The transformations that the academic field has undergone globally – and the UK, which is the focus of this paper, has largely led the way in Europe – in the previous two to three decades, including the massification of higher education, and the sector’s marketisation and professionalisation, have led to significant changes in research policy, particularly with respect to its focus on auditing, selectivity, and performance-based funding. This marked a shift in the academic culture and identity (Harley, 2002; Locke, 2007), increasing the pressure to publish, increasing administrative burden, and fostering competitiveness. Aiding the further transformation of UK academia, one of the most recent innovations in conceptualising, measuring, and rewarding research quality in the government’s major research excellence exercise (REF), has come to include the ‘impact’ of research, or rather its social usefulness. This decision has in the last few years caused a major shift in institutional priorities, as universities are dedicating significant resources and investing significant efforts in creating the conditions under which the social and economic impact of their research can be achieved, and – crucially – documented. With this, the sector had moved one further giant step away from the Humboldtian ideal of university, as the disinterested pursuit of knowledge for knowledge’s sake continues to yield before the authority of social relevance (Chantler, 2016).
Whilst these changes have affected the academic landscape in ways that are continually being documented, their impact has perhaps been most keenly felt, and as yet insufficiently researched, in the case of those only embarking on their academic careers, rendering the latter highly uncertain, marked by temporal contracts and lateral job migration. Although some colleagues have made significant advances in exploring the question of early career academics’ (ECAs’) professional paths, the precariousness of their careers and identities, and the creativity with which they have been responding to the new governance regime (see Ashwin et al., 2016; Smart and Loads, 2016; Chen et al., 2015; McAlpine and Turner, 2012; Bennion and Locke, 2010), there is still a lot of ground to be covered, as evidenced by continued demands for more (qualitative) research into the various facets of early academic career, not least in this network call.
One effect of the new research policy regime on ECAs’ careers and identities, which is fairly recent, and as such all but absent from the already limited literature, has been the appearance of ‘hybrid’ post-doctoral roles which embody traditional academic requirements, alongside those dedicated to nurturing impactful relationships with non-academic communities, fostering collaborative and engaged research projects, and performing impactful activities. It is these roles, and their relationship to the wider policy discourse that are the subject of this paper. Using the theoretical framework developed during my doctorate (Djerasimovic, 2014; 2015), and which analyses self-governance (in Foucauldian terms) through the prism of social, cultural, linguistic, and symbolic (Bourdieu, 1991; 1997) capital possessed by the individual, and finds spaces for resistance to hegemonic discourse and its transformation, in the subjects’ individual engagement with it, I will explore the motivations, aspirations, and working mechanisms of ECAs who either pursue or come to accept such roles which amplify career precariousness to the degree of not only impermanence but also lack of supervisory support or established career choices and imperatives. I will examine to which degree such lack of definition is perceived and enacted by individuals as a necessity arising from the current academic climate on one hand, and the space for agentive action in transforming the discourse based on own ideas regarding the academic ideal.
Ashwin, P., Deem, R., McAlpine, L., (2016) Newer researchers in higher education: policy actors or policy subjects? Studies in Higher Education 41, 2184–2197. Bacchi, C. (2012) Why study problematizations? Making politics visible in Open Journal of Political Science 2:1, 1-8. Ball, S. J. (1993): What is policy? Texts, trajectories and toolboxes in Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 13:2, 10-17. Bourdieu (1991) Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge: Polity Press. Bourdieu (1997) The forms of capital in Halsey, A. H., Lauder, H. Brown, P., and Wells, S. (Eds.) Education: Culture, Economy, Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 46-58. Bennion, A., Locke, W. (2010) The Early Career Paths and Employment Conditions of the Academic Profession in 17 Countries. European Review 18: 1, 7-33. Chantler, A. (2016) The ivory tower