2018 Call for Contributions


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Call for Contributions

25th SAAIR Conference

  Re-imagining our universities: the role and impact of institutional research 
in times of disruption

Hosted by

Durban University of Technology

DUT logo

We invite you to submit a proposal for a paper or other type of contribution for the 25th Southern African Association for Institutional Research Conference (SAAIR) to be held in Durban, on the eastern seaboard of South Africa, from 13-15 November 2018.

The 2018 conference theme centres round the uptake of higher education research, either through HE scholarly research output and/or through the work of institutional researchers that largely evidences as grey literature in the form of policy documents and reports. This theme follows on from both the 2016 and 2017 conference themes (Considering the #mustfall campaigns – New opportunities for Southern African Higher Education Institutional Research andRethinking university engagement in Africa). The former focused on the disruption caused by the student protests and the unpreparedness of universities to deal with such, while the latter considered how engagement could strengthen the quality of institutional research as well as providing data for evidence-informed decisions for sustainable leadership.

 The world is undergoing a fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0), driven amongst others by mobile connectivity, artificial intelligence, big data, the Internet of Things, and next generation robotics. Political turmoil, issues of environmental and economic sustainability, declining subsidies, increasing student debt and the high pace of technological change also characterise the global higher education environment and Southern African universities are not isolated from these challenges. Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor of Wits University, describes these as three key challenges, viz. “the competing demands for limited resources in an environment where policy directives are not adequately substantiated and funded; the political destabilization of universities that are often used as a “political football”… and increasing remuneration and other demands from internal role players who are impervious to the realities of managing complex higher education institutions in the current global economy” (Daily Maverick, 5 March 2018).

These are indeed complex times that require skilful navigation.

How might universities best prepare themselves to deal with such dynamic change? How do we buffer against the fallout from the ‘disruption’ that is refashioning the economy, reshaping the way we work and reimagining the way we engage with each other? How can we best prepare our students for engaged and productive lives spanning a longer productive life, multiple careers, changing technologies and the new world of work? These questions could possibly be answered through Higher Education Research (HER) and/or through institutional research. But is there evidence of such research? And if so, is there uptake of recommendations and evidence of improvements/enhancements in terms of informed decision-making, policy amendment/adoption or in any other way?

 As SAAIR members in our institutions we may be able to claim that ‘we have the data’ but the important question is, ‘how much influence does this have’? As an association, we believe that through our SAAIR members, we have a contribution to make to support decision-making in the Higher Education system. We need to consider how these challenges influence our agenda, so that we are responsive and proactive, and move to a position of knowing, through evidence, that our inputs and research outputs are heard/taken up by decision makers. This yields two important questions for our conference theme:

  1. Are we responsive to these challenges or is it business as usual?
  2. If we are responsive and can make a valuable contribution, how do we know if our work is taken up to inform decision-making?


1. Students of the future

    • democratising mobility
    • internationalization
    • broadening access
    • needs of the next generation of students
    • developing next generation contextualized curricula

2.  Technology, big data, AI and the future of higher education

    • big data, learning analytics, technology enhanced learning and open/self-directed learning
    • harnessing the power of learning analytics
    • working with big data

3.  Repurposing Institutional Research(ers)

    • the many lenses of IR
    • practice and the role of professionals involved in processing data
    • supporting institutional performance
    • being change agents or guides

4.  Transforming leadership


Deadline for outlines and abstracts: Friday, 15 June 2018

Notification of accepted proposed contributions: Friday, 20 July 2018

Detailed information on the theme; keynote speakers; types of contribution; proposal evaluation process; and criteria can be accessed at: www.saair-web.co.za or you can open the documents attached at the bottom of this page.

Please send submissions to :

Ms Nicky Muller

SAAIR Conference Chair 2018



Ms Carin Strydom

SAAIR Office



Please click on the documents below to open :

SAAIR 2018 Instructions for submissions

SAAIR 2018 Conf submission template