Higher education research in African contexts: Reflections from fieldwork in flagship universities in South Africa, Mozambique and Ethiopia
Yallew, Addisalem Tebikew
Dipitso, Paul Othusitse
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This article is written with the recognition that, as higher education studies evolve as a multidisciplinary area of inquiry, there is a need to reflect on the theoretical and practical concerns emerging from conducting higher education research. This is especially the case for early-career researchers who enter this relatively new field of study. This article attempts to explore the fieldwork component of the research process considering our experiences as early-career researchers conducting PhD studies in four universities in southern and eastern Africa. The article focuses on issues related to ethics, gaining and negotiating access to the field, and dealing with positionality during fieldwork. While reflecting on these experiences, we also attempted to explore if there are any fieldwork dynamics that are peculiar to the African higher education context that may be considered during data collection. Reflecting on our experiences, we have argued that, in some institutions, necessary procedures for researching higher education need to be in place, while with the ones that have institutionalised mechanisms the procedures adopted need to be aligned with contextual realities and should focus on ethical considerations rather than protecting the reputation of universities.