Establishing a Health Sciences writing centre in the changing landscape of South African Higher Education

  • Natashia Muna University of Cape Town
  • Taahira Goolam Hoosen University of Cape Town
  • Karis Moxley Stellenbosch University
  • Ermien van Pletzen University of Cape Town


This article describes, analyses, and reflects on the conceptualisation and establishment of a Writing Lab at a South African university’s Faculty of Health Sciences. Drawing on the theoretical framework of New Literacy Studies, the academic literacies approach, and South African writing centre scholarship, the analysis revealed that the conceptualisation of the Writing Lab was primarily informed by the academic socialisation model but has since shifted to encompass a more transformative ideology; opening spaces where students’ own knowledges and literacies practices could contribute to new forms of thinking and representation in the academy. We argue that the shift was facilitated by collaboration with disciplinary lecturers, the faculty’s Primary Health Care ethos, and the Writing Lab’s engagement with a large postgraduate population, leading to the Writing Lab’s participation in new forms of knowledge-building that could contribute to the creation of decolonised spaces and shifts in institutional culture.


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Author Biographies

Natashia Muna, University of Cape Town

Natashia Muna completed her PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Cape Town while working as a consultant at the university’s main Writing Centre. She joined the Language Development Group in 2015 and was tasked with establishing and coordinating the FHS Writing Lab. Her current research interests include understanding the literacy practices of science critical to student success, and how acquisition of these practices is enabled within the curriculum.

Taahira Goolam Hoosen, University of Cape Town

Taahira Goolam Hoosen is a Lecturer in the Department of Health Sciences Education based at the FHS Writing Lab at the University of Cape Town. She is involved in postgraduate academic literacies with an interest in authorial voice development. She is also a scholar of South Africa’s prestigious New Generation of Academics Programme (nGAP) aimed at building a new generation of black academics.

Karis Moxley, Stellenbosch University

Karis Moxley is currently a science writer and clinical research assistant in the Department of Psychiatry at Stellenbosch University. She holds a PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology and has experience working as a consultant and workshop facilitator for South African writing centers.

Ermien van Pletzen, University of Cape Town

Ermien van Pletzen has an interest in academic literacies and community-based health and rehabilitation education and research. She is head of department of Academic Development at the University of Cape Town.