Stay in the loop! Subscribe to our mailing list

The University in Africa and Democratic Citizenship: Hothouse or Training Ground?

Luescher-Mamashela, T. The University in Africa and Democratic Citizenship: Hothouse or Training Ground? Centre for Higher Education Transformation, Wynberg, South Africa, 2011. ISBN: 978-1-920355-67-8.

To many, higher education is seen as a driver of economic and social growth. Nonetheless, it has often played a key role in the political development of many countries. In this Centre for Higher Education Transformation (CHET) publication, higher education institutions’ role in democratising the African continent is duly examined. The research amassed in this report consists of student surveys from the University of Nairobi, Kenya, the University of Cape Town, South Africa and the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Moreover, the report centres on African universities’ capacity, through university-specific mechanisms, to facilitate citizenship development and political democratisation in the respective countries. The report goes on to ask whether universities act as formidable democracy-building environments or “hothouses of student political activism whereby students lose their impetus once away from the university”. Further, the report examines the existence and/or dearth of mechanisms (i.e. extra-curricular groups, student government and free speech) in place that may foster democratic citizenship at large – both within and outside the university.

In addition, the report issues recommendations to

  • increase dialogue between key stakeholders on student development as a driver for democratisation in Africa;
  • conduct in-depth investigations into democratic best practice of student development and student leadership development and publish findings in a series of handbooks for use by student development professionals in African universities;
  • conduct such surveys at other African universities to compare the findings and conclusions of this study; and
  • conduct a specific study of the role of students and faculty in the current political transitions in West and North Africa (e.g. Egypt, Ivory Coast, South Sudan and Tunisia).
Centre for Higher Education Transformation