Prof. Thierry Luescher

DEPARTMENT: Inclusive Economic Development (IED)
TELEPHONE: 021 466 7994

Prof Thierry Luescher is a Research Director in the Education and Skills Development research programme at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). He is also an affiliated Associate Professor of Higher Education at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein (South Africa). Prof Luescher?s research focuses on the politics, polity and policy of higher education. His particular niche of research expertise is student politics in Africa, the student experience and the development and professionalization of student affairs and services. He is an NRF-rated researcher.

A core research project is the new South African student movement ? ?From #RhodesMustFall to #FeesMustFall: The new South African Student Movement? ? which documents, describes, critically analyses and interprets the diversity of #MustFall campaigns that started with #RhodesMustFall in March 2015. The project focuses particularly on the experiences of former activists, seeking to uncover actor-relative perspectives on the conditions of action and agency involved as part of the material to allow for a critical analysis and interpretation of the overall role, character and significance of the movement. By doing this work, the project also seeks to ensure that the important theoretical and policy issues raised by the movement are documented in a manner to ensure that their social justice core is understood and retained on the higher education policy agenda. The core of the project is funded by The Andrew Mellon Foundation. A subproject ?Violence and Well-being in the Context of the New SA Student Movement? is jointly conducted with the University of Venda and funded by the National Research Foundation. Another subproject dealing with the history of student leadership in South Africa is jointly conducted with, and co-funded by, the Council on Higher Education. Prof Luescher collaborates on this project with a wide range of partners, including South African History Online. Co-researchers include: Mr Ntokozo Bhengu, Dr Angelina Wilson Fadiji, Ms Keamogetse Morwe, Mr Nkululeko Makhubu, Ms Thelma Oppelt, Dr Denyse Webbstock and others.

Prof Luescher holds an undergraduate degree (B.A.) in Political Studies, History, and African Languages and Literature (isiXhosa) from the University of Cape Town and a Ph.D. in Political Studies from the University of Cape Town. His Ph.D. thesis analysed the changing representation of students in decision-making on institutional and national levels in South Africa since the establishment of UCT, tracing the impact of various changes at the political level and in university governance, including university democratisation and the emergence of managerialism, in higher education governance from that perspective. Prof Luescher also holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education from the University of the Free State (with distinction).

Before joining the HSRC, Prof Luescher was responsible for institutional research at the University of the Free State (2014-2017). He joined the UFS after having been a Senior Lecturer in Higher Education Studies and extra-ordinary Senior Lecturer in Political Studies at the University of the Western Cape, and a Senior Researcher in the Centre for Higher Education Transformation (CHET), Cape Town. He was the first researcher of the South African statutory ministerial advisory body on higher education, the Council on Higher Education (CHE) from 2002 to 2008. After having been Vice-President of UCT?s Students? Representative Council in 1999/2000 for SASCO and a member of the NEC of the South African Universities SRC (now SAUS), Thierry became the research assistant of the Dean of Students and the Dean of the Centre for Higher Education Development at UCT.

Prof Luescher has been part of a number of national and international high-level research projects including the CHE?s projects into higher education governance and the governance of mergers (2001-2004), the CHET-coordinated Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa (HERANA) (2009-2014), the ESRC-NRF project `Higher Education Pathways to the Public Good? (2014-2018), and the parliamentary High-level Panels? assessment of skills development legislation (2017). In the HSRC, he has come to be involved in a variety of projects related to higher education community engagement, student financial aid, studies of skills drivers and tracer studies. On behalf of the HSRC and ESD he serves in the Higher Education and Research Chamber of ETDP SETA and the HSRC Research Ethics Committee.

Prof Luescher has published numerous chapters in international books and journal articles in scholarly journals. They include writings on student representation and activism, conceptual and theory development in higher education and his concern with improving the student experience of higher education in Africa. This includes his theoretical development of Altbach?s work on student activism. Prof Luescher?s publications can be accessed via his website at, his and researchgate accounts and under ORCID ID: 0000-0002-6675-0512.

Prof Luescher is a member of the International Association of Student Affairs and Services and a trustee of the publisher African Minds. He is on the Editorial Board for the research publications of the National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). He is also an editor of the Makerere Journal of Higher Education, the Journal of Student Affairs in Africa, and the Journal of College Student Development. The National Research Foundation commended him in 2018 as the `most published researcher on student politics in Africa?.