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Reconstructing Identities in Higher Education: The Rise of the ‘Blended Professional’ University of Kent at Canterbury 14 March 2012 Dr Celia Whitchurch.

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Presentation on theme: "Reconstructing Identities in Higher Education: The Rise of the ‘Blended Professional’ University of Kent at Canterbury 14 March 2012 Dr Celia Whitchurch."— Presentation transcript:

1 Reconstructing Identities in Higher Education: The Rise of the ‘Blended Professional’ University of Kent at Canterbury 14 March 2012 Dr Celia Whitchurch Lecturer in Higher Education Institute of Education, University of London Centre for Higher Education Studies

2 2 Leadership Foundation for Higher Education Studies Professional Managers in UK Higher Education: Preparing for Complex Futures ( ) (www.lfhe.ac.uk/publications/research.htmwww.lfhe.ac.uk/publications/research.htm Optimising the Potential of ‘Third Space’ Professionals in UK Higher Education (January-December 2009) (www.lfhe.ac.uk/research/smallprojects/www.lfhe.ac.uk/research/smallprojects/ ioefinalreport.doc)

3 3 Case Material Nine institutions; 70 respondents; UK, US, Australia Sub-set of 42 respondents in roles with significant academic elements (teaching, tutoring, programme design, applied research) Also with doctorates, publications, and/or experience of teaching/research in tertiary sector Backgrounds in eg continuing education, teacher education, English as Second Language, academic literacy, policy research, scientific research/practice

4 4 Contexts Increasingly diverse workforce: –Movement in and out of higher education –Teaching/research in eg practice settings –Partnership working (internal and external) –Blurring of boundaries New cadres of staff: –Professional staff with academic credentials –Academic staff with interests in projects such as widening participation and new modes of learning

5 5 The Emergence of ‘Third Space’ The Student Experience Project eg Life and welfare Widening participation Employability and careers The Partnership Project eg Regional/community development Business/industry liaison Knowledge exchange The Professional Development Project eg A cademic practice Professional practice Project management Leadership/management development Examples of Institutional Projects in Third Space Professional Staff Academic Staff Generalist functions (eg registry, department/ school management) Specialist functions (eg finance, human resources) ‘Niche’ functions (eg quality, research management Pastoral support Teaching/ curriculum development for non-traditional students Links with local education providers Mixed teams “The Higher Education Professional” ‘Perimeter’ roles eg ‘Perimeter’ roles eg Teaching Research Outreach/study skills Access/equity/ disability Community/ regional partnership ‘Third leg’ eg public service, enterprise Adapted from Whitchurch (2008)

6 6 “Third Space” Theory Drawn from cultural studies (east-west geographies, post-colonialism) Way of moving beyond academic/non- academic binaries –Activity not constrained by unitary set of “rules and resources”(Giddens 1991) inherited from one or other space –“A dynamic, in-between space” in which “cultural translation” takes place (Bhabha 1990)

7 7 Ambiguous conditions in Third Space “Sometimes an academic unit, sometimes an office” (learning partnerships manager) Turning this to advantage… Working with given structures for practical purposes, but also critiquing them Safe space in which to be creative and experiment but also Lack of organisational safety nets Sense of struggle, challenge and tension (‘The Dark Side’)

8 8 Examples of Third Space activity Learning support eg tutoring, programme design/documentation, study skills/academic literacy Community partnership eg employer engagement, workplace learning, widening participation/outreach Web-based learning eg online programme design/ development/adaptation, web-based discussion fora Research enterprise eg preparation of bids, knowledge transfer, spin out, bespoke programmes for industry Institutional research into eg student recruitment & outcomes, benchmarking, educational practice

9 9 Job description – Learning Partnerships Manager (UK) Roles exemplified by job description for Learning Partnerships Manager, requiring: “…academic credibility to ensure that innovative and complex operations are delivered with high standards and quality… [and] experience of generating external income and involvement in project management”

