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Mapping African student affairs research during the past interlude (2008-2019) through Bronfenbrenner’s lens

Sophia Maria Holtzhausen


The research question we pursued was: What are the variations in the themes of research in the African higher education context that will enable researchers to promote student development? This contribution addresses three aspects of student affairs research in the African higher education context. First, it commences with tracing the African position with a document analysis of 121 student affairs research articles published in 34 peer-reviewed journals over the 2008-2019 interval. Second, it uses the thematic categorization of the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS, 2019) to determine international publication trends as derived from this document analysis. Third, it applies Bronfenbrenner’s person-process-context-time (PPCT) model as an appropriate umbrella research design and guiding framework to review the mapping of African student affairs research. A comparison of the international CAS categorization and the African categorization led to the conclusion that the CAS mapping was largely confirmed by the African analysis, with nine main themes as the foci. Additionally, it found that four first-hand African themes are not represented in the CAS categorization, and that significantly limited research has been conducted into postgraduate programmes and services (hereafter referred to as PGP&S), despite the demands for increased enrolments. The findings suggest that more accurate and continuous mapping of the field can assist policymakers, managers and student affairs practitioners in making more informed choices in their efforts to support growth and development in African higher education, with special emphasis on postgraduate students.