Abstract: The aim of this study was to explore the concept of student empowerment and empowering aspects of the higher education curricula as perceived by the students, faculty members and administrators. The research design was a case study and it is conducted at a private university in Turkey. The data were obtained via semi-structured interviews with 24 undergraduate students, eight faculty members and five administrators. The findings of the study revealed the complexity and multi-dimensionality of student empowerment. Participants defined empowered students in higher education as having active personal and social characteristics. Different members’ views of the empowering factors overlapped to a great extent and they were grouped under three interconnected dimensions: academic, social and political empowerment. Participants' reports indicate that student empowerment in university curricula depends on several factors, such as faculty qualifications, active student participation in curriculum decisions, student clubs, extracurricular activities, and whether students have the opportunity/right to voice their demands and objections. The data analysis points out a possible existence of a fourth dimension which centers around personal characteristics. Hence, further research is needed to prove the existence of this fourth dimension as in the current data set it did not come forth as a major dimension. Furthermore, the findings revealed that democratic understanding is a precondition for student empowerment and a “deep” democratic understanding is needed in higher education institutions.
Keywords: Emancipation, empowering curriculum, democracy, higher education, student empowerment