Whose ethics is it anyway?

The aim of this research is to address the challenges that arise when students in African partners of a British University try to align the ethical approaches inherent in their culture with the ethical processes explicit in British degrees and research. Using a post-colonial lens and adopting an Action Research approach the study aims to reconcile these differences and offer an alternative method, more nuanced approach to demonstrating compliance with University Ethics codes. Research Ethics is an important element of any education programme and the understanding of both principles and policies plays a key role particularly within student research projects (dissertations, consultancy reports etc). For students of British universities operating in Sub- Saharan Africa there is a dichotomy between the requirements of the University (based on ethical rationalism (Tikly and Bond, 2013)), and the Post-Colonial cultural context in which they operate. The research draws on the work of Hofstede (1980), Husted et al (1996) and Gbadamosi (2004) to recognise the impact culture has on ethical beliefs and behaviours.

Adopting an Interpretive Action Research approach the study aims through interview, focus groups and archival analysis of Research Codes of conduct to develop an alternative approach to demonstrating ethical compliance that meets the regulations of a UK University while recognising alternative ethical standpoints. Initial investigations show that African students have a different understanding of academic ethics and this study explores the difference in interpretation of ethics including: the role of culture in developing ethical understanding, evaluation of the extent to which consequentialism (the “ends justifying the means” (Bentham, 1789)) is applicable to Sub-Saharan business students or that Sen’s (1979) theory that rules are not absolute when violation leads to more undesirable consequences is the prominent philosophy.