The postmodern university in the UK draws on a wide variety of national and international students, many from non-traditional backgrounds; most universities range across a number of campuses, delivering courses on and off campus by traditional methods, via the internet and distance learning. Post-graduate students in education work in a huge variety of different contexts: some work in mainstream educational settings from early years through to higher education, others deliver education in prisons, hospitals, non-governmental organisations, businesses or factories. All postgraduate students however require ethical consent to their research.
The current process of gaining ethical consent, however, conforms to a western, educational model based on values of autonomy, confidentiality and informed consent. This paper asks whether the current model of ethical consent and current codes of ethics offer sufficient flexibility to support this diverse range of students in managing the complex issues of ethical research.
Drawing on an ongoing study, examining how postgraduate students gain ethical consent to their research, this paper will first briefly review issues of gaining consent for cross-disciplinary research; it will then highlight some of the inherent tensions in the current UK process before exploring the concept of ‘informed consent’; finally, the article makes a plea for the nurture and development of ethical literacy in postgraduate research programmes.
|Keywords:||Postgraduate Education, Ethics, The Postmodern University|
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Educational and Applied Research, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, West Midlands, UK
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