n South African Journal of Higher Education - Democratic postgraduate student leadership for a sustainable learning environment : Part 1 : exploration of the critical relationship between higher education and the development of democracy in South Africa




This article examines the opportunities and challenges experienced by postgraduate student leaders for a sustainable learning environment (SuLE) in a democratic setting. The article explores how students and student leaders develop their research skills using a common methodology and theoretical framework. A SuLE serves as a platform for collaboration, support and self-empowerment for academic success. A critical, emancipatory and qualitative research approach was employed which, in turn, was used by these students as a form of support for sustaining academic progress in postgraduate studies. A participatory action research (PAR) process was used in four different clusters of master's and doctoral students. The four clusters were from different sections of KwaZulu-Natal, North-West and Free State provinces of South Africa and international students from Lesotho, adding up to 50 students participating in this project. The Free Attitude Interview (FAI) technique was used so as to ensure in-depth views of the opportunities and challenges experienced by the students. A video-tape was used and proceedings were transcribed and analysed in line with the objectives of the article using critical discourse analysis (CDA) techniques. The main findings were: experience through a clear vision; a sense of success through a shared vision; and experience through the acquisition of diverse skills and leadership abilities.


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