Monday 23 October 2023

Researching with and for Mastercard Foundation

The Mastercard Foundation has been in existence for less than two decades but is making great impact in African secondary and tertiary education. For almost five years now, the HSRC is working closely with MCF to study The Imprint of Education or lasting contribution of the educational opportunities and support afforded by the Foundation's Scholars Program to former beneficiaries. The HSRC's research involves thousands of former African recipients of Mastercard Foundation scholarships; university and NGO partners in the implementation of the Scholars Program; as well as experts from across the African higher education landscape. 

My contribution to date has been as a project 'learning activity' leader and liaison researcher for the Rwandan tertiary alumni cohort. The multi-million, multi-year project is divided into several sub-projects or learning activities, which includes a large-scale tracer study (surveys running for several years); in-depth interviews and other work (like social network interviews, annual self-reflections on goals and progress, and the like) with several hundred tertiary alumni across Africa; documentary and pod-cast production with and by alumni as well as the creation of a virtual museum; and reflective research on transformative leadership, social consciousness, post-education pathways, and so forth. 

My sub-project is forward-looking and asks: What are the developments, ruptures and innovations, in African higher education, that help us to (re-)imagine the African university?

I am working with a fantastic core team including Dr Angelique Wildschut, Prof. Crain Soudien and Ms Vuyiswa Mathambo, to mention but a few. We are supported in our work by Prof David Everatt (Wits), Prof Lebo Moletsane (UKZN), Prof Catherine Odora-Hoppers (Gulu), Dr James Otieno Jowi (Anie / East African Commuity), and several other HE experts. 

Among the main activities in our sub-project has been to interview a diversity of African higher education 'thought-leaders' - that is experts in different areas; persons with great insight and imagination - on the present and future of the African university. They include some of the most recognizable names in African higher education studies across different professions, disciplines, roles and contexts, including for example Prof Goolam Mohamedbhai, Prof Tade Aina, Prof Paul Zeleza, Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, Mr Rekgotsofetse Chikane, Prof Teboho Moja, Dr Birgit Schreiber, Prof Laura Czerniewicz, Prof Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Prof Achille Mbembe, Dr Doyin Atewologun, Prof Reitumetse Mabokela, Prof Cheryl de la Rey, Prof Madeleine Arnot, and so forth. 

The interview transcripts are freely available for download at  and we have published short articles on all of these interviews in the Africa Edition (and Global Edition) of University World News Africa, co-authored by Mark Patterson and I. 

As the next big leap in this The Imprint of Education project, I am happy to announce that we are fast moving forward with compiling a fantastic book that captures the innovativeness in African higher education and shows what ideas and practices anticipate a new kind of African university, that is more relevant, decolonised, open, and excellent, than what any of us may be able to imagine. 

Friday 29 September 2023

Towards 10 Years since #RhodesMustFall, #FeesMustFall: A lasting Legacy of Inclusion in Higher Education?

Between 2015 and 2017, South African higher education was engulfed by a wave of student protests demanding free decolonised African higher education. The coming 10-year anniversary of these protests provides an important opportunity to consider the aftermath and enduring significance of the student mobilisations known by hashtags like #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall. 

In order to consider the lasting legacy of the #MustFall movements in South Africa and their reverberations across the globe, including at Oxford University (UK) and in several universities across the USA, the Dr Anye Nyamnjoh and I convened in May a two-day research colloquium with early career higher education researchers who have researched the student movement. 

Among the participants were:

Back row, left to right: Lindokuhle Mandyoli (University of the Western Cape, SA), Taabo Mugume (University of the Free State, SA), Dr Leigh-Ann Naidoo and Dr Michael Smith (University of Cape Town, SA), Dr Josh Platzky-Miller (University of the Free State, SA), Mbalenhle Matandela (Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition, SA), Krystal Wang (Nelson Mandela University, SA), Wandile Ngcaweni (Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection, SA), and Dr A. Kayum Ahmed (Columbia University, NYC, USA).

