Theme 1: Understanding the emergence of the student movement

A first part of understanding the emergence of the movement in 2015 is to understand the history of the student movement from a longitudinal perspective (1994-2017) and how it led to the 2015 crucible from a historicised, student leaders’ perspective.

This project part came about from an agreement with the Council on Higher Education on a joint book project that would produce a second volume to its 2016 publication “Reflections of South African University Leaders, 1981 to 2014”. Between April and June 2018, the HSRC Research Ethics Committee has given full ethics clearance to this part of the empirical research project called “Reflections of South African student leaders, 1994 to 2017”. It involves in-depth interviews and a collaborative writing of ‘reflections’ with former student leaders/activists from the period of 1994 to 2017.

A special output from this work is a book jointly published by CHE and HSRC “Reflections of South African Student Leaders, 1994 to 2017”. The work is quite ground-breaking in the SA context in terms of its methodology and also opens up a new area of research into student politics, focused on the ‘biographical impact of student activism’.

The project is co-led by Dr Denyse Webbstock and Prof Thierry Luescher, with the support of research assistants, Mr Ntokozo Bhengu (CHE) and Mr Nkululeko Makhubu (HSRC).

Additional research into the structural and conjunctural conditions leading to the 2015 emergence of the student movement is conducted as part of desktop research, literature reviews, as well as the in-depth interviews with former student activists of the 2015/16 era.