Universities as sites of Activism and Protection Symposium

Brought to you by the University of The Western Cape: Politics and Urban Governance Research Group (PUG) and the UNESCO Chair in the Protection of Human Rights and Expansion of Political Space in partnership with the Open Society Foundations and the African Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRD Initiative)


16/08/2023 - 9:00 am


18/08/2023 - 4:30 pm


Robert Sobukwe Rd, Bellville, Cape Town, 7535   View map

About The Symposium

African universities have a long history of protest and activism. In these times of conflict and crisis, universities may not only act as sites for human rights activism, they can additionally educate many who will go on to become key role players in the imagined post-colonial state.

While African universities continue to be a crucial component in the collective efforts to strengthen democracies, democratic backsliding in many parts of Africa has led to an attack, by the state, on universities’ autonomy and academic freedoms. This often places universities, their staff and students in an oppositional role to the state.

The symposium is based on the premise that protecting universities is a crucial element of protecting democracy. Moreover, in the current context, universities could do more in an outward-facing capacity to secure these objectives.



Zackie Achmat, UNESCO Chair Paul Gready, Andre Keet, Arnold Tsunga, Corlett Letlojane, Hassan Shire, Joel Modiri, Bevil Lucas, Mary Pais Da Silva and many more.



  • Conceptualizing the African universities’ protective role.
  • Developing an African Human Rights Hub.
  • Supporting human rights defenders on the continent.


Watch the Live Stream Recordings of the Symposium:

16 August 2023:

17 August 2023:

18 August 2023: Day 3 of the Symposium