Front row seated, left to right: Nobubele Phuza (Nelson Mandela University, SA) Dr Anye Nyamnjoh (University of Cape Town, SA), Dr Keamo Morwe (University of Venda, SA), Boikanyo Moloto (Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, SA) and Dr Thierry Luescher (Human Sciences Research Council and Nelson Mandela University, SA). 

A brief overview of some of the debates held at the colloquium has recently been published by University World News. 

Tuesday 22 August 2023

Post-COVID-19: The new scope, role, and function of Student Affairs across the globe

Proudly showing off the book on the impact of Covid-19 in which a chapter on student affairs post-C-19 was published. It continues to be a privilege and fruitful relationship between Lisa Bardill Moscaritolo, Brett Perozzi, Birgit Schreiber and I, to work together on #COVID19 and SDG-related matters and Student Affairs. 

The chapter is called "Post-COVID-19: Renegotiating the Scope, Role, and Function of Support and Development for Students in Higher Education Across the Globe". 

The book edited by Rómulo Pinheiro, Elizabeth Balbachevsky, Pundy Pillay, and Akiyoshi Yonezawa overall shows how the Covid-19 pandemic caught higher education institutions by surprise. The book maps out the responses of higher education institutions to the challenges brought about by the pandemic. It brings together scholars from across the world. 

This book is open access and can be downloaded for free from the publisher.


Full book:

Monday 21 August 2023

10 years of research on student affairs in Africa

The Journal of Student Affairs in Africa just turned a full 10 years old. A lot of changes and innovations are accompanying this milestone. When JSAA was born in 2013, it wasn't quite with all the support we would have hoped. But over the last 10 years, the key people involved are without a doubt the 'triumvirate' of colleagues in the Editorial Executive, Dr Birgit Schreiber, Prof Teboho Moja and I, who in different ways made and are making the journal a success. The question is: who will be leading the journal through the next 10 years? 

Among the changes are the look and feel of the journal inside; additional information on article processing on the article front pages, and on ethics, conflict of interests and funding on their back pages.

Every article now has in addition to their English abstract and keywords the same in French. This opens the door to a more multilingual JSAA where authors can actually submit a second abstract and set of keywords in any official African language. 

JSAA is also launching a Community of Practice this year to expand this platform's impact on the development of research and publishing on student affairs in Africa as part of our aim to contribute to the professionalisation of student affairs.

And finally, we will have in the next issue the first JSAA Awards ever. 

The Journal is Open Access available at and 

Thursday 6 July 2023

Universities and community engagement in secondary cities

A throwback to a great book launch in Kimberley (South Africa) last year, 2022. We launched the book "Universities, Society and Development. African Perspectives of University Community Engagement in Secondary Cities" published by Sun Press. Present from left to right are Prof. Jesmael Mataga (Dean of Humanities, Sol Plaatje University/SPU), the Vice-chancellor of SPU, Prof. Andrew Crouch, Dr Ntimi Mtawa (University of Dar es Salaam) and Dr Samuel Fongwa, then with the HSRC and now at the Council for the Development of Social Science Research (CODESRIA) in Senegal. And in the middle, speaking, yours truly.

The book was the outcome of an NRF-funded project that investigated community engagement at the new university in Kimberley, while also including other examples of successful and impactful community engagement of universities in secondary cities in Africa. The book is available open access from my account. 

Wednesday 5 July 2023

What is 'deep transformation' in South Africa's universities?

Following the recent release of the report on the state of transformation in South Africa's public universities, there have been several engagements with stakeholders and policy makers in the sector, including Universities South Africa (USAf) and its Higher Education Leadership and Management project, as well as the Council on Higher Education. The latter has taken over responsibility for monitoring transformation in the higher education sector from the Transformation Oversight Committee. 

Here is the link to an article in the Mail&Guardian.

Here to the same article in University World News.

And here is the link to the recording of the presentation at HELM Engage (USAf). 

Wednesday 21 June 2023

University transformation under the microscope: searching for 'deep transformation'

The report of the national Transformation Oversight Committee (TOC) in South African higher education has just been published. The report has been prepared by a research team of the HSRC, led by me. For doing the analysis of annual reports of public universities, this team was truly the 'dream team', including Dr Sam Fongwa (who is a specialist on community engagement and higher education), Dr Bongiwe Mncwango (who is a specialist on skills development and higher education), Ms Zama Mthombeni (who is a specialist on university transformation), and Dr Thelma Oppelt (a specialist on higher education teaching and learning). 

