A Critical Analysis of Legal Research in Kenya: The Nexus between Research Funding, Academic Freedom and Social Responsibility

Published date01 July 2018
Date01 July 2018
Subject MatterArticles
A Critical Analysis of Legal Research
in Kenya: The Nexus between
Research Funding, Academic
Freedom and Social Responsibility
Agnes K. Meroka1
Duncan Ojwang2
Despite the potential of legal research to contribute positively in addressing problems in the society,
there are various factors that can undermine the significance of such research. Even with the widespread
legal research conducted in Kenya, there are signs that much of this research has not had a significant
impact in the society, and it has also not succeeded in providing solutions to some of the problems that
have been plaguing the country since the post-independence period. It is argued here that academic
freedom, like any other fundamental freedom or right has obligations attached to it, and one such
obligation is the exercise of social responsibility, which means that research ought to be conducted
for the purpose of benefitting the society and not just for the advancement of individual interests.
However, external research funding may limit the extent to which academics are able to exercise
academic freedom in the course of conducting research. In Kenya specifically, the Constitution of
Kenya recognizes and protects academic freedom, however, the spiral relationship between research
and external funding opportunities may create conditions which undermine this freedom. This article
draws on a broad understanding of the role of legal research in any society and demonstrates that
there is a need for independence of thought in carrying out legal research, and in cases where external
research funding threatens the exercise of academic freedom, universities can take steps to ensure that
individual academics are cushioned from this threat.
Legal research may be defined simply as the process of finding and understanding law.3 The motivation
for carrying out legal research may vary, depending on the position of the researcher. For instance,
1 University of Nairobi, Kenya.
2 Africa Nazarene University, Kenya.
3 Stephen eliaS, legal ReSeaRch: how to Find and UndeRStand law (2015).
Asian Journal of Legal Education
5(2) 109–121
© 2018 The West Bengal National
University of Juridical Sciences
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/2322005818768682
Corresponding author:
Agnes K. Meroka, University of Nairobi, Kenya.
E-mail: agi.meroka@gmail.com

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