22 SES 06 C, Academic Work and Professional Development
This paper reports the findings from a funded study of UK-based professors. It is important to clarify that in the UK the title ‘professor’ is not used generically to refer to all academic staff; it denotes only the most senior academics, promoted on the basis of scholarly distinction, and which currently accounts for less than 25% of UK-based academics. Although the last few years has seen a proliferation of studies of academic working life, very few have focused exclusively on professors or professorial work (as the term is used in the UK, France, Germany and many other European countries) – a literature search reveals fewer than 7 such studies (Evans et al. 2013; Evans, 2014; Hoskins, 2012; Macfarlane, 2011; 2012; Tight, 2002). Europe needs more such studies.
Located within a socio-cultural framework that incorporated consideration of self-efficacy theory, social theory on structure and agency, and situated workplace learning, the research applied the notion of distributed leadership to the university sector, examining professors’ academic leadership – their leadership of junior academic and academic-related colleagues’ ‘creative’, scholarly, research-focused and intellectual-related development - rather than professors’ formal leadership and management roles such as head of department or dean of faculty. The rationale for the study was that anecdotal and experiential evidence indicates that professors are often unprepared for the increasingly expansive leadership roles that they are expected to fulfil. This study was directed at exploring the reliability of such evidence, and at examining the nature, extent and bases of any such lack of preparation on the part of professors. Also examined was how any such lack of preparation and preparedness affects professors’ feelings of self-efficacy, along with consideration of how, through their agency, professors are expected to – and do – shape the various and myriad structures that define Europe's 21st century higher education sector, such as: research cultures, academic disciplinary tribes and epistemic cultures; and learning communities of practice. Essentially, the disparity between what is expected of professors and how they carry out their roles represents the disparity between what Evans (2011) calls ‘demanded’ or ‘required’ professionalism and ‘enacted’ professionalism. Expectations of professors and criteria for promotion to professorships vary across Europe. This paper will consider requirements in different countries (such as France's requirement that academics wanting professorial promotion prepare a HDR) and examine whether more uniformity is desirable.
Preparation and development may be subjective and objective in focus (i.e. as self- [or auto-] preparation or development, and preparation or development that is effected on one person by another). Incorporating this ambiguity of focus, four perspectives on and interpretations of preparation and development were applied to the study:
- preparation and development as ‘training’ or enhancement of skills for and capacity to carry out a specific work role;
- preparedness for the role and its requirements/demands (e.g. mental preparedness, or preparedness in understanding what the role involves);
- preparation as a strategy or tactic (e.g. for securing promotion; preparation for achieving long-term career goals or ambitions);
- development of the role and how it is perceived and carried out.
The objectives were to examine the extent and nature of a perceived need for, and any provision of, leadership preparation for professors, with a view to identifying lacunae and shortcomings as well as examples of good practice. The study sought answers to the following research questions:
- What level and quality of preparation – if any - for their various leadership roles is available to university professors?
- What lacunae and shortcomings exist, and with what consequences?
- What – if any - models of good practice (of professorial leadership preparation) exist, and what are the bases of their effectiveness?
Evans, L. (2011) The ‘shape’ of teacher professionalism in England: professional standards, performance management, professional development, and the changes proposed in the 2010 White Paper. British Educational Research Journal, 37 (5), 851-870. Evans L (2014) What academics want from their professors: findings from a study of professorial academic leadership in the UK. In W. Cummings, C. Musselin & U. Teichler (Eds.) Recruiting and Managing the Academic Profession, Dordecht: Springer (in press). Evans, L., Homer, M. & Rayner, S. (2013) Professors as academic leaders: the perspectives of ‘the led’, Educational Management. Administration and Leadership, 41 (5), 674-689. Hoskins, K. (2012) Women and Success: Professors in the UK Academy. Stoke-on-Trent, Trentham Books. Macfarlane, B. (2011) Professors as intellectual leaders: formation, identity and role. Studies in Higher Education 36(1): 57-73. Macfarlane, B. (2012). Intellectual leadership in higher education: renewing the role of the university professor. London, Routledge. Tight, M. (2002) What does it mean to be a professor? Higher Education Review 34: 15–31.
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