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Journal of Education (University of KwaZulu-Natal)

On-line version ISSN 2520-9868
Print version ISSN 0259-479X


GRANT, Callie; QUINN, Lynn  and  VORSTER, Jo-Anne. An exploratory study of Heads of Departments' responses to student calls for decolonised higher education. Journal of Education [online]. 2018, n.72, pp.73-88. ISSN 2520-9868.

Central to the tumultuous student protests of 2015 and 2016 was an urgent call for the decolonisation of South African universities. Existing curricula, including teaching and assessment practices, as well as institutional cultures and structures were challenged. Against this backdrop, in this article we focus on the academic leadership role of Heads of Departments (HoDs) at Rhodes University. In this small-scale project we interrogate how HoDs conceptualised their roles in this uncertain and complex context. From the data analysis a number of tensions emerged in the ways in which they articulated and enacted their roles. The findings indicate that the protests have contributed to the increasing complexity of the role of an HoD. Issues raised during the protests catalysed HoDs at Rhodes University, some for the first time, into considering the implications of the decolonising call from students and into exercising stronger transformative leadership roles.

Keywords : decolonisation; academic leadership; Heads of Department; cultural historical activity theory.

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