Prof Melanie Walker
Distinguished Professor
Centre for Development Support
43A 112
Sr Prof Higher Education Studies
IB 6
Benito Khotseng Building 112

Short CV

Research Institution for Higher Education and Human Development


Funding Opportunities


Professor Melanie Walker is senior research professor in the Graduate School. She is foundation director of a new research centre on higher education and human development, jointly funded by UFS and the NRF.

She joined the University in February 2012 from the University of Nottingham, UK where she was professor of higher education, director of research and previous to that director of research students. She was also founding director of the higher, adult and vocational education research centre and director of a doctoral programme in higher education studies. She is director of research training in EDUWEL, extraordinary professor at the University of the Western Cape and a Fellow of the Human Capability and Development Association

She has served terms as editor on a number of international peer referred journals, including Teaching in Higher Education, Educational Action Research and the Journal of Human Development and Capabilties for whom she guest edited a special issue on Education and Capabilities in 2012.. She continues to serve on the advisory boards of a number of journals including Educational Action Research, Power and Education, Journal of Human Developmentt and Capabilities and Professional Development in Education. She referees journal articles for a range of leading education journals, publishers’ book proposals and research proposals for the ESRC, NRF and Hong Kong Research Foundation.

Before Nottingham, she was reader in higher education at the University of Sheffield, professor of educational research at the University of the West of England, Director of the Teaching and Learning Centre at the University of Glasgow and associate professor and director of the Academic Development Centre at the University of the Western Cape. She has also taught in secondary schools and been a development and research officer at the University of Cape Town.




Selected Publications


Walker, M. and McLean, M. (forthcoming) Professional Education, Capabilities and Contributions to the Public Good: the role of universities in promoting human development, Routledge series ‘Education, Poverty and International Development’
Walker, M (2006) Higher Education Pedagogies: A Capabilities Approach (Maidenhead: SRHE/Open University Press and McGraw-Hill)

Books, edited

Boni, A and Walker, M. (Eds) (2013) Universities and human development. A New Imaginary for the University of the XXI Century (London, Routledge)
Walker, M. And McLean, M. (eds) (2012) Essays on Higher Education and Society, Vols 1, Vol 2 and Vol 3 (Jubilee Press, University of Nottingham)
Thomson, P and Walker M (eds) (2010) The Doctoral Student’s Companion (London, Routledge)
Walker M and Thomson, P. (eds) (2010) The Doctoral Supervisor’s Companion (London, Routledge)
Walker, M. and Unterhalter, E. (2007) (eds) Sen’s Capability Approach and Social Justice in Education (New York, Palgrave) 275pp (second edition published in 2010)
Walker, M. and Nixon, J. (2004) (eds) Reclaiming Universities from a Runaway World (Maidenhead: SRHE/Open University Press and McGraw Hill)
Walker, M. (2001) (ed) Reconstructing Professionalism in University Teaching (Buckingham: SRHE/Open University Press)

Chapters in books

Walker, M. (forthcoming) Educational Transformation, Gender Justice and Nussbaum’s Capabilities; in M. Nussbaum and F. Comim (eds), Cambridge University Press
Walker, M. (in press) Curriculum and capabilities; in B. Leibowitz (Ed) Higher Education for the Public Good; Views from the South (Stellenbosh: SUN Media)
Walker, M. (2012) Egalitarian policy formulation in lifelong learning: two models of lifelong education for young people in Europe; D. Aspin, J. Chapman, K. Evans and R. Bagnall (Eds) Second International Handbook of Lifelong Learning (Dordrecht, Springer)

     1. Walker, M. (2010) Capabilities and Social Justice in Education. In: H-U OTTO AND H. ZIEGLER, ed. Education, Welfare and the Capabilities Approach. A European Perspective. (Opladen, Barbara Budrich Publishers)

     2. Walker, M. (2010) Pedagogy for Rich Human Being-ness in Global Times. In: UNTERHALTER, E. AND CARPENTIER, V., ed. Global Inequalities and Higher Education: Whose interests are you serving?. (New York &London, Palgrave MacMillan)


Walker, M. (2010) Doctoral education and the formation of capabilities; in Thomson, P and Walker M (eds) (2010)The Doctoral Students Companion; and The Doctoral Supervisors Companion (London, Routledge)
Walker, M and Thomson, P. (2010) Why the Doctoral Companions; in Walker M and Thomson, P. (eds) (2010) The Doctoral Supervisor’s Companion (London, Routledge)