The full report is available here

A short article on the report is published in University World News on 23 June 2023.

Tuesday 13 June 2023

A Global Handbook of Student Politics

Congratulations to Dr Manja Klemencic on completing the amazing anthology "The Bloomsbury Handbook of Student Politics and Representation in Higher Education" with contributions from across the world. What a feature!

The book starts with an introduction by the editor, Manja Klemencic (Harvard University, USA) and a set of chapters on theoretical considerations. It then follows with empirical chapters on student politics and representation in an international comparative perspective from Africa, the Commonwealth, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, and so forth, as well as individual country chapters covering a wide range of countries. 

For more details see Manja's website at Harvard and Bloomsbury.

Thursday 18 May 2023

New York University - Exhibition and Book Launch

April was a whirlwind.

After the 'Boston Tour' (see previous post) I travelled with Dineo by train from Boston to New York City for a series of engagements at New York University (NYU) with Prof Teboho Moja and her students, and to meet with research funders at Carnegie and Mellon Foundations. 

We started on Saturday, 8 April with a wonderful brief time meeting up with Claudia Frittelli from Carnegie, discussing our ongoing work, and all that while walking through the amazing art on display at the metropolitan museum (the Met), walking through Central Park, and eventually going for Pizza. We ate a lot of pizza in the US. 

On Sunday, 9 April, I had a first meeting with Prof. Teboho Moja, New York University (NYC), the host of the book launch on Monday and the HSRC-Univen exhibition at NYU. On Sunday, Prof Moja and I participated early in the morning in an eNCA segment #Today with Rofhiwa Madzena which was the first media engagement on the exhibition and book launch at NYU. It was aired live on eNCA. 

On Easter Sunday afternoon, Prof. Moja invited Dineo and I to a Sunday Easter lunch at the house of Dr Lenora Magubane in Harlem (one of the South African makoti in New York, wife of famous SA photographer Peter Magubane) alongside several SA expatriates and friends of the host. 

On Monday, 10 April, Dineo and I set up the exhibition "Aftermath: Violence and Wellbeing in the Context of the Student Movement" at Steinhardt College, NYU, in Washington Square. Before that on Monday morning (5.30 am EST, 11.30 am SAST), Prof Moja, Dr Keamo Morwe and I also participated in a interview (via Zoom) on SAfm Radio for #SAfmTalkingPoint.

Mr Sherwin Brice-Pease, UN correspondent journalist of SABC News and his film crew Aaron came to cover the exhibition opening and book launch of #FeesMustFall and its Aftermath (published by the HSRC Press). 

Brice-Pease interviewed Prof Moja and I and produced a fantastic segment that was aired on SABC News throughout Tuesday 10 April. What a professionalism at work! The clip can be found here. Dr Keamo Morwe of Univen (my co-PI)  again joined the launch online via Zoom. 

On Tuesday the exhibition continued from 10am to 4pm at NYU. In the afternoon (4pm EST, 10pm SAST), Dr Morwe and I participated in a live SABC News TV interview (Peter Ndoro’s segment - part of the Full View). In between I went to the Mellon Foundation offices and brought them three of the rich publications that have come from the Student Movement Project so far: the books Reflections of South African Student Leaders, 1994-2017 (Council on Higher Education & African Minds, 2020), Restoring Wellbeing after Protests: Lessons from #FeesMustFall (HSRC, 2022), and the book we launched in NY, #FeesMustFall and its Aftermath: Violence, Wellbeing and the Student Movement in South Africa (HSRC Press, 2022). 

On Wednesday, the exhibition continued from 10 am to 4pm at NYU. In the later From 5 pm – 6.30 pm I gave a seminar in the Prof Teboho Moja’s Student Affairs Master’s class at NYU entitled “International Comparative Student Affairs”. We removed the exhibition and stored for travelling back to SA. 

