In this study, I was investigating the role of student leadership played in institutional transformation at the University of Pretoria (UP). In order to contribute to understanding, student leadership role played in institutional transformation at UP and also student leaders understanding of transformation following the #FeesMustFall protests. Hence much research focused on conflict, disruption, violence and closure of universities related to the #FeesMustFall; there are comparatively fewer studies about the role played by the student leadership in institutional transformation at universities. The study researched how student leaders’ voices and agency have been represented in the institutional transformation initiatives. A qualitative case study method was used, based on content analysis of transformation documents from social media and transformation and policy documents available at the UP portal.
The documents revealed that the student leaders played important roles and negotiated with the university management and the government about tuition fees and demands for free education, as well as about the change of the language policy; the renaming of the university buildings, and balancing quotas to reflect the SA demographic at the university. Also discussed were the transformation of the curriculum and the institutional and residence culture. Student leaders played a significant role in drafting a policy for the renaming of university buildings and in drafting the four drivers for the proposed curriculum changes at UP and the self-reflection questions for faculties to interrogate their curricula.
The documents reveal that, in response to these demands, there was a 0% increase at South African universities in 2016 for all of the tuition fees and full funding of education for poor students for the following three years was announced. The management changed the language of instruction policy as demanded. The Client Services Centre (CSC) was renamed to the Student Services Centre (SSC) while new buildings are now named after South African heroes.
Most significantly, of the more than fifty thousand students now accommodated at the University, the majority are female and black and many black students are now accommodated in residences. Management also decided to integrate both Indigenous and Eurocentric knowledge in the curricula and eliminate all legacy systems leading to racial segregation at UP.