     1. Thomson P. and Walker, M. (2010)Doctoral Education in Context: the changing nature of doctoral education and the doctoral student; in Thomson P and Walker M (eds) The Doctoral Students Companion (London, Routledge)

     2. Thomson, P. and Walker, M. (2010) Last words: Why doctoral study in Thomson P and Walker M (eds) The Doctoral Students Companion (London, Routledge)

     3. Walker, M. (2009) Pedagogy and Human Development; in Deneulin, S. and Shahani, L. (eds) An Introduction to the Human development and Capability Approach: Freedom and Agency (London: HDCA/Earthscan)


Walker, M. (2009) Capabilities, flourishing and the normative purposes of action research; in Somekh B and Noffke, S. (eds) Handbook of Educational Action Research (London, Sage)
Walker, M. (2008) Capability; in R Lingard, J Nixon and S Ranson (eds) Transforming learning in schools and communities (London, Continuum)
Walker, M. (2008) The capability approach as a framework for reimagining education; in H-U Otto and H Ziegler (Eds) Capabilities – Handlungsbefahigung und Verwirklichungs-chnchen in der Erziehungswissenschaft (Berlin, VS Verlag Fur Sozialwissenschaften)
Walker, M (2007) Widening Participation in Higher Education: Towards Lifelong Learning as Capability; in D. Aspin and J Chapman (eds) Philosophical Perspectives on Lifelong Learning (Dordrecht, Springer)
Walker, M. and Unterhalter, E. (2007) The Capability Approach: its potential for work in education; in Walker, M. and Unterhalter, E. (eds) Sen’s Capability Approach and Social Justice in Education (New York& London, Palgrave)
Unterhalter, E. and Walker, M. (2007) Education, Agency and Social Justice; in in Walker, M. and Unterhalter, E. (eds) Sen’s Capability Approach and Social Justice in Education (New York& London, Palgrave)
Walker, M. (2007) Selecting valued capabilities for gender equality in education, in in Walker, M. and Unterhalter, E. (eds) Sen’s Capability Approach and Social Justice in Education (New York& London, Palgrave)
Burns, D. and Walker, M (2005) Feminist Methodologies; in B. Somekh and C. Lewin (eds) Research Methods in the Social Sciences. (London and New York: Sage)
Walker, M and Nixon, J. (2004) Introduction Reclaiming Universities from a Runaway World. (Maidenhead: SRHE/Open University Press)
Walker, M. (2004) Pedagogies of Beginning; in Reclaiming Universities from a Runaway World. (Maidenhead: SRHE/Open University Press)
Walker, M (2004) Beyond the Impossibly Good Place: research and scholarship; in Reclaiming Universities from a Runaway World. (Maidenhead: SRHE/Open University Press)
Nixon, J.; Walker, M and Carr, W. (2004) The Governance of Learning; in F.Inglis (ed) Education and the Good Society, (Houndsmills: Palgrave)
Nixon, J.; Walker, M and Clough, P. (2003) Research as Thoughtful Practice; in P. Sikes, J. Nixon and W.Carr (eds) The Moral Foundations of Educational Research: Knowledge, Inquiry and Values. (Buckingham, Open University Press)
Walker, M (2002) Subaltern Professionals: Acting in Pursuit of Social Justice; reprinted in C. Day (Ed) Theory and Practice in Action Research, some international perspectives. (Oxford, Symposium Books)
Walker, M (2001) Mapping Our Higher Education Project, in Reconstructing Professionalism in University Teaching: Teachers and Learners in Action. (Buckingham, SRHE/Open University Press)
Walker, M (2001) Action Research for Equity in Teaching and Learning; in Reconstructing Professionalism in University Teaching: Teachers and Learners in Action. (Buckingham,SRHE/Open University Press)
Walker, M (2001) Collaboration with/in a Critical Community of Practice, in Reconstructing Professionalism in University Teaching: Teachers and Learners in Action. (Buckingham, SRHE/Open University Press)
Walker, M (2001) Reconstructing Professionalism in University Teaching: Doing Other/wise; in Reconstructing Professionalism in University Teaching: Teachers and Learners in Action. (Buckingham, SRHE/Open University Press)

