The University College of the North, student politics and the National Union of South African Students, 1960-1968
Keywords:University College of the North (UCON), National Union of South African Students (NUSAS), Student politics, University apartheid, South African Students Organisation (SASO), Black Consciousness, African Students Union of South Africa (ASUSA), African Students Association (ASA)
The Extension of University Education Act of 1959 forbade future Black enrolment at the racially “open” Universities of Cape Town, the Witwatersrand and Natal and enabled the construction of ethnically differentiated university colleges for Black students. One of these new higher education institutions, the University College of the North (UCON), situated in the former northern Transvaal (today Limpopo), is the subject of this study. This article examines the nature of student politics at the UCON from the date of the university’s inception in 1960 until 1968, when the student body elected to affiliate to the predominantly white, liberal National Union of South African Students (NUSAS). NUSAS actively opposed university apartheid, both before and after its legislation, and was accordingly proscribed at the new Black university colleges. This article argues that UCON student politics were fundamentally shaped by the provisions of the Extension of University Education Act of 1959. Nonetheless, the small founding cohort of UCON students was not the docile and apartheid-conforming subjects hoped for by the state and university authorities. Further, it contends that NUSAS’s engagement with UCON students and Black students at other universities was one of the factors leading to the radicalisation of the organisation during the early to mid-1960s. It demonstrates too that UCON students of the early 1960s had many of the same reservations about NUSAS as the founders of the exclusively Black South African Students Organisation (SASO) later that decade. Finally, it shows that some of the tenets of Black Consciousness thinking of the 1970s are discernible within an earlier generation of UCON students.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Clare Larkin (McKay)
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