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  • Pre-conference workshops (4th) Conference sessions (5th to 7th)November 2019

26th SAAIR Conference 2019

04-07 November 2019


Theme: Institutional Research as the X Factor for efficiency and effectiveness in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)


Hosted by

For accepted contributions, submissions of an electronic copy of the presentation should be sent to the SAAIR office (admin@saair.net) not later than
Friday 18 October 2019.


The Tshwane University of Technology Mbombela (Nelspruit- Mpumalanga) campus is hosting the 26th annual Southern African Association for Institutional Research (SAAIR) conference. The Conference will be from the 5-7 November 2019.

There will be three parallel pre-conference workshops on 04 November. The themes of the workshops will be on Analytics, Quality and Institutional Research (Details to follow)

On an annual basis, SAAIR convokes a myriad of scholars, academics and higher education practitioners as well as institutional researchers dedicated to supporting planning, policy formation and decision-making. SAAIR encourages proposals from, and attendance of, all those interested in institutional research, learning analytics, quality assurance, strategic and academic planning, as well as related areas such as teaching-learning and all its associated sub-disciplines and fields of study.


The Tshwane University of Technology and SAAIR are delighted to invite you to submit a proposal for a paper or other type of contribution at the Conference.

Theme: Institutional Research as the X Factor for efficiency and effectiveness in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)


The higher education sector locally and globally faces challenges and opportunities such as massification, internationalisation, quality, the fourth industrial revolution, demands for accountability and transparency, dwindling financial support, stakeholder expectations in the era of more immediate and widely communicated activism, such as #FeesMustFall. The sector needs superior planning, policy formation and decision-making capacity to respond to the challenges. Institutional Research (IR) as a profession in higher education produces evidence and insights to support planning, policy formation and decision-making. Duties of IR are extensive: and require a wide range of skills.  From skills to build consensus, negotiate, coordinate people and projects, sensitivity, open-mindedness, educational skills, flexibility, enthusiasm, life-long learning, a sense of humour, and so forth (Fife, 2017; Leimer, 2012; Terenzini, 1993).

Institutional Researchers have become the X-factor towards attaining institutional effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability. The X-factor includes the core elements, skills and knowledge associated with IR, as well as the more elusive, intangible factors, which make certain Institutional Research Professionals (IRPs) major positive influencers and change agents. Your particular X-factor may relate to planning, marketing and recruitment, financial management, quality assurance, technology/artificial intelligence, student retention, academic staff development, as well as curriculum and pedagogy in order to meet quality standards or various combinations of these.  As we are often at the coalface, we need to reflect critically on our practice to devise strategies that will enhance institutional effectiveness and efficiency on a continual basis. The strategies position HEIs to be responsive to challenges and disruptive innovation ideally.


  1. The IRPs as agents and objects of change for institutional transformation

This sub-theme highlights the harnessing of data for strategic change, such as transformation, improving access and quality, Africanisation and decolonisation in relation to IR and Higher Education. Specifically, the crosscutting change imperatives for IR professionals is that of establishing a culture of evidence-based practice, data quality and integrity, decision-making, monitoring and planning. This includes valuing data as an asset, breaking down silos to understand that data is not just for operational matter, statutory or compliance reporting, but a driver for informed decision-making and transformation.

  1. Marketing, recruitment, and retention, the role of IRPs.

This theme reflects on the role of IR projects about both staff and students concerning marketing, recruitment, and retention. Studies and reflections in this theme may include environmental scanning practices and outcomes to support the institution with trends in different educational environments in the quest to becoming an institution of choice.   Stakeholder satisfaction surveys, drop out studies, alumni relations studies and so forth are example of some of the studies that can be shared.

  1. Show me the money! What does IR know about Finance?

For many IRPs, the financial function of Higher Education is often a black box. We have an understanding of the subsidy, student and possibly third stream income. We have a sense of the institutional budget and usually a sense of the proportions of spend going towards salaries. This is, however, not a domain with which the IRP often engage. How can IRPs meaningfully engage with institutional finance, supporting the function and enriching engagement across the institution with a more nuanced understanding?


  1. Analytics, modelling, prediction and forecasting, big data and artificial Intelligence in the real world.

Much of the technologies, mathematical models, computing power, data harvesting, visualisations and artificial intelligence, which are now ubiquitous, was the stuff of Sci-Fi, no more than a few decade ago. The World Wide Web was only officially launched in 1991, less than three decades ago. How can these advances support Higher Education and how do we support consumers of evidence to be more aware of and comfortable with evidence generated through such means.

  1. Not business as usual!

With all the new technologies, approaches and tools, it is appealing to shift attention away from traditional tasks of Higher Education Professionals. In this sub-theme we examine how Higher Education Practitioners can perform the core functions of Teaching and Learning, Curriculum Development, Institutional Research, Business Information, Management Information, Statutory Reporting, Quality, Monitoring, Evaluation and reporting, effectiveness and so forth more efficiently, innovatively and increasing in maturity.

Information for submitters

The conference aims to attract institutional research professionals and higher education scholars to share their knowledge and expertise in the field of higher education management, with a specific focus on institutional research, management information, business intelligence, quality assurance and enhancement, and statutory reporting, amongst others.

For further information on the Conference theme, please visit www.saair-web.co.za.

The following types of contributions will be considered for presentation at the conference:

Contributed paper (CP)

This is a scholarly paper in which the author(s) share research results. Such a paper may draw from a research report, a case study or the use and application of a particular research methodology, or may address particular theoretical and conceptual issues relevant to the theme of the conference. The proposed paper can be based on original data collection or secondary data analysis and can be based on quantitative, qualitative or mixed methodology. Clear evidence of findings is required.