Refereed journal articles

East, L., Stokes, R. and Walker, M. (in press) Universities, the public good and professional education in the UK, Studies in Higher Education
Cin, M. and Walker, M. (in press) A capabilities-based social justice perspective: three generations of west Turkish women teachers’ lives, IJED
Walker, M. (in press) Universities, professional capabilities and contributions to the public good in South Africa, Compare (online 14 may 2012)
Walker, M. (in press) Universities and a human development ethics: A capabilities approach to curriculum, European Journal of Education
Vaughan, R. and Walker, M. (in press, 2012) Capabilities, values and education policy, Journal of Human Development and Capabilities
Walker M. (2012) A Capital or Capabilities Education Policy Narrative in a World of Staggering Inequalities? IJED
McLean, M and Walker, M. (2012) The possibilities for university-based public-good professional education: a case-study from South Africa based on the ‘capability approach’, Studies in Higher Education,37, 6
Lozano, F. Boni, A. and Walker, M. (2010) La educación superior desde el enfoque de capacidades. Una propuesta para el debate [Higher Education from Capability Approach Perspective. A proposal for discussion]; in Revista Interuniverstiaria de Formación de Profesorado, 13 (3)

Walker, M. And McLean, M. (2010) Making lives go better: University education and ‘professional capabilities’, South African Journal of Higher Education, 24 (6)

Walker, M. (2010) A human development and capabilities ‘prospective analysis’ of global higher education policy, Journal of Education Policy, 25 (4)
Walker, M (2010) ‘Critical Capability Pedagogies in University Education’, Educational Theory and Philosophy (available as online early article at
Walker, M., McLean, M., Dison, A. and Peppin-Vaughan, R. (2009) South African Universities and Human Development: Towards a Theorization and Operationalization of Professional Capabilities for Poverty Reduction, International Journal of Educational Development, 29
Walker, M. (2009) Making a world that is worth living in: humanities teaching and the formation of practical reasoning, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 8 (3)
Booth, A., McLean, M. and Walker, M. (2009) Self, society and other: a case study of integrative learning in England, Studies in Higher Education, 34 (8)
Walker, M. (2008) Widening participation; widening capability, London Review of Education, 6 (3)
Walker, M (2008) ‘A human capabilities framework for evaluating student learning’, Teaching in Higher Education, 13 (4)
Walker, M (2008) ‘Towards a mild perfectionism and human capability approach for thickened educational praxis’, Pedagogy, Culture and Society, 16 (2)
Vaughan, R, Unterhalter, E and Walker, M (2007) The Capability Approach and Education, Prospero, 13 (3)
Walker, M. (2007) Pedagogias En La Educacion Superior Relacionadas Con El Enfoque De Las Capacidades Humanas: Hacia Un Criterio De Justicia, Revista De La Educaion Superior, XXXVI (2)
Walker, M. (2007) Action research and narratives: ‘Finely Aware and Richly Responsible’, Educational Action Research, 15 (2)
Walker, M (2006) Towards a capability-based theory of social justice in education, Journal of Education Policy, 21 (2)
Walker, M (2005) Rainbow Nation or New Racism? Theorising Race and Identity in South African Higher Education, Race, Ethnicity and Education, 8 (2)
Walker, M (2005) The Capability Approach and Education, Educational Action Research, 13 (1)
Walker, M (2005) Race is everywhere and race is nowhere: narratives of black and white South African undergraduates, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 26 (1)
Walker, M and Unterhalter, E. (2004) Knowledge, narrative and national reconciliation: storied reflections on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Discourse, 25 (2)
Walker, M (2003) Framing Social Justice in Education: what does the capabilities approach have to offer?, British Journal of Educational Studies, 51 (2)
Walker, M (2002) Pedagogy and the politics and purposes of higher education, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 1(1)
Nixon, J.; Walker, M and S. Baron (2002) From Washington Heights to the Raploch, Evidence, Mediation and the Genealogy of Policy, Journal of Social Policy and Society, 1 (3)
Nixon, J.; Walker, M and S. Baron (2002) The Cultural Mediation of State Policy: the democratic potential of New Community Schooling’ in Scotland, Journal of Education Policy, 17 (4)
Walker, M (2001) Engineering Identities, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 22(1)
Nixon, J.; Marks, A.; Rowland, S. and Walker, M.(2001) Towards a New Academic Professionalism: A Manifesto of Hope, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 2 (2)
Walker, M (2001) Making better knowledge: ‘little stories’, truth-telling and social justice effects, The School Field – an International Journal of Theory and Research in Education, XII (1/2)
Walker, M. and Warhurst, C. (2000) ‘In most classes you just sit very quietly and get lectured at….’:Debates, Assessment and Student Learning, Teaching in Higher Education- an International Journal, 5 (1)

