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ISQOLS Member Spotlight: Irma Eloff

Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Pretoria, South Africa; and adjunct professor at the University of Innsbruck, Austria.

ISQOL member 2019 – current.

Describe your background, experience, and research as it relates to Quality-of-life studies

I am the editor of the ‘Handbook of Quality of Life in African Societies’ (Springer), which was published in 2019 as part of the International Handbooks of Quality-of-Life series.  The inspiring series editor, Graciela Tonon, has created an impactful footprint for quality-of-life studies on a global platform. Upon invitation, I started this book project after serving two terms as dean of Education at the University of Pretoria.  During my time as dean I was constantly impressed by the excellent interdisciplinary research being conducted in quality-of-life studies.  I also found that there was much to be learned from quality-of-life studies conducted in the African context – studies that capture the overwhelmingly resourceful, innovative and collective problem-solving that is inherent to the continent.  In addition, in my work as a focal point co-ordinator in the Unesco Teacher Task Force, I realized that quality-of-life studies provided an important pivot to interrogate and support the global agenda for sustainable development (Agenda2030).  In many ways, these insights came together within this book publication on quality-of-life.

My professional background is in Educational Psychology and I have always veered towards positive psychological approaches.  The natural synergy with quality-of-life studies was therefore almost inevitable for me. 

At the University of Pretoria I am the principal investigator and project leader for the Student Wellbeing@UP project.  In this longitudinal project we track the wellbeing of tertiary students. From this ongoing study, we have flagged the important role of lecturers in student wellbeing, concerns about the decline of mental health and wellbeing of students over the course of the academic year, the role of technology in supporting wellbeing, and also student wellbeing during the pandemic.

I also lead the Teach4Reach project which is a collaborative research project between the University of Pretoria, the University of Innsbruck and the University of Vienna.  The project seeks to expand the curricula on Sustainable Development and the Global Goals in teacher education programmes.  In terms of quality-of-life, this project supports knowledge development in good health and wellbeing, quality education, gender equality and reduced inequalities.

What initially attracted you to the field of quality-of-life studies?

The energy and unique perspectives of the researchers and students in the field.

What are some areas of quality-of-life studies you feel are lacking attention? Any advice for future QoL researchers?

I think we can do more to connect our work to global agendas for sustainable development.  Agenda 2063 on the Africa we want, for instance, is an excellent vision document that speaks to matters of quality-of-life with pertinent regional acuity.  Agenda2030is, off course, also highly relevant to all aspects of quality-of-life studies and may provide the impetus for even closer collaboration to improve quality-of-life at the global level.

We also need to pay attention to the fluidity of quality-of-life.  In contexts of high volatility, quality-of-life may shift significantly within short periods of time for individuals and groups.  As quality-of-life researchers we therefore need to develop research methods that will allow us to capture this fluidity effectively.

How long have you been a member of ISQOLS? Why did you choose to be a member of ISQOLS? How has your involvement in ISQOLS impacted your career/research/advancement in your knowledge of QoL studies?

I have been an ISQOLS member since 2019 and I have loved every minute of it.  I chose to become a member, because of the high levels of interdisciplinary research in ISQOLS, the generosity to share new knowledge and the superb network of researchers in ISQOLS.

When I met Graciela Tonon in mid-2016 in Portugal, she shared with me the work of ISQOLS, and I was immediately intrigued.  Back in South Africa, I had been reading the superb work of Valerie Møller in quality-of-life studies, Marie Wissing and her team on wellbeing research, and the expansive work of the growing number of positive psychologists in the field.  Since joining, I have been attending many of the the wonderfully informative ISQOLS webinars and have come to know many more quality-of-life researchers. I am deeply grateful for that moment of introduction to ISQOLS, because it has provided a nexus within which multiple research foci could connect, and ultimately (and hopefully) improve quality-of-life for someone somewhere.

Feel free to include any other important comments or things you'd like to share with the ISQOLS community

“The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the colour of your thoughts” – Marcus Aurelius.

Irma Eloff



The International Society for
Quality-of-Life Studies

P.O. Box 118
Gilbert, Arizona, 85299, USA


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