10 10 Preference for more project- oriented roles People who could have gone ‘either way’… (research training programmes offer generic skills) Positive choice/intentionality arising from eg: Ideological commitment eg widening participation Preferred team working Research inactive/preferred applied orientation Pragmatic eg route into higher education, career development, funding opportunities; or needed job in specific location

11 11 ‘Blended’ knowledges Applied knowledge: eg student trends/outcomes Contextual/cross-boundary knowledge: “It’s not enough just to… be an accountant… or to manage staff... in order to be effective within a university you need to understand the context.” (faculty manager) Transforming ‘information’ into ‘knowledge’:“My role is… to try to interpret data. Timing, politics, the media you use, the way you communicate it, is probably even more important than the actual findings of an analysis” (institutional researcher)

12 12 ‘Blended’ relationships ‘Partnership’ rather than ‘management’ Lateral team working among senior/junior staff Less division between ‘managers’ and ‘managed’ Key responsibilities eg leading a project at earlier stage of careers “if you get the relationships right everything else falls into place” (educational technologist) Importance of ‘weak ties’/networks (Granovetter 1974)

13 13 Legitimacies I Credibility likely to be built on a personal basis, and to be based on social/professional capital: –“There’s no authority that you come with” (planning manager) –“It’s what you are, not what you represent” (learning partnerships manager) –“… I’ve had to create my own role, find my own ways into systems and force my way into meetings, rather than wait for someone to ask me to contribute” (educational technologist)

14 14 Legitimacies II Ability to participate in disinterested debate: –“learning to divorce argument from people” (teaching and learning manager) Appreciating likely responses: –Different academic/professional work “rhythms” –Applied, Mode 2 activity seen as “trade” or “dirty” work… –Attitude of academic staff that “If you solve a problem for us, we’ll come back and work with you again” (teaching and learning manager)

15 15 Languages “you’ve got two different groups of people often talking two different languages” (educational technologist) Multi-lingual, interpreting between eg educational and socio-economic discourses Using acceptable language: “I call it management development, but what I say and what they say are two very different things” (staff developer) Avoiding unacceptable language (‘customers’, ‘prices’) Developing new language around eg partnership, teamwork, networking, institutional R & D

16 16 The ‘internal consultant’ I Employed on multiple, fractional contracts/ran own business Located between academic department, educational technology unit, central administration Involved in teaching, programme development and delivery, organisational restructuring Contracts arose through contacts/networks: “most areas try to retain you when they know that you can actually do the job within the parameters…” Because of ‘casual’ status not always linked into internal communications

17 17 The ‘internal consultant’ II “I’ve never been on a career path as such… [I see myself as] achieving work for the university that benefits academics and students… and showing academics and administrators that they can think kindly of each other and work together”. “[In the university] there are no positions that allow you to teach and project manage in one role… in the business world there is a great deal more freedom in creating positions that suit the needs of the organisation”.

18 18 Implications for individuals I New roles co-exist with traditional ones Possibilities of: –Third space as experimental space or stepping stone –making a career in Third Space –moving in and out of Third Space but staying in higher education –revert to mainstream professional or academic role –make a career in another sector eg policy/funding agencies, business/industry, NGOs or third sector

19 19 Implications for individuals II –“I’ve always tried to take the next step in another area, so that it moves you forward” (teaching and learning manager) –But “I’m not sure what type of professional I am any more” (student services manager)  Inappropriate reporting lines…  Risks of getting out of mainstream/how to get mainstream experience eg managing budgets/staff  Status of Third Space work eg for promotion  Appropriate career/professional development

20 20 Implications for institutions –Significance of relationships/networks as well as formal structures –Encouraging creativity/innovation while maintaining oversight –Preventing projects developing a life of their own or being too dependent on one individual (succession planning) –Accommodating flexible/portfolio work styles –Appropriate mix of identities –Appropriate employment packages/rewards and incentives

21 21 Possible responses Recognition in workload models/promotion criteria of eg community and partnership activity; developing new funding opportunities Support of senior person/mentoring/coaching Development opportunities eg secondments, internal consultancy, work-based research, attachment to higher education unit Flexible career pathways Responsibilities on individuals as well as institutions to demonstrate ‘added value’ of roles


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