Working Paper 76
Researching higher education as students’ academic self-formation
Published December 2021

Higher education as student self-formation is an emerging concept that foregrounds students’ reflexive agency in determining what higher education is. Although self-formation has drawn considerable attention and agreement within the field, its embryonic research programme needs further conceptual development and empirical exploration. This working paper draws on an ongoing research project that aims to elaborate the self-formation framework, centring on two research questions: (a) what is higher education as academic self-formation? (b) How do students engage in academic self-formation in local and international higher education? This paper introduces a possible way of researching self-formation and presents preliminary findings about students’ exercise of reflexive agency in the process of their academic self-formation. By following Margaret Archer’s theory of human agency, a morphogenetic research design was devised. Empirical data from South Korean students and conceptual data from psychology are integrated to examine a series of hypotheses of students’ reflexive agency; adoption of personal projects, active relationship with the environment/structure, and self-reflexivity. The study offers methodological and conceptual contributions to the research of self-formation, and the preliminary findings provide novel insights into higher education as academic self-formation.

You can read the full Working Paper here.