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South African Association of Senior Student Affairs Professionals

National Student Governance Framework

Step 1

Drafted by:

SAASSAP Policy Desk :
Mr Pura Mgolombane (Convener)
Dr Pakiso Tondi
Mr Vhugala Nthakheni

The Secretariat
Ms Nothando Hlophe
Mrs Vees Sewsanker

Step 2

SAASSAP NEC Contributors:

Mr Luthando Jack
Dr Sibusiso Chalufu
Dr Thembi Kweyama

Step 3

Sectoral Key Stakeholders Consulted:

South African Association for Senior Student Affairs Practitioners (SAASSAP)
South African Union of Students (SAUS)
Universities South Africa (USAf)
Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET)
National Association of Student Development Practitioners (NASDEV)
Higher Health (HH)


In 2020, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the South African Association of Senior Student Affairs Professionals (SAASSAP) held numerous engagements on the need for some form of uniformity in student governance within Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) of South Africa. These discussions were in line with SAASSAP Strategic Plan focus areas seven and nine, namely, Influence Policy Development and Practice; and Engage and Mobilise Stakeholders).

The idea of the framework started as a discussion in a SAASSAP National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, amid the peak of COVID-19 as institutions were preparing for SRC elections and were confronted by numerous challenges. In accordance with focus area seven, a task team convened and led by the Secretary-General, Mr Pura Mgolombane, started the work of drafting the framework.

Through the Policy Desk Team, in consultation with the NEC, the first draft framework was consolidated and circulated to stakeholders in the higher education sector. The document was sent to Higher Health (HH), South African Union of Students (SAUS), Universities South Africa (USAf), Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and the National Association of Student Development Practitioners (NASDEV). The inputs from the sector have been consolidated into the framework below, and the document will be presented to the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, for his consideration.

Below is the end product of the critical engagements that the SAASSAP Policy Desk and NEC spearheaded, for which we are extremely proud.


For many years, Student Governance has existed as an integral part of the Higher Education system. Nonetheless, it was only legislated in 1997. Student Governance Structures, by virtue of their composition and constitution, are entitled to contest elections within their respective university campuses. Students have a right to participate in governance through democratically elected student bodies/structures of the university. Over the years, student challenges have evolved, becoming more complex in nature, while university governance also grew in complexity. Student Governance has become one of the most debated areas of institutional governance and has gained prominence in enhancing cooperative governance.

The proposed National Student Governance Framework (NSGF) provides a foundation from which an ideal functional National Student Governance can be achieved, with a view of contributing towards an efficient and effective Student Governance model. Its purpose is, therefore, to ensure that the tenets of Student Governance are properly constituted across all Post-School Education & Training (PSET) institutions.


On 11 June 2020, the Constitutional Court of South Africa delivered a judgment in the case of New Nation Movement NPC and Others v President of the Republic of South Africa and Others
[2020] ZACC 11, declaring Section 57A and Schedule 1A of the Electoral Act unconstitutional and providing instruction to the South African legislative organs to remedy the unconstitutionality of these provisions within a period of 24 months.
The primary constitutional challenge, as unpacked by the Court,
“…concerns the question whether, to the extent that it allows individuals to be elected to the National Assembly and Provincial Legislatures only through membership of political parties, the Electoral Act[2] is constitutional.  Put differently, does this channeling to membership of political parties infringe certain rights enjoyed under the Bill of Rights by individuals or, more specifically, would-be independent candidates?  In addition to this broad challenge, the applicants seek the invalidation of section 57A of, and Schedule 1A to, the Electoral Act.  Section 57A provides that Schedule 1A applies in general to National Assembly and Provincial Legislature elections.  Schedule 1A provides for a party proportional representation system which is achieved through party lists.”
The court found that it is unconstitutional for the Electoral Act to prescribe that in order to be elected to office, a candidate must be affiliated to a political party. The operation of the order was suspended for 24 months in order to allow parliament an opportunity to remedy the unconstitutionality. Consequently, electoral systems nationally will have to align their processes to these new provisions. An implication of the judgement would be that a person with the right to vote in a particular election would have the right to vote for the candidate of their choice directly and would not be limited to voting for a candidate based on the candidate’s affiliation with a political party (Wolf 2021, p. 80)
The Higher Education Act 101 of 1997, as amended, provides autonomy to institutions on how the election of SRC members should be conducted; these systems are meant to align with the institution’s rules and statutes. All legislation must align with the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and wherever this is not the case, the provision will be declared invalid as far as it is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution [S 172(1) Act 101 of 1996]. Institutions now have an opportunity to begin the process of reimagining, reviewing, and where applicable updating their internal electoral processes with what is to become the standard nationally.


Association/Society – any Student Life Association/Society registered with the Student Representative Council (SRC) on the Campus on which the Association/Society finds expression, and meets the SRC requirements for recognition and affiliation as an Association/Society.

Student Councils – are sub- councils of the SRC. They are constituted by different associations, societies and/or organisations (e.g. faculty council, sports council, residence council etc).

Faculty Councils – a body representing a specific Faculty and elected by the students of that Faculty.

ISRC – the Institutional Student Representative Council established in terms of section 35 of the Higher Education Act 101 of 1997, as amended.

SRC – Student Representative Council is a sub-structure of the ISRC at the respective institutional campuses.

LSRC – Local Student Representative Council is an SRC that is responsible for a campus in a multi-campus context. In this context, the Institutional/Central SRC becomes the SRC for the institution as per the Higher Education Act.

Student – any person who is registered at an institution for the current academic year. Students who are registered for occasional studies may or may not be eligible to stand for their SRC election. Accordingly, their eligibility should be determined by their institutional status, academic rules and the SRC constitution.

Residence Council – is constituted by elected chairpersons of the house/residence committees in residences, who become a sub-structure of the SRC.

Residence/House Committee – elected students in a residence who become a sub-structure of the residence council.

Organisation – refers to organised students whose primary interest is student governance (e.g. political organisations).

Student Governance – a collective of organised student organisations/associations who are the constitutive structures of the SRC. In addition, only in cases of special circumstances and conditions during SRC elections, individuals can stand as candidates for elections, and are elected to become SRC members.

Student Life – is constituted by those student associations whose primary interest is in environmental, academic, developmental, community and entrepreneurial endeavors.