The Academic Writing Challenges of Undergraduate Students: A South African Case Study

Ernest A Pineteh


This article discusses the academic writing challenges of undergraduate students at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), South Africa. It examines challenges such as lack of a mastery of academic writing conventions, analysis of writing topics, using writing to construct social identities; ability to research and apply knowledge across different context and poor sentence skills. It also focuses on the implications of these challenges for students’ academic development and possible strategies to address these challenges. The article draws on sustained interviews with twenty 2nd year students, 1st year student reflections and discussions with four Communication lecturers. The data revealed that academic writing challenges of students in universities of technology are consequences of students’ linguistic and general literacy backgrounds, their attitudes toward academic writing and the privileging of middle-class literacy practices in South African higher education.  To mitigate these challenges, this article proposes the following strategies: the integration of academic literacies in disciplinary curricula, the promotion of multimodalities of the teaching and assessment as well as collaboration between language lecturers and core course specialists. It also recommends intensive academic reading and writing workshops, and increased formative feedback.  

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International Journal of Higher Education
ISSN 1927-6044 (Print) ISSN 1927-6052 (Online) Email:

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