22 SES 08 C, Professional Development and Identity
The macro-level changes in the policy and governance of higher education impact on the micro-level of daily activities in academia. New managerial practices have substantially transformed the academy as a workplace (Enders et al., 2009). The Finnish higher education system has witnessed several transformations over the past decade. A more performance-based salary structure has been introduced in 2005 (Jauhiainen et al., 2009); the New Universities Act of 2010 devolved the university sector from government control and transformed civil-service employment relationships into contractual ones (Välimaa, 2012); institutional mergers created three new universities in 2010 (Ursin et al., 2010); and an outcomes-based funding formula was introduced in 2015. All of these changes have transformed the understanding of how academics make sense of their work and their identities. We have a little empirical evidence that as a consequence of changes, academics are becoming polarized into two tiers, the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’: those who benefit from the changes and those who do not (Ylijoki & Ursin, 2013). However, a deeper understanding of academics’ professional agency and identity is needed in changing academic landscape.
The main aim of the study is to investigate how Finnish academics perceive their professional identity and agency amid the recent macro-level transformations. We comprehend professional identity as constructed and negotiated in social interaction in everyday practices. Identity is not a fixed entity but continuously reshaped and redefined through time and changing contexts. Professional identity can be seen as a work history-based constellation of subjects' perceptions of themselves as a professional actors. Identity encompasses the individuals’ professional interests, mission and commitments, as well as sense of belonging and identification (e.g. Beijaard et al., 2004; Hökkä & Eteläpelto, 2014). Professional identity and agency are closely intertwined. Professional agency can be understood as influencing work practices and professional identities (Eteläpelto et al., 2013). Professional agency is practiced and manifested at the interface of social conditions (e.g. structural circumstances) and individual resources (e.g. work history).
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