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Higher education and knowledge sharing: from ivory tower to twenty-first century

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Knowledge is the driving force of a knowledge economy. Therefore, the way knowledge is shared and created and the way these actions are managed could lead to either a competitive advantage for an organisation or it could lead to its demise. Managing especially academics’ knowledge to the benefit of all can be even a greater challenge to any academic institution. The reason for it is that for too long universities have perceived themselves as the monopolies of knowledge, ‘sitting on an ivory tower’. Since universities are the transmitters as well as generators of new knowledge, a way of increasing their knowledge bank is through knowledge sharing. One way to share knowledge is through a community of practice. Volumes of literature have been written about communities of practice but the greatest majority deals with communities of practice in organisations and not in academic institutions. However, knowledge sharing within communities is complex. The literature shows that challenges such as a lack of trust, a lack of incentives and a poor culture of learning in an organisation have an effect on effective knowledge sharing. The need to establish the degree of knowledge sharing in an academic institution and subsequently create a framework to assist universities with managing it is created. A questionnaire consisting of open- and closed-ended questions was administered to academics. This article reports on academics’ awareness and views of a community of practice at a higher education institution in South Africa. The empirical evidence shows that academics would be willing to share knowledge. A number of inhibitors were identified such as, time constraints, an unwillingness among academics to share knowledge, and a lack of support or participation from management.

Keywords: communities of practice; higher education; knowledge; knowledge sharing; learning culture; trust

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Computing, University of South Africa,

Publication date: August 1, 2012

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