A synthesis review of 17 autoethnographic (AE) studies revealed experiences of 33 academic staff and graduate students in higher education, the majority of whom are women. These papers, from more than six countries, were found through a Google Scholar search. Most authors identified as marginalised and outsiders in their higher education contexts, whether because of gender, ethnicity, race, or intersectionality. Analysis of tacit and explicit themes in the papers resulted in creation of eight final superordinate themes. The themes represent experiences of fear and insecurity whereby personal vulnerability was exacerbated by lack of cultural and gender awareness in higher education, including obvious examples of White ignorance. Institutional diversity was claimed, but this contrasted with authors’ experiences of exclusionary behaviour. Authors reported endemic racism and sexism, but that it was helpful when institutions provided support for these challenges. AE gives power, volume, and space to rarely heard minority voices. AE synthesis offers an overview of collective experience of similar phenomena or contexts. Such meta-studies are not common in the research literature, and this article provides both evidence of lived experiences of academic staff in 21st century higher education, and a purposeful guide to synthesizing AE research.


higher education, autoethnography, minority experiences in higher education, qualitative research syntheses

Author Bio(s)

Professor Jane Edwards is Dean of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences, and Education at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia. She is a creative arts therapist with a PhD in Paediatrics and Child Health from the University of Queensland, Australia. Please direct correspondence to jedwar51@une.edu.au.

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