In 2015, A CLUSTER OF NEW STUDENT ACTIVIST GROUPS emerged at South African universities. Their initial names differed across campuses, reflecting the institutional particularities of their concerns. While the language of tuition was the principal focus of groups at Stellenbosch and the University of Pretoria, catalysts for mobilization elsewhere included student housing shortages and the presence of colonial iconography. By late 2015, through campaigns to establish unity of purpose, student movements mobilized behind a common demand: free higher education. The name attributed to the movement, “Fees Must Fall”, captured this commitment. For the first time in the post-apartheid era, students marched on campuses, to Parliament, and to the seat of government in Pretoria, to protest against the rising cost of university fees.

Between 1994 and 2011, the number of students enrolled in higher education in South Africa almost doubled, increasing from 495,356 to 938,201.1 However, state funding for higher...

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