Enablers and constraints during the transition to university: A comparative study of Botho University (Botswana) and the University of the Free State (South Africa) (2016-2017)

Merridy Wilson-Strydom, Morgen Chawawa (Botho University, Gaborone Campus) and Roderick Chirau (Botho University, Francistown Campus)

Funder: UFS Research Directorate

This project emerged from a Memorandum of Agreement signed between the University of the Free State and Botho University in late 2015. The focus is a pilot project at Botho University in Gaborone and Francistown, Botswana. The project draws on the methodology used in two studies done at the UFS as an initial step to building a longer term research collaboration between the two universities. Not only will the research be of benefit to the work of each university, but the comparative perspective will contribute to richer understandings in each context as well as more broadly within the SADC region, so addressing the gap in higher education research in SADC. Since the first part of the UFS study is completed and the second study has been underway for three years, this pilot project is centred on research capacity building, data collection and analysis at Botho University, followed by a meta-analysis of the findings from the two countries. 

The overall comparative study has the following aims:

  1. To understand how first-year students/university entrants at the UFS and Botho University experience the transition to university, with a focus on the enablers and constraints identified.

  2. Working comparatively, to identify similarities and differences in student experiences and why these occur.

  3. To theorise transition experiences, using a capabilities-based social justice framework.

  4. Based on the evidence from the research, identify, where relevant, potential interventions to improve the transition experience, and/or lessons of successful practice that could be transferred to other contexts. 

In addition to the research itself, Merridy Wilson-Strydom has run several research capacity-building workshops in both Gaborone and Francistown.

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