“In the trenches”: South African vice-chancellors leading transformation in times of change

  • Imraan Buccus DUT
  • Cheryl Potgieter DUT
Keywords: education, transformation, higher education




South Africa is committed to developing and transforming universities in order to meet its development goals and university leadership is a key factor in the achievement of these goals. In the context of multiple challenges and historical inequalities, the role of the university vice chancellor is of critical importance. However, a focus on university vice chancellors is not a common focus on leadership studies in South Africa.


This paper examined the transformational goals and strategies of nine black university vice chancellors in South Africa in order to understand how they direct transformation of higher education in the country.


The paper draws from narrative inquiry underlined by transformational leadership theory (TFL) and focuses on in-depth interviews with university vice chancellors.


The study focused on the key themes that direct vice chancellors’ transformational leadership strategies. These are devolution of power, the need to transform the institutional culture and attain social equity through putting students first and addressing the next generation of academic scholars.


The paper draws attention to the enduring imperative to transform universities through a social equity lens and the significance of vice chancellors’ transformational agendas and strategies in this regard. The local context of the university plays an important role in transformational leadership goals and strategies

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