This article explores the postgraduate educational research undertaken at three South African higher education institutions during the period 1995 to 2004. The institutions are Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape, the University of the Witwatersrand in Gauteng, and the University of Zululand in KwaZulu-Natal. They are located in geographical and social contexts that differ in terms of centre-periphery relations, economic conditions, and spatio-histories. Spatial theorists have contended that, inasmuch as we configure and develop our surroundings, our contexts constitute us and influence our practices and social relations. In applying this to higher education institutions we might say that they perform their context in and through their research. On this basis we compare the body of postgraduate educational research from each institution to understand how these institutions relate to, and are a performance of, their contexts. We consider the meanings of strong or weak performance in the correlation of research to context.