Review Article

Addressing the underside of student unrest in South African universities using collegial leadership as approach

Bunmi I. Omodan
Transformation in Higher Education | Vol 8 | a273 | DOI: | © 2023 Bunmi Isaiah Omodan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 January 2023 | Published: 14 July 2023

About the author(s)

Bunmi I. Omodan, Department of Continuing and Adult Professional Teacher Development (CAPTD), Faculty of Education, Walter Sisulu University, Butterworth, South Africa


Universities in South Africa are confronted with student unrest, which has hindered the effective university education process. They have faced various shortages of academic activities and teaching and learning because of protests and subsequent management responses that culminated in the closures of universities at most times. Student unrest has made it difficult to actualise the set predetermined goals and objectives of the university. These challenges have severally been linked to problems with tuition fees, financial support for students, adequate and conducive hostel accommodation, student socio-economic background and university management styles. Among the management styles, according to the literature and observation, is the decision-making process where the issues concerning students are decided upon. This study explores the potential of the collegial leadership approach to enhance the university decision-making process towards alleviating student unrest in universities. This study is located within a transformative paradigm to transform social unrest in the university system. Conceptual analysis was employed to make sense of the adopted approach as a veritable tool for managing the power differential between the students and the university management. The study found that collaboration and teamwork, consensus building and organisational relationships are the dimensions of managing student unrest in universities. The recommendation is that collaborative management style, teamwork, consensus building and organisational relationships are encouraged in the university management process.

Contribution: This article seeks to contribute to the higher education management system by providing a collegial leadership model. As an integral part of the university system, this model addresses student unrest and improves transformative prospects for the institution. By exploring new ways of managing internal conflict resolution, change is fostered, and improved conditions are cultivated. In this way, it directly responds to the journal’s focus on the transformation of higher education, making it an essential read for scholars and practitioners specialising in this field.


power differentials; student unrest; decision-making process; university management; collegial leadership.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions


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