Introduction: There has been a marked increase in institutional structures developed to support health professions education scholarship recently. These health professions education scholarship units (HPESUs) engage in a diverse range of activities. Previous work provided insight into factors that influence the functioning of such units, but data from European, Asian, Latin American, and African contexts was absent, potentially leading to a single world-view informing international standards for HPESUs. This aim of this study was to explore perspectives from sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in response to this omission. Methods: Situated within an interpretivist paradigm, the research team conducted semi-structured interviews with nine HPESU leaders in SSA, exploring how participants experienced and understood the functioning of their units. Despite efforts to have representation from across the region, most participants were from South Africa. The researchers analysed data thematically using the theory of institutional logics as an analytical frame. Results: Several aspects of the HPESUs aligned with the previously identified logics of academic research, service and teaching; and of a cohesive education continuum. By contrast, leaders described financial sustainability as a more prominent logic than financial accountability. Discussion: The similarities identified in this study may reflect isomorphism—a process which sees institutions within a similar field becoming more alike, particularly as newer institutions seek to acquire legitimacy within that field. An important caveat, however, is that isomorphism tends to occur across similar institutional contexts, which was not the case in this study. Understanding these differences is key as these HPESUs move to foster scholarship that can respond to the region’s unique context.
- Health professions education
- Sub-Saharan Africa