In this research, I take a look at the careers of academic women in a Business School in Finland. Drawing on the notion of career capital, I suggest that although the conditions of academic work, as well as what is expected from academic work, have changed in Finland, the field relevant career capital does not necessarily align with the policy imperatives. This is partly because the attempts to govern academic work and careers are not able to capture the social side of academic work.
Academic work is often divided into three elements of research, teaching, and administration guided by ideals of contribution to scientific and human knowledge and autonomy of enquiry, consequently providing a professional standing for academics (Malcolm and Zukas, 2009; Boyer, 1990). While it is important to keep in mind that there has never been a ‘golden’ time for academic profession (Musselin, 2007), the conditions of and expectations placed upon academic work in Finland have changed considerably since the late 80s. One of the major changes is the implementation of New Public Management into Finnish university governance. Along the Nordic contractual model, universities negotiate with the Ministry of Education and Culture to set up the strategies and outputs every three years (Gornitzka et al., 2004). Following the Management-by-Results (MBR) principle, these goals are disseminated across the university organization (Kallio and Kallio, 2014). As a consequence, academic work in Finland is framed as an activity valued based on measured outputs such as students achieving certain ECTS per year and the number of international peer-reviewed publications (Kallio and Kallio, 2014).
This has created a situation in which academics are to a certain extent autonomous in terms of defining how to achieve their goals but the goals of their work are set by others (Herbert and Tienari, 2013) and academic values such as autonomy and passion for knowledge have remained relatively robust, even amongst early career academics (Hakala, 2009). That said, there are indications that academics in Finland are increasingly divided based on their ability to embrace and respond to the current conditions of university management (Ylijoki and Ursin, 2013). Following this, the question emerges how do academics navigate their careers in a context of Finnish academia, in which value attached to academic work is defined in terms of measurable outputs?
In my research, I draw on the understanding of working practice as a knowledge-based activity that, on one hand, forms a basis for professionalism by defining the knowledge and competencies for practitioners (Gherardi, 2014; 2015) and on the other, are consequential in the production of a career field in which individuals are positioned according to their career capital (Iellatchitch et al., 2003). Applying this to academic work, I explore how the careers of academic women have evolved in a Finnish Business School and how the field relevant career capital is constructed under the current condition of university governance.
Boyer, E. L., 1990. Scholarship revisited. Priorities in the professoriate. Princeton: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Braun, V., and V., Clarke, 2006. ‘Using thematic analysis in psychology’ Qualitative Research in Psychology, Volume 3, Issue 2: 77-101. Gherardi, S., 2015. ‘How the turn to practice may contribute to working life studies’ Nordic journal of working life studies, Volume 5, Issue 3: 13-25. Gherardi S., 2014. Reconceptualising professional knowing-in-practice: the role of materiality and aesthetic understanding. In T. Fenwick and M. Nerland (eds), Reconceptualising Professional Learning: sociomaterial knowledges, practices, and responsibilities. London:Routledge. Gornitzka, A., Stensaker, B., Smeby, J-C., and de Boer, H., 2004. ‘Contract arrangements in the Nordic countries – Solving the efficiency/effectiveness dilemma?’ Higher Education in Europe, Volume 29, Issue 1: 187-101. Hakala, J., 2009. ‘The future of the academic calling? Junior researchers in the entrepreneurial university’ Higher Education, Volume 57, Issue 2: 173-190. Herbert, A. and Tienari, J., 2013. ‘Transplanting ternure and the (re)construction of academic freedom’ Studies in Higher Education. Volume 38, Issue 5: 157-173. Iellatchitch, A., Mayrhofer, W., and Meyer, M., 2003. ‘Career fields: a small step towards a grand theory?’ The International Journal of Human Resource Management, Volume 14, Issue 5: 728 - 750. Kallio, K-M. and Kallio, T., 2014. ‘Management-by-results and performance measurement in universities – implications for work motivation’ Studies in Higher Education. Volume 39, Issue 4: 584-589. Malcolm, J. and Zukas, M., 2009. ‘Making a mess of academic work: experience, purpose and identity’ Teaching in Higher Education, Volume 14, Issue 5: 495-506. Musselin, C., 2007. The transformation of academic work: Facts and analysis. Center for Studies in Higher Education, Paper CSHE-4-07. Patton, M., 1990. Qualitative evaluation and research methods (2nd ed.). Newbury Park: Sage. Välimaa, J., 2001. The changing nature of academic employment in Finnish higher education. In J. Enders (eds.) Academic staff in Europe. Westport: Greenwood Press. Ylijoki, O-H., and Ursin, J., 2013. ’The construction of academic identity in the changes of Finnish higher education’ Studies in Higher Education, Volume 38, Issue 8: 1135–1149. Yin, R., 2014. Case Study Research Design and Methods (5th ed.) Thousand Oaks: Sage.
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