It was a beautiful farewell dinner with Prof Moja on Wednesday after the seminar. We discussed the future collaborative work related to the Journal of Student Affairs in Africa and the establishment and operation of a Community of Practice (COP) for research on student affairs in Africa.

Tuesday 18 April 2023

International Comparative Student Affairs: The Boston tour

is the largest student affairs professional organisation in the world and its annual conference of 2023 drew over 6,000 participants. What a huge circus - what an amazing knowledge space to be in. Knowledge overload. 
The international symposium on Sunday was a great start to the conference - a smaller space, a smaller group. From the 4-person international student affairs researcher consortium made up of Dr Lisa Bardill-Moscaritolo (UAE), Dr Brett Perozzi (USA), Dr Birgit Schreiber (D), and I, all but Birgit were there to present and receive a NASPA award for excellence in international research!

Lisa, Brett and I made two presentations together, one was an analysis of our student affairs Covid-19 and SDG data using a very big lens of Global South / Global North. 

The question 'how far have we come with the professionalization of student affairs in Africa' sparked some interesting comparative discussion among student affairs practitioners in the session where I presented alone. The participants in the session included a South African expatriate in the USA as well as several SAS practitioners who have international experience. It was a lively session and as the photos attest I was clearly in my element :) :)

I did feel that the more practice rather than research oriented audience in the session would have preferred a different empirical approach with more textured case studies etc. while my presentation was based on a content and discourse analysis of the professionalisation discourse in 10 years of publications in the Journal of Student Affairs in Africa. 

I also attended a knowledge community luncheon of the 'masculinities KC', which talked a lot about organisational matters and less about the way SAS practitioners actually work with masculinities (affirming, shaping, etc.) on university campuses. It also seemed to me a very LGBTIQ+ focused discourse - which is a discourse that has moved from the margins more towards a normalised centre - but at the same time very little talk has been on the 'toxic masculinities' that one so often encounters on university campuses, on GBV, heteronormativity, and also affirming positive 'straight' masculinity (alongside various kinds of queer masculinities). Altogether a very interesting set of conversations at the KC, a plenary session and a panel I attended on these topics. 

Something that Dineo found peculiar about the American way of talking and making a point is what she called 'oversharing', that is pre-cursoring everything with a self-positioning (in terms of one's personal background, upbringing, family life, personal and familial tragedies, career and career struggles, sufferings etc.). It appears in order to be able to make a 'legitmate' point one had to establish - by rule - one's point of departure as one of pain and suffering so as to appear authentic and elicit an emphatic audience. Oversharing to fake authenticity and establish legitimacy? 

At Boston College in Newton I had the wonderful opportunity to meet up with the colleagues at the Centre for International Higher Education (CIHE), especially, Dr Rebecca Schendel, Dr Chris Glass, Prof Gerardo Blanco and, of course, Prof Phil Altbach. 

I had long conversations with Rebecca and Gerardo in the morning; Rebecca and Phil over lunch, and eventually, after my seminar presentation, I interviewed prof Phil Altbach. 

My presentation was on "International Comparative Student Affairs" and what we can learn about this as a 'field of study' from the research that Lis, Brett and I presented just days earlier at NASPA. I also included in that analysis my work on student activism with Phil and Didem Turkoglu, which was published in International Higher Education in February 2020 and June 2022 respectively. 

Part of the 'Boston Tour' were two more meetings with wonderful higher education experts. I spent an afternoon with Dr Manja Klemencic from Harvard talking research, life, family, publishing, projects, funding, etc. etc. as she and her daughter took me and Dineo around Harvard Yard, Harvard Square, and Kennedy Park, and eventually the tall (and ugly) Humanities building. Manja just finished editing a new Handbook on Student Representation and I proudly contributed an Africa introduction chapter for it. 