Contributed papers will be scheduled in 30-minute slots of which at least 10 minutes should be dedicated to discussion.

The Exco intends, as a capacity development initiative, to identify the best papers from emerging/young scholars/institutional researchers. This will only focus on Contributed Papers, with the idea of providing some support to convert the best paper(s) into articles for publication.

The submission for this presentation type will thus assist the evaluation committee towards identifying such potential candidates.

Panel discussion (PD)

This is a collegial discussion of a single topic relevant to the theme of the conference by several discussants. The outline for such a presentation should describe the topic and the central issues that will be explored. It should also describe how the differing perspectives of each participant will contribute to the development of the topic. The total time allowed for a discussion panel will be 60 minutes.

Pre-conference workshop (CW)

A workshop should be aimed at facilitating active involvement by participants in deliberations around a topic relevant to the theme of the conference. It should generally consist of a brief introduction followed by planned activities/processes of engagement. The outline for a proposed workshop should describe the topic, the participant activities, the audience that will be targeted through the workshop and its intended outcomes. The outline should also specify any special requirements that may be needed for the workshop (e.g., individual laptops for participation, venue specification, etc.). Please note that such specifications will need to fit in with the overall logistical arrangements for the conference.

3-minute pitch presentations (PP)

This affords an opportunity for early stage or not yet completed research to be presented in an innovative way. Presenters have 3 minutes to give a presentation supported by only THREE slides or ONE poster. Strict time control is exercised, as the intent is to get the importance of the research across to the audience in this short space of time. This will be a session affording the opportunity for question and discussion time for all the relevant presentations. Three-minute pitch presentations can depict research or evaluation findings, or outline a research process.

Demonstration (D)

A demonstration displays materials related to a project having to do with research or practice. These may include a variety of formats, such as computer programs or multimedia presentations of a project.


The evaluation of proposals is an important activity in the run-up to the annual conference.  The SAAIR Exco remains committed to coordinating the evaluation process in a fair, objective and rigorous manner whilst also considering issues such as the spread of proposals from institutions across Southern Africa and all types of institutions.

In facilitating this, the following should be noted:

  1. A panel of experts will be constituted to assess proposals against a pre-determined list of quality criteria (see below).
  2. All evaluations are undertaken through a double-blind review process.
  3. Where proposals are rated at roughly the same level of quality, the evaluation committee will consider the number of proposals by an individual researcher, and the type of institution to which the individual researcher(s) are affiliated in order to ensure a reasonable spread without neglecting the quality requirements as evaluated by the peer review panel.
  4. Contributions that seek to make a scholarly contribution to addressing the theme of the conference will be given first priority of acceptance. However, submissions that do not directly address the theme of the conference will also be considered, provided that they have a clear focus on one or more of the objectives of the SAAIR, namely “to benefit, assist and advance institutional research leading to improved understanding, planning and operation of institutions of higher education”.

The following criteria will be used to guide the selection of presentations:

General criteria applicable to all proposals:

  • Whether the proposal links to one or more of the SAAIR’s, objectives namely “to benefit, assist and advance institutional research leading to improved understanding, planning and operation of institutions of higher education”;
  • The degree to which the proposal links to the Conference theme (Submissions that do not directly address the theme or sub-themes of the conference will also be considered, provided that they have a clear focus on one or more of the objectives of SAAIR);
  • The overall clarity of the proposal (e.g., quality of writing, organisation of ideas, clarity of assumptions, logic of arguments; etc.);
  • The importance, significance and relevance of the topic and major issue(s) addressed for institutional research; and
  • The potential significance of the contribution.

Specific criteria applicable to contributed papers:

  • Appropriateness of theoretical or conceptual framework;
  • Soundness of research design;
  • Appropriateness of data sources or evidence used;
  • Clarity of exposition of ideas, analyses, arguments and conclusions; and
  • Evidence that the research is near completion and that the paper will be completed by the time of the conference (e.g., preliminary results).

Specific criteria applicable to panel discussions:

  • Overall focus of the panel discussion and major issues/viewpoints addressed;
  • How the collective issues/viewpoints fit together to create a coherent whole;
  • How the proposed panel will provide a learning experience of value to delegates; and
  • Clarity of exposition of ideas, analyses, arguments and conclusions.

Specific criteria applicable to pre-conference workshops:

  • Overall focus of the workshop and major issues addressed;
  • Soundness of design;
  • Appropriateness of data sources or evidence used;
  • Clarity of exposition of ideas, analyses, arguments and conclusions to be shared with participants; and

Specific criteria applicable to 3-minute pitch presentations:

  • Timeliness and general interest regarding the topic;
  • Appropriateness of the theoretical and methodological approaches pursued;
  • Clarity of exposition of ideas, analyses, arguments and conclusions;
  • Preliminary findings, conclusions and implications; and
  • Quality of organisation and format of the proposed content.

Specific criteria applicable to demonstrations:

  • Appropriateness of theoretical or conceptual framework;
  • Soundness of design;
  • Appropriateness of data sources or evidence used;
  • Quality of proposed content;
  • Quality of organisation and format of the proposed content.

Please click on the link below to open the abstract submission template. This needs to be submitted by 1 July with your documents :


SAAIR Submission Template_220519

More info regarding the conference :

Registration for the conference is not open at this stage, but you’ll be notified as soon as registration open.

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