4: The Perceived Quality of Higher Education in Oceania: Autoethnographic Insights from the Regional University of the South Pacific

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Research on the quality of higher education in the island states of Oceania has so far contributed to a ‘deficit discourse’, depicting Oceanian universities as ‘second-class’, rather than studying such notions of quality from a critical perspective. In response, this chapter introduces a research focus on the perceived quality of higher education in Oceania. We employ an autoethnographic methodology to unpack the perceived quality of the regional University of the South Pacific (USP) and theorize our empirical findings through a geographical-spatial lens. Our findings show that ‘islandness’, in its physical form and as a social feature of place connotation, can create different kinds of (mis-)perceptions of USP’s quality. While USP is widely regarded as a premier university from within Oceania, it is prone to be underestimated from outside the region as well as from certain positionalities within the university. More (auto-)ethnographic research can be useful to further deconstruct notions of quality of universities in the island states of Oceania and beyond.

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