Bridging the research-practice divide in evidence-based higher education management

  • Raazia Moosa

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


A paucity of research exists on the research-practice (R-P) divide in evidence-based higher education management. The disjuncture between management research and management practice has created a dichotomy between theory and practice, which has been debated for decades and remains a topic for debate. The debate revolves around whether the R-P divide exists, whether the divide should be closed or whether it should be bridged. The R-P divide is premised on the lack of application of theory in practice, which has resulted in management practitioners not using evidence from research to inform their practice (Banks et al., 2016; Bansal, Bertels, Ewart, MacConnachie & O'Brien, 2012; Leung & Bartunek, 2012; Pfeffer & Sutton, 2000). Until we understand how evidence from research could inform management practices, the R-P divide will continue to exist. A particular shortcoming of the evidence-based management (EBM) literature relates to inquiry into the R-P divide in the higher education (HE) context. This thesis uses EBM as a lens to bridge the research-practice divide and advance professional practice in higher education. The purpose of this lens is to investigate the R-P divide in HE in order to contribute to an understanding of how evidence from research informs management practices. The central research question posed in this study is: How does an evidence-based management lens contribute to an understanding of the research-practice divide in higher education? A qualitative exploratory research design based on an interpretivist paradigm informed an intrinsic case study approach. A combination of data collection methods were used in which interviews formed the primary data collection method and were supported by a review of documents as a secondary data collection method. This case study was analysed through qualitative inductive methods involving a semantic and interpretive thematic analysis process. A heterogeneous purposive sampling strategy culminated in semi-structured interviews with 37 managers at a research-intensive university in South Africa. The findings indicate that pracademia is a space where pracademics solve the knowledge production problem by producing knowledge and they solve the knowledge transfer problem by disseminating research and using evidence from multiple sources to solve real-world management problems. Decision-making is an important management practice and this study indicates that managers use a combination of scientific research-based and intuitive decision-making sources to inform their decision-making processes. Research is perceived as being relevant for practice and this study indicates that managers use evidence from scientific research derived from accredited and peer reviewed publications. The findings show that research informed management practices led managers to read a combination of abstract research articles, less abstract newsletters and blogs, to appraise the research literature and to express a preference for reading journals with implications for future research and practice. Research also enables managers to be research and evidence-based in their functions thereby bridging the R-P divide. This study is part of a growing body of research on the R-P divide in evidence-based management and contributes to knowledge by showing how evidence from research informs HE management practices and bridges the R-P divide in the HE context. Implications for theory and practice are discussed and the limitations of this study suggest areas for further research.  
Date of Award22 Jun 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorStefanie Gustafsson (Supervisor) & Robin Shields (Supervisor)


  • research-practice divide
  • evidence-based management
  • higher education
  • management research
  • Management practice
  • professional practice
  • higher education management

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