This study set out to understand what the views of a group of student teachers of the University of Pretoria on the role of the university are, and how and why these views emerged. A qualitative exploratory case study design was followed. The social philosophy of higher education of Ronald Barnett was chosen as a theoretical framework. Convenient sampling was applied and arts-informed methods such as drawings and photovoice, combined with in-depth semi-structured individual interviews and field-notes from observations, were research methods used for data construction. ATLAS.ti 8™ software was used and member reflections, reflections with my supervisor, denotation and connotation of drawings and photovoice techniques were used as general research methods for the data analysis. This study found that student teachers predominantly stand for an ontological role of the university that advocates the development of students as persons, their social skills, cultural and racial tolerance, compassion, empathy rather than a predominant role of the university that emphasises epistemological aspects such as teaching/learning, doing research or merely degree accreditation. It was affirmed that the intellectual communities of students and lecturers are a distinctive part of what it means to be a university. The student teachers argued for a more comprehensive concept of critical thinking that has a practical, experiential and relevant relationship with the world. While there has been extensive research on the traditional roles of the university, this study makes the claim that the university has a role to fill in the after-school educational gap that is a result of poor schooling in South Africa. The study makes the claim that the causes that explain the student views are constructed based on their family relationships and their life and educational experiences inside and outside schools or universities which at times surpassed the intellectual role of the university. The student teachers of this study, as part of a supercomplex world, recognize the university-knowledge relationship but stand for a new nature of this relationship.