Robert John Balfour was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1971 and completed his schooling at Christian Brothers College in Pretoria in 1989. He has worked in higher education since 1994 starting as a tutor of English, and a residence sub-warden in Livingstone House, at Rhodes University where he read English and History for a BA, a BA Hons in English (1993), and an HDE in 1994. He then enrolled for a Masters degree in English and Education at the University of Natal which was completed with distinction in 1995. Balfour was made the recipient of a Commonwealth Trust Scholarship in 1997 and completed his doctoral degree in English language in Cambridge in 2000. He returned to South Africa in 2000 to take up a post as lecturer in the Department of English Studies at the University of Natal, teaching English Literature, English Language, English for Academic Purposes, and Creative Writing. In 2002 he was appointed as Programme Chair to the Programme of Language Education in the Faculty of Education and moved to the Edgewood Campus where he taught Academic Literacy at first year and BEd Hons level. In 2004 he was appointed as Head of School at a critical phase in the post-incorporation of Edgewood Teacher Training College and worked with academics in the former University Faculty of Education and former College to establish an ethos of integration and scholarship, supervising between then and 2013, seven Doctorates in English language and education, and five Masters degrees.
Appointed Associate Professor in 2005, and Head of the new School of Languages Education in a restructured Faculty (in the newly merged University of Durban-Westville and University of Natal into the University of KwaZulu-Natal), Balfour went on to lead the development of the School for a further two terms of office as Head of School, before being appointed as Registrar to St Augustine College of South Africa from 2008-2010 where he helped facilitate the establishment of the undergraduate programmes (BTh, BCom, BA) and the development of the administration. He is still Honorary Professor of Education in the School of Education Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and has held three fellowships at the Institute for Commonwealth Studies at the University of London (2003-5), Clare Hall at Cambridge University (2003), and the Institute of Education at the University of London (2014). In the course of sixteen years of academic work he has published over fifty scholarly publications, all peer-reviewed and accredited. He has edited three collections of academic essays in three international language journals, published in five scholarly books, edited four books on education, language, and literature. His latest book on literary-cultural studies Culture Capital and Representation (with Palgrave, 2010) was received with critical acclaim. In 2015 the book, Education in a new South Africa: crisis and change was published by CUP.
He is an also a National Research Foundation (South Africa) rated academic (C2 – established with international profile). Focusing on language learning and literacy, rural education, and post-colonial literature he has also featured widely in the popular press for perspectives on multilingualism and education. In 2011 he was appointed as Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Education Sciences on the Potchefstroom Campus of NWU. Robert John Balfour is an applied linguist and educationist. He is an exhibited painter, exhibiting for the first time in a group exhibition in Cambridge in 2003, and then at ArtSpace Gallery in Durban in 2007 and 2015 respectively. Occasionally, Balfour has also published poetry and short fiction in literary journals in the USA, Australia, and South Africa. He believes that the balance between creative and scholarly work is complementary and important.