Edited journal issues

2012 Thematic issue on Education, Journal of Human Development and Capabilities
2007-2010, Journal of Human Development and Capabilities (3 issues per year, 4 issues per year from 2010)
2008, Educational Action Research, 16:3
2006, Educational Action Research, 14:3
2005, Educational Action Research 13:2
2003 Special issue, Within and Against: Examining Academic Life, Teaching in Higher Education- an International Journal, 7:4 (executive editors)
2003, Educational Action Research 11:3 (December)
2002 Special issue, Pedagogical Research and Disciplinary Research, Teaching in Higher Education-an International Journal, 8:4 (executive editors)


Research Summary

Her current research focuses on higher education, the expansion of student capabilties and contributions by universities to human development and justice in education and society. In particular she is concerned with equity, diversity, professional education, and curriculum and realizing pedagogic rights.

Current Research Projects

Black women’s narratives
The project aims to understand the development of diverse women’s well-being and agency over time, and the specific contribution made by their University education and University experiences. To take seriously black women’s agency, while nonetheless asking what barriers stand in the way of black women’s full human development - to live in freedom and dignity, and able to exercise choices to pursue a full and creative life? It has the further aim to offer accounts of gender, race and social class in South Africa, informed by a feminist epistemology. The research questions are: i) What are diverse black women able to be and to do, over time? What functionings do they value? Which functionings can they achieve if they choose?ii) What do their biographies show about relevant ‘conversion’ factors and social arrangements in relation to their agency and well-being?iii)What do their narratives tell us about how ‘gender just’ is South Africa? What barriers does SA higher education and society erect against human development and empowerment for black women?

Curriculum as an Equity Project: A Case Study of UFS 101, Knowledge, Diversity and Inclusion
The project has four objectives: i) to investigate the quality of curriculum and student learning, in light of the considerable diversity in preparedness and in material, social and cultural biographies of student; ii) To apply a normative approach from human development and capabilities to ascertain to what extent it can throw light on curriculum reform, student learning and comparative student advantage; iii) to consider how Bernstein’s ‘pedagogic rights’ might complement ideas from capabilities and throw light on the role played by, and the distribution of, knowledge for equitable capability formation and student empowerment; iv)To generate debate among students, lecturers and university leadership about what counts as a good university education and how we can ‘measure’ this. The conceptual framework comprises three elements: (i) capabilities and ii) pedagogic rights as a means to form and distribute capabilities, but also iii) fair access to knowledge of the discipline or in the case of 101 interdisciplinary knowledge as central to i and ii. Together these comprise a framework for social inclusion and justice. The Research Questions are : 1. What valuable capabilities are being made possible by the curriculum and pedagogy of 101? 2. How fairly is #vertical’ knowledge distributed among diverse 101 students as manifested in student experiences and evaluation of the curriculum and pedagogy of 101? 3. How fairly are pedagogic rights distributed to students? Which capabilities align with and support pedagogic rights?4. In comparing the distribution of capabilities, knowledge and pedagogic rights who is judged to be comparatively more or less disadvantaged and how does this correlate to dimensions of diversity?

EDUWEL. Marie Curie International Training Network

The ITN "Education as Welfare - Enhancing opportunities for socially vulnerable youth in Europe" consists of 15 partner institution from 7 EU countries to consolidate research on education and welfare and evaluate its capacity to tackle the multiple challenges and pressures a large proportion of young people in Europe face in transition from school to working life.

Recently Completed Research Projects

Development Discourses and Higher Education Transformation in South Africa
This 18 month research project explored how university-based professional education and training might contribute to poverty reduction and human development in South Africa.

‘Examined life’ pedagogies in higher education
An investigation into integrative learning theorised as ‘pedagogies of the examined life’ in 5 subject areas – economics, business studies, bioscience, sociology and history – at one elite UK university.

Ontology, identity and lifelong learning.
A conceptual and theoretical exploration of the relationship between discipline-based research and teaching in the UK.

Widening participation
A two year study of the life histories of UK undergraduate students in one UK university and how they make and remake social class.

Negotiated Narratives
A narrative study of black and white undergraduate students at one South Af
rican university in order to understand how race is made and remade in student identity formation.

Girls Capabilities
A qualitative study of diverse adolescent girls in three Cape Town schools to understand the capabilities and functionings they have reason to value for good lives now and future choices

Critical Professionalism.
A two year collaborative practitioner research project into university teaching practices and constructions of professionalism in a Scottish university.




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