Universities make an essential contribution to the learning of social and cultural values. They are the main reservoirs of qualified human resources and capacity building for sustainable development. However, in Benin, social relationships in this environment do not reflect ethical considerations.
To reach the greatest number of responsible people, Globethics.net's 2016-2020 strategic plan focuses on ethics in higher education. In this regard, since 2015, Globethics.net has carried out several actions towards academic actors in order to promote ethical behaviour and practices, especially with university students. Also, there is little literature on the issue of ethics in the higher education environment in Benin, which suggests that this issue definitely takes second place.
Following the logic of its action plan, and based on previous findings, Globethics.net initiated a study on ethics in Benin. This study aims at making an inventory of ethics and its practice in higher education in Benin. The theory of change used in this research is that if the culture and practice of ethics improves in academia, then this could lead to changes both with students and the administration and the lecturers.
Data collected from 1,280 academic stakeholders through a two-stage cluster sampling are related to: (i) socio-demographic characteristics; (ii) knowledge and perceptions of ethics practitioners in academia; (iii) key ethical challenges in academia, their causes and impacts; (iv) different mechanisms, initiatives and opportunities for solving ethical problems in academia.
Two defining trends emerge from the responses received from academic actors: one related to the rules and behaviours to be adopted in society and the other related to ethics perceived as a science that is interested in values and rules of conduct in society. According to these actors, ethics is essential to the university for better social climate, but is not always observed in behaviours.
Ethics is present in the imagination of academic actors. Even if they acknowledge that ethics would help to improve social relations in the university environment, it is clear that their knowledge of ethics is embryonic, and that ethics is poorly taken into account in their behaviours. More than 50% of respondents in each category felt that ethical considerations were above average. The major challenges are in the academic world: inadequate working conditions, lack of respect for and ignorance of existing ethics regulations, depravity, lack of ethics modules in training curricula of some faculties or schools and finally corruption.
Few existing mechanisms, arrangements or initiatives in the field of ethics are known to academic actors. Communication, advocacy and awareness-raising initiatives and action-research are the prospects for a better understanding of ethics at the university, an improvement in the level of knowledge of those involved in ethics and behaviour ethics constitute avenues of research.