22 SES 09 C, Academic Work and Professional Development
The paper draws on a recent qualitative study of newer researchers across Europe and beyond, all working in the sub-field of higher education, which was aimed at examining the academic and employment backgrounds of these newer researchers, their current research topics, their expectations and experiences as regards shaping higher education policy and their understanding of their future as academics or other kinds of professionals working on higher education matters. What is forming the academic identities of these beginning researchers (Henkel 2000; Musselin and Becquet 2005), why are they doing the research they are and where do they hope that will it take them? These were all particularly interesting research questions for us in undertaking this project, partly propelled by a desire to know how newer researchers should and could be supported in their personal development as well as by curiosity about just who becomes a higher education researcher. We had a particular interest when conducting our study in whether working on higher education as well as within it, on any topic, meant that HE researchers are particularly aware of the wider policy implications and context of their work. We already know that published higher education research, though drawing on the methods of the social sciences, tends not to be very theoretical in orientation (Tight 2004; Tight 2012 ), so perhaps as a counter to that, it is often very applied, either aimed at practitioners or policy makers? In this regard, we have used work by Ball et al on school teachers as policy actors or subjects (Ball et al. 2011b; Ball et al. 2011) to help us examine the policy knowledge, actual or future policy interventions and policy-related concerns of our own interviewees. The research also enabled some elements of the development of the sub-discipline of higher education to be explored. It is still a relatively new but complex and growing field (Clegg 2012 ; McFarlane and Grant 2012 ), with many internal divisions (and has participants with very varied subject roots) and a large number of doctoral students, possibly partly fuelled by massification of higher education, the effects of the Bologna process on higher education systems, quality assurance practices and curricula and the growing significance of teaching and learning within these changes, particularly in countries which are signatories to Bologna and in the EU in particular (European Commission High Level Group on the Modernisation of Higher Education 2013). But this does not necessarily mean that higher education research has a secure disciplinary footprint within the academy. We were interested to see how many of our respondents had become newer researchers in well-funded large research centres of higher education. Furthermore, beginning researchers working in a newish subfield may have no sense of being located within a particular discipline or academic community, perhaps giving rise to what can be called a ‘weak’ field (Vauchez 2008) and definitely to what Bourdieu would term a contested field (Bourdieu 1986), since there are few signs of consensus in higher education research as a whole. So we were also interested in whether our respondents did or did not perceive themselves to be part of a sub-discipline or particular academic community.
Abbott, A. (1988). The System of Professions, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Ball, S., Maguire, M., Braun, A., and Hoskins, K. (2011b). "Policy actors: doing policy work in schools." Discourse, 32(4), 625-639. Ball, S., Maguire, M., Hoskins, K., and Braun, A. (2011). "Policy subjects and policy actors in schools: some necessary but insufficient analyses." Discourse, 32(4), 611-624. Becher, T., and Trowler, P. (2001). Academic tribes and territories : intellectual enquiry and the cultures of disciplines, Milton Keynes: Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press. Bourdieu, P. (1986). "The Forms of Capital", in J. G. Richardson, (ed.), Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education. New York: Greenwood Press. Clegg, S. (2012 ). "Conceptualising higher education research and/or academic development as ‘fields’: a critical analysis." " Higher Education Research & Development 31(5): 667-678., 31(5), 667-678. European Commission High Level Group on the Modernisation of Higher Education. (2013). "Improving the quality of teaching and learning in Europe’s higher education institutions". City: Publications Office of the European Union: Luxembourg. Henkel, M. (2000). Academic Identities and Policy Change in Higher Education, London: Jessica Kingsley. Mayring, P. (2007). "On Generalization in Qualitatively Oriented Research ." Forum Qualitative Social Research 8(3, September, Art 26 ). McFarlane, B., and Grant, B. (2012 ). "The growth of higher education studies: from forerunners to pathtakers." Higher Education Research & Development 31(5), 621-624. Musselin, C., and Becquet, V. "Academic work and academic identities: a comparison of four disciplines." Presented at unpublished paper given to Consortium of Higher Education Researchers Conference, Jyväskyalå, Finland, Sept 1st-3rd. Tight, M. (2004). "Research into Higher Education - an a-theoretical community of practice?" Higher Education Research and Development, 23(4), 398-412. Tight, M. (2012 ). "Discipline And Theory In Higher Education." Research Papers in Education, IFirst, 1-18. Trowler, P., Saunders, M., and Bamber, V. (2012). "Tribes and territories in the 21st-century: Rethinking the significance of disciplines in higher education". City: Routledge: London. Vauchez, A. (2008). "The Force of a Weak Field: Law and Lawyers in the Government of the European Union (For a Renewed Research Agenda)." International Political Sociology, 2(2), 128–144.
Search the ECER Programme
- Search for keywords and phrases in "Text Search"
- Restrict in which part of the abstracts to search in "Where to search"
- Search for authors and in the respective field.
- For planning your conference attendance you may want to use the conference app, which will be issued some weeks before the conference
- If you are a session chair, best look up your chairing duties in the conference system (Conftool) or the app.