I joined the Human Sciences Research Council in Cape Town in April 2017 as Research Director of a unit focused on higher education. I came to the HSRC after almost three years at the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein/Mangaung in South Africa) where I was responsible for institutional research projects as Assistant Director: Institutional Research. I remain affiliated to the University of the Free State as affilate Associate Professor in the School of Higher Education Studies, and I was from 2008 till 2015 a research member of the of the Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa (HERANA). As a HERANA project leader / senior researcher I have led studies on citizenship development and student engagement, leading HERANA's international research project "The University, Student Development and Citizenship" linked to the Centre for Higher Education Transformation (CHET) in Cape Town.

UFS Directorate: Institutional Research
and Academic Planning 2016
Before joining the University of the Free State, I was an extraordinary Senior Lecturer in Political Studies and Senior Lecturer in Higher Education Studies at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in Cape Town, where I acted as the coordinator of two international, interdisciplinary postgraduate programmes in HE studies i.e. the Higher Education Masters in Africa (HEMA) programme (with the University of Oslo) and the doctoral programme in Student Affairs (with California State University Fullerton). I love all aspects of academic publishing - from authoring to editing and reviewing, to commissioning, managing, and marketing knowledge. I am journal manager of the Journal of Student Affairs in Africa, and a member of the editorial boards of Makerere Journal of Higher Education, Journal of College Student Development, and the book series African Higher Education Dynamics. I also act for various academic journals as referee.

Academic Journey
I started my academic journey in 1997, after having come to South Africa in late 1995 and completing a South African Matric in 1996 (as best student of the year in the Boston House College). In February 1997, I started an undergraduate degree at the University of Cape Town in a combination of majors and minors that is best described as African Studies. In particular, I majored in African Languages and Literature (in isiXhosa), Historical Studies and Political Science, focused on Africa. Among my minors was Economics and English for Academic Purposes. The most influential and memorable professors I encountered as my teachers during my undergraduate studies in Cape Town were Professor Mahmood Mamdani (who soon left to Columbia University, New York, and Makerere University, Uganda), the African language specialist Dr Pamela Maseko, and the brilliant teacher of African and Third World politics and development studies, Ms Mary Simons. I had received a prestigious entrance scholarship from the University in 1997; three years later, I graduated with a BA having garnered class medals and annual meritorious entries on the Dean's merit list. As a working-class kid from Switzerland (and first generation higher education graduate), I had paid myself through my degree doing odd jobs, with bursaries based on merit, and Swiss student financial aid. I can truly claim, I was a dishwasher once - at Guiseppe's Italian Restaurant in Gardens.

I continued in 2000 with a Masters in Political Studies focused on the study of Democratic Governance, Political Ethics, and Democratic Theory. My main interest were the erstwhile fragile post-Cold War transitions to democracy in Africa. Part of my postgraduate education was also a year-long research internship at the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) in 2000. Here I worked predominantly with Dr Alta Foelscher and other colleagues in the Africa Budget Project.

The UCT 1999/2000 Students' Representative Council
Finding a Master's topic was a struggle. I had written my final Bachelor paper on scholarly debates about the democratic transitions in Africa, but my M-dissertation should be different. Already in my second undergraduate year at the University of Cape Town I had become involved in student politics when joining the Woolsack House Committee as 'head tutor'. In 1999, the South African Students' Congress (SASCO), a progressive student organisation aligned to the South African trade union movement and the ANC, asked me to avail myself for the Students' Representative Council election. After a fun election campaign, I was elected in August 1999 as Vice-President of the SRC of the University of Cape Town, and as such I came to be involved in student representation at all levels. While UCT was undergoing its own governance and management review process, the SRC initiated a far-reaching Student Governance Review, which was meant to align the student governance model to the realities of a restructured "African World-class University" (as Dr Ramphele would have it), to a larger and more diverse student body, and to the more taxing representative mandate of student leaders. As SRC we fought many battles for students, especially those who were facing financial exclusion or were struggling academically. 

In 2000 I was elected to the South African Universities' Students Representative Council, the nation-wide federation of university SRCs which has since become the South African Students Union (SAUS). Here I worked with political pundits like Prince Mashele, who would later work in the Mbeki presidency and, after 2008, become one of the harshest critiques of the Zuma-led ANC. At the University of Cape Town, I was appointed as research assistant to the Dean of Students and supported the work of six teams of student researchers along with the work of two research consultants. Much of this work was published in the University's in-house publication, the Student Governance Review and in Varsity. The review issued in a consensus that a new model of student governance was required, which was eventually redesigned and adopted in the 2005 SRC constitution.

UCT SRC 1999/2000 with
Chancellor Dr Graca Machel
In the course of 2000 my student political life and my academic studies gradually converged. The catalyst was my Master's dissertation topic. After months of thinking forth an back I decided to try something new and give this decision to God. I started a week of prayer and fasting and on the fifth day God impressed on me that I should study student politics. Within a week I put together a Master's proposal, presented it to the Department of Political Studies, and it was accepted. A few weeks later, Prof Martin Hall, then Dean of Higher Education Development and later Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, called me to be his research assistant in the national research project investigating the culture of governance in South African higher education institutions commissioned by the Council on Higher Education (i.e. a statutory advisory body to the Minister of Higher Education in South Africa). I joined Hall as research assistant and a year later I was called to the Council on Higher Education in Pretoria to work as its research officer.