The second expert and fried that I met in Boston is the wonderful Monroe France who just relocated from NYU to Tufts to take up a new role in Boston. Discussions resolved around the shocking anti-Social Justice and anti-Critical Race Theory legal debates in many US states, as well as the ongoing case against the use of race as criterion in affirmative action (university admission criteria) and related worrisome topics (e.g. legislation against gender reaffirmations / transitioning). I don't think I would have known so deeply and intimately the depth of these ongoing conversations in the US, how polarising and threatening of freedoms and social justice gains they are, and how conservative and highly problematic some of the debates and demands have become. 

So much for the Boston Tour - 31 March to 9 April 2023. 

Wednesday 5 April 2023

2023 NASPA Award: Best Practice in International Research and Scholarship

Congratulations to the fabulous consortium of student affairs researchers who just won their second international excellence award. After ACPA awarded us two years ago, this year it is NASPA.

What a fantastic team.

Dr Birgit Schreiber (Germany) in absentia

Prof Thierry Luescher (South Africa)

Dr Lisa Bardill Moscaritolo (United Arab Emirates)

Dr Brett Perozzi (United States)

This photo was taken the day after the actual award was presented, while Lisa, Brett and I, and Dineo, were having supper at the Sports Club at Omni in Boston, just next to the Convention Centre where the NASPA conference was held. We received this award for our work on global Student Affairs and Covid-19, as well as the follow-up work on the UN SDGs and SAS. 

Monday 27 March 2023

Poetic inquiry as innovative research method


Poetry has the power to transform. By creating poems from qualitative 'data', it is possible to communicate knowledge in a new way, reaching new audiences, and generating impact in different ways.

In the last three days, it has been an absolute privilege to be in the company of accomplished poets, students, emerging and established researchers, and learn for the first time about poetic inquiry. This research method conceptualises ways of transforming qualitative 'data' into poems. One such way is called 'poetic transcription'; a related output are so-called found poems. 

The above is a snip from the visual representation of our workshop proceedings (day 1). Among the participants and attendees of the "Harvesting Poetry" workshops were: 

Heidi van Rooyen, Raphael d’Abdon, Duduzile Ndlovu, Yvonne Sliep, Angela Hough, Kirsten Deane and Marilyn Couch. The participants included the amazing Nova (Lebohang Masango), Bernadette Muthien, Adam Cooper, and many others. 

Poetry (as well as theatre, puppetry, visual essays from photovoice, etc.) are all methods that have a serious decolonising potential. After the suppression of oral cultures, oral histories and oral knowledges, including indigenous knowledges, these innovative methods of conducting social research have such as huge potential to transform. 

The important matter is to keep our hearts and minds open to learning, innovation, and seeking better and stronger connections not only with grassroots as 'data source' but also as the one's for who our research ultimately is (beyond funders and commissioners) if it is to have any real impact.

Wednesday 15 March 2023

Policy Futures International Webinar Series: #FeesMustFall and related changes in student politics in twenty-first century Africa

Policy Futures International Webinar Series:  #FeesMustFall and related changes in student politics in twenty-first century Africa

Thursday 16 March 2023,  at 14:00 - 15:30

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Online event: Register

Keynote: Thierry M. Luescher 

Discussants: Rachel Brooks and Judith Bessant

In the course of the last twenty years, student politics in Africa has been impacted by a number of important changes, including the macro changes in the political and socio-economic environments of African nations; changes in the size, nature, and institutional composition of higher education provision along with the expansion, transformation, and fragmentation of student bodies; the changing political character of student governments and changing role of student representation in university governance; technological changes and new repertoires of student political agency; and a new student political discourse on higher education. These changes are interrelated, pronounced differently across the continent and institutions but overall reflective of the large-scale political, socio-economic, and educational transformations that African societies have undergone in the twenty-first century. Against a high-level overview of these changes, this keynote will focus on three developments that are particularly evident in the 2015/16 student movement in South Africa: (1) the entanglement of student politics with multipartyism and its impact on student representation and activism; (2) the emergence of networked student movements (RhodesMustFall, #FeesMustFall, #EndOutsourcing) and new protest repertoires; and (3) the elaboration of Fallism and its contribution to student political discourse on African higher education (intersectionality and decolonisation).

The webinar will be introduced by Associate Professor and research director, Katja Brøgger, and chaired by Associate Professor, Gritt B Nielsen.