Jonathan Jansen, vice-chancellor of the University of the Free State in South Africa until a year ago, has written a book on the country’s higher education sector. As by Fire – The End of the South African University is one of a number of recent books that set out to make sense of the current crisis in South African universities.
The crisis began in early 2015 with the #RhodesMustFall protests and gained momentum over the course of 2015. These protests fuelled, and eventually overtook the national #FeesMustFall movement. The underlying economic, cultural and political issues that drove the protests remain largely unresolved.
As by Fire is structured around three main questions: What in fact happened? Why did it happen? And what does the protest crisis mean for the future of South African universities?
Jansen draws on his own experience as well as interviews with 11 vice-chancellors in the country. His conclusion is:
In a nutshell, there is no future, and
What we are witnessing is a full system meltdown.
There are several problems with Jansen’s apocalyptic thesis.
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