The commitments in student politics and working full-time as research officer in Pretoria meant that the Master's dissertation progressed slower, but the quality of the study was greatly enhanced. So much so that the Master's was upgraded in the course of 2003/4 to doctoral level; a rare and prestigious concession. Indeed, it was extra-ordinary for the UCT Senate to even consider the application by someone with only a BA (as I had progressed from BA straight to Masters without writing an Honours paper, as is common in South African universities). In the course of 2004, my Master's mini-dissertation draft was thus upgraded to PhD (the partly course-work, partly dissertation Masters only required a 'mini-dissertation' at that point). The reviewers of the draft chapters and the supervisors were convinced that this has all the makings of a brilliant dissertation - Praise God! - was what I thought.

While I became so closely involved in the policy-making cycle of higher education as a researcher, my involvement in SASCO started to run its course. I maintained good contact with outstanding leaders such as Dr Bandile Masuku, but I was not willing to make the transition into the ANC YL and become yet another so-called "campus comrade" as the YL President, Julius Malema, derogatorily labelled progressive students and graduates. I also kept comradely ties with comrades of the Young Communist League, like Yershen Pillay, but for someone having been raised in the social-democratic tradition of the Swiss Social Democratic Party and Swiss Trade Union movement, and with my deepening involvement in academia and the bureaucracy, I thought I would make my contribution rather as an "organic intellectual" (to use Gramsci's term), who works through the structures of civil society and academia to provide capacity and constructive critique to the progressive, democratic movement.

Under the supervision of the renowned South African political philosopher  Emeritus Prof Andre du Toit, and the archeologist, higher education specialist and manager-academic, Prof Martin Hall, who later became Vice-Chancellor of Salford University in Greater Manchester/UK, I continued my research into the way university governance and student participation therein had changed over the 20th century with special focus on the case of UCT. My PhD thesis called Student Governance in Transition: University Democratisation and Managerialism was examined by the higher education specialist and professor of public administration, Prof Ivar Bleiklie of the University of Bergen, Norway; political scientist and Africanist  at the University of Florida, Prof Goran Hyden; and Prof Colin Bundy, Director of the School of African and Oriental Studies of the University of London and formerly Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. In June 2009, I graduated in the scarlet robe from the University of Cape Town. Parts of the dissertation have been published in South African and international journals (see publications).

The research with Martin Hall and Ashley Symes was published in 2002 as Governance in South African Higher Education and was followed-up in 2005 with the study The Governance of Mergers in South African Higher Education. In extension of this work, Prof Saleem Badat, then CEO of the Council on Higher Education, had called me to become the full-time research officer of the Council in mid-2002. I worked for the Council on Higher Education until 2008, first as full-time research officer/researcher until the end of 2004, and later as part-time researcher and research manager while working on my own PhD research. 

Young Africanist Scholars' Writing Workshop
University of the Witwatersrand, 2011
As early as March 2009, that is after the Senate confirmed the successful outcome of the examination, I was appointed as post-doctoral research fellow to the Higher Education Studies programme of the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, where also the resourceful African Centre for the Study of Higher Education  (CSHE) is located. Along with that I became associated with the Centre for Higher Education Transformation in Cape Town, directed by Dr Nico Cloete, extra-ordinary professor of higher education studies at UWC, and joined the Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa (HERANA). Through this associations I met outstanding young African scholars like Prof. Gerald Ouma (originally from Kenya); Prof. Patricio Langa (from Mozambique); Dr Sam Fongwa (from Cameroon); as well as local South African scholars of note. The HERANA Higher Education and Democracy research stream led us to consider the extent to which higher education in Africa contributes to deepening democracy. Following extensive survey work, I concluded with colleagues from the University of Nairobi, Kenya; the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and the University of Cape Town, the study The University in Africa and Democratic Citizenship: Hothouse or Training Ground? which was published in 2011. Follow-up work has been published with Prof Robert Mattes from UCT in the CODESRIA journal Journal of Higher Education in Africa, and more publications on the work are still underway.

Another 'confluence' of my political and academic biography is represented in the current initiative to establish a scholarly / professional  Journal of Student Affairs in Africa. A graduate tracer study by CHEC (2013) is showing that participation in extra-curricular activities (including student governance, student organisations and research/tutoring on campus) is one of the very few ways in which universities can actually significantly improve the employment prospects of disadvantaged students. Now we have evidence for something we intuitively always knew. The HERANA work also showed how important being at university is for the development of attributes of critical and active citizenship at a young age (irrespective of field of study). Bringing together the practice and scholarship of student affairs in a scholarly journal is a small way of supporting the professionalisation of student affairs and, hopefully, its good impact on students and graduates.

I have published a number of research reports, scholarly publications, conference and seminar papers, lecture notes, as well as articles in popular media over the years. Parts of my PhD dissertation have been published in the form of articles in scholarly journals, as well as some of my research work for the Council on Higher Education and the HERANA project. Thus, while some of my publications are available from the research organisations and institutes I have been working for, or can be retrieved from university libraries, publishers of scholarly journals or as books, this website is dedicated to making these publications more easily accessible via the internet (see publications).

Jan. 2015