ERG SES D 14, Sociology and Education
Nowadays, the educational system tends to follow the political, economic and social changes which allows us to state that the current academic setting is characterized by continuous modifications. Therefore, contemporary universities are being controlled by the market invisible hand that reconfigures their concerns, structures and goals (Magalhães, 2011). Hence, universities are embedded in a competitive logic, mostly associated with the market tendencies and needs, and this inflicts pressure on universities to respond, for examples, to students’ employability.
The development of human capital able to adapt to the demands and flexibilities of the new labor market becomes one of the universities goals (Beck & Youn, 2008). As a consequence of the dominance of economic values, to which the higher education system have become subordinated, the relation between higher education and knowledge has changed (Gibbons et al, 1997). Consecutively, this situation has significant consequences regarding higher education dynamics. Universities are becoming more utilitarian and specifically vocational (Wheelahan, 2014) and higher education system is changing in order to achieve knowledge productivity regarding its validity from the economic point of view (Reed, 1999). Within knowledge society context, social and cultural issues are replaced by an economic relevant knowledge (Santiago, Magalhães & Carvalho, 2005), with emphasis on economy and efficiency (Becher & Trowler, 2001). It is possible to recognize the university attenuation (Cowen, 1996) in different levels and the crisis of its legitimacy (Santos, 1994) as consequence of the academic capitalism (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004; Paraskeva, 2009).
The changes in higher education have a considerable impact on academics’ activities, placing them under the pressure of an administrative and bureaucratic logic of universities and higher education system that can be understood as a local of political transactions (Zabalza, 2004). Consequently, we identify an impact on academic identities that, considering this context of changes, need to be (re)constructed.
This research aims to understand academic identities in order to promote a reflection about the contemporary higher education teaching. We understand academic identity as the professional identity of higher education teachers, constantly (re)constructed (Dubar, 2006) in a process of interaction with the other, but also with teachers’ work context. This professional identity includes several aspects of the profession that go beyond the initial training. For this study, it is necessary to understand “identity” as a social process, in a continuing process of (re)construction. Intrinsically related with the concept of “alterity”, we consider identity as a dynamic process that articulates the other and the self-awareness, developed on the basis of the subject-society dichotomy (Berger & Luckmann, 2003).
Amongst the objectives of this study, we want to understand the meaning that teachers give to higher education teaching and to identify the expectations regarding the contemporary and the future of university. Considering that academic identity comprise different aspects, we understand that it is also necessary to reflect about how contexts may influence or not these changes effects on academic identities.
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