, managing, and co-delivering a university-wide programme of workshops, short courses, and events for PGR and supervisors focused on different aspects of the doctoral life-cycle, from proposal development and project conceptualisation, through researching and writing the dissertation, to submission, defense and sharing the research with relevant readers and audiences. In addition to my role in teaching, facilitation and materials development, I am a researcher with a focus on social justice and equity in higher education, especially within academic staff and student development.

Career overview

I am a higher education studies scholar, but my early degrees are in Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies. Since completing my own PhD in 2014 at Rhodes University in South Africa, I have been working as an academic developer, largely with postgraduate and early career scholars on their development as writers, lecturers, and supervisors. Prior to this, I was the coordinator of the UWC Writing Centre at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, where my work and research focused on undergraduate student writing development across the curriculum, as well as pedagogy, curriculum, and assessment development work with lecturers.

For most of my career thus far I have been an academic developer, specifically an academic writing specialist. This focus has enabled me to work across different disciplines, with a range of students, lecturers and projects. This experience and insight enables me, in my current role, to work at a more generalised level around research and researcher development, but with crucial insights into how different forms of knowledge are created, debated, and shared, primarily through written texts.

I supervise Masters and Doctoral students in research related to the use of gender and feminist theory to understand aspects of political and social systems, Legitimation Code Theory and the sociology of knowledge in higher education, academic literacies and academic staff development in higher education, and higher education curriculum and pedagogy in the social sciences. I am also interested in research focused on emotional and affective labour in early career and identity development, linked to creating more inclusive, socially ju,st and critically empathetic research cultures within universities.

Research areas

I started my academic career interested in immigrants’ – particularly Muslim women’s – experiences of migrating into the EU. This was the focus of my initial postgraduate research at Honours and Masters level. But, jobs in gender studies and politics were hard to come by at that stage and I was offered part-time work teaching literacy and writing to first year students struggling to bridge the gap between school and university. This work led me to a university-based writing centre in Cape Town, which I managed for 6 years, learning a great deal about academic literacies, writing, and the politics of knowledge and knowing in higher education.

This led me to my doctoral research, which explored the ways in which knowledge is created through teaching and whether and how students are brought into crucial conversations about what knowledge is, how it is created in disciplinary (and extra-disciplinary) ways, and how they can join (and eventually challenge) conversations within their fields of practice and research. My initial postdoctoral work extended on this, and I have completed a book for lecturers and academic developers looking at turning access to higher education into greater success by making pedagogies more explicit and open to student engagement. I supervise doctoral research in the fields of academic development, teaching and learning, doctoral education, and academic literacies and writing.

More recently, I have worked extensively with doctoral and early career researchers. I have been reading, thinking and blogging about emotional labour and emotion work and how and why we need to pay greater attention to this in working with postgraduate, especially doctoral, students in higher education. This has sparked a new research project on representation, belonging, equity and inclusion in the university, understood through the theoretical lens of feminist sociologies of emotion, and the empirical lens of early career academia (including the doctoral period).

Much of my practical work for the last 14 years has been with student-writers, post- and under-graduate, and with lecturers, all focused on writing development and the pedagogical means for knowledge-building and meaning-making in higher education. Underpinning all my research and practice is a concern about social justice and how to better create, enable or enhance this in education and society. How do we truly make people feel at home in unfamiliar places and open out or change those places so that others can become part of them—not through becoming like those who already belong, but through changing the place as they become part of it? How can students change practices of writing, knowing and speaking about knowledge as they come to know it and become knowledge-makers too? How do we challenge and change hegemonic notions of academic socialisation, student deficit, and reified forms of knowledge and meaning-making? How do we meaningfully make it possible for more students to truly succeed in higher education? These are some of the broader questions my research and praxis are concerned with.

External activity

I am the current managing editor of Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory. I serve on the editorial boards of Teaching in Higher Education and Higher Education, Research and Development, and I act as an assessor for Strengthening Postgraduate Supervision (short course) at Rhodes University.

I am a Senior Research Associate in the Centre for Higher Education, Research, Teaching and Learning (CHERTL) at Rhodes University in South Africa, and an Associate Member of the LCT Centre for Knowledge-Building based at the University of Sydney, Australia.


Selected - for the full list please see my website:

Clarence, S. 2020. Making visible the affective dimensions of scholarship in postgraduate writing development work. Journal of Praxis in Higher Education, 2(1), 46-62.

Clarence, S. 2019. Exploring the gap between what we say and what we do: Writing centres, ‘safety’, and ‘risk’ in higher education. Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics Plus , Special issue for Sharifa Daniels: Space, Place and Power in South African Writing Centres, 117-130.

Munje, P.N, Nanima, R.D., and Clarence, S. 2018. ‘The role of questioning in writing tutorials: a critical approach to student-centred learning in peer tutorials in higher education’. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning . 10.1080/13611267.2018.1511953.

Clarence, S. and McKenna, S. 2017. ‘Developing academic literacies through understanding the nature of disciplinary knowledge’London Review of Education, special issue on Academic Literacies. 15(1), 38-49.

Clarence, S. 2016. ‘Knowledge and knowers in teaching and learning: an enhanced approach to curriculum alignment’. Journal of Education, 66, 65-84.

van Heerden, M., Clarence, S., and Bharuthram, S. 2016. ‘What lies beneath: exploring the deeper purposes of feedback on student writing through considering disciplinary knowledge and knowers’. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education , 42(6): 967-977.


Clarence, S. 2021. Turning access into successImproving university education with Legitimation Code Theory. London: Routledge.

Clarence, S. and Dison, L. (eds) 2017. Writing Centres in Higher Education: Working in and across the disciplines. Stellenbosch: SUNPress.

Book chapters

Clarence, S. 2021. Towards a theoretical framework for exploring emotion in doctoral education: Critically exploring familiar narratives in student experiences. In Rule, P., Bitzer, E. and Frick, L. (eds). The global scholar: Implications for postgraduate studies and supervision. Stellenbosch: SUNPress, 215-229.

Clarence, S. and van Heerden, M. 2020. Changing curriculum and teaching practice: A practical theory for academic staff development. Winberg, C., McKenna, S. and Wilmot, K. (eds) Building knowledge in higher education: Enhancing teaching and learning with Legitimation Code TheoryLondon: Routledge, 145-161.

Clarence, S. 2019. Reimagining knowledge in the curriculum: Creating critical spaces for alternative possibilities in curriculum design. In Quinn, L. (ed) 2019. Reimagining Curriculum: Spaces for Disruption. Stellenbosch, SUNPress, 89-108.

Clarence, S. 2016. ‘Seeing yourself in a new light: Crossing the threshold to “researcher”’. In Frick, B., Motshoane, P., McMaster, C. and Murphy, C. (eds.). Postgraduate study in South Africa: Surviving and succeeding. Stellenbosch: SUN Press, 127-136.