ERG SES E 06, Identity and Education
The current academic setting is outlined for continuing alterations, mostly related to neoliberal logics that place universities under the market tendencies and needs (Harris, 2005; Magalhães, 2011). Within knowledge society context, the knowledge production takes into account the economic relevance, its utility and its applicability (Gibbons et al, 1997). More utilitarian and specifically vocational (Wheelahan, 2014) universities focus on economy and efficiency (Becher & Trowler, 2011). Therefore, it is possible to identify an academic capitalism (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004) that has a considerable impact on academics’ activities.
Universities have to respond to new requirements and, consequently, teachers have to adapt their work to the new changes imposed to the university (Clegg, 2008). Academic work is embedded in a competitive logics (Whitchurch, 2008) created by managerialism in universities (Deem & Brehony, 2006). Teachers’ work becomes associated to performance and to short term production (Beck & Young, 2008; Santiago, Magalhães & Carvalho, 2005). This scenario of changing promotes new structures and relationships inside the university. For example, administrative tasks become part of teachers’ work and increase the imposed work intensification nowadays (Musselin, 2007).
The study recognizes that identity is not a product, nor something fixed or permanent. It is developed on the basis of the subject-society dichotomy in a dynamic process. It is a process of interaction with others, but also with teachers’ work context. The professional identity involves a social identity with specialized knowledge (Dubar, 1997), acquired, for example, in the initial training. Specifically, the academic identity is constructed and reconstructed concerning multiple aspects, such as the relationship of the teacher with the context, university, area, colleagues, department (Henkel, 2002). Hence, this study considers that academic identities are changing (Barnett & Di Napoli, 2008) in this context of continuing alterations that affect the everyday life of the teachers. During this period of changes, the profession has to reconstruct its identity by reflecting, trying to surpass the obstacles and reinventing itself (Dubar, 2006).
This study aims at understanding the reconstruction of the academic identities in current changing higher education context, focusing on teachers’ trajectories, in order to promote a reflection about the contemporary higher education teaching. It is also our purpose to understand the academic identity related with the four areas of academic work – teaching, research, leadership activities and knowledge exchange. Listening to academics’ voice represent an opportunity to understand the meaning that lecturers give to higher education teaching and to identify the expectations regarding the contemporary and the future of university.
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