22 SES 12 C, Academic Work and Professional Development
Academic work and academic profession have been studied intensively for decades in the field of higher education research (Locke & Teichler 2007, Finkelstein 2008, Enders & de Weert 2004). The topic is important because of its political relevance for labour unions and higher education policy-makers. It has also relevance for the innovative capacities of universities in national economies and for the higher education institutions (HEIs) and academics who would like to understand better the nature of the academic work in different disciplinary cultures and institutional settings. Current research has focused, however, mainly on analyzing the distribution of academic work between different tasks (teaching, research and administration/management) according to different groups of academics -junior vs. senior academics, or assistants vs. professors depending on the study- as well as working conditions and salaries of the academics working in universities (see Locke William & Ulrich Teichler 2007, Locke & Bennion 2010, Locke, Cummings & Fisher 2011, in Finland Tilastokeskus 1984, 2006, Leppälahti 1993, Altbach et al. 2012). This means that most comparative research has focused on the employees who already work in higher education institutions and do not necessary have any other working experience. However, academic careers have received less attention in the international studies.
The aim of this presentation is to reflect on academic careers as a dynamic structure between universities, disciplines and labour markets instead of assuming it a as a closed track in university organizations. The discussion will focus on those who enter higher education (enter group), those who are making their careers in HEIs (being group) and those who have left HEIs (exit group). A second main aim is to reflect on how these groups are managed within higher education institutions in different disciplines. One should take into account both disciplinary and organizational perspectives keeping in mind that HEIs are matrix organizations (Clark 1983).
Academic capitalism (Slaughter & Leslie 1997) provides a theoretical framework for understanding the institutional environment of universities in changing knowledge societies. The focus of the discussion will be on exit group. In other words, those academics who have left higher education and work outside HEIs. The emphasis will be paid on the exit group because it has an external view on academic careers not entirely based on dominant discourse within the higher education. The exit group can be analyzed, however, properly only when we understand and analyze academic careers as an entity. One needs to understand who, why and how academics enter HEIs: how are they recruited and by whom, and in which disciplines and positions? One also needs to understand why and who of the enter group academics stay in academia and what does it require to make a career in HEIs. In other words, one needs to understand what it means to make a career in academia: what is being in academia? After having reflected on the nature of enter and being groups in academia, one may explain why some academics exit HEIs: how they exit and where do they exit?
With these concepts – enter, exit, being in academic careers – it can be emphasized that one should take into account different aspects of academic work and careers in higher education without pre-determined assumptions on the nature of academic work as a career ladder, or a career path (Enders 2001), or a profession (see Slaughter & Leslie 1997, 179, Cavalli & Teichler 2010, Rhoades 2007), or a knowledge work (Pyöriä, Melin & Blom 2005) and without assuming the either of these groups (enter, exit or being) would be normatively more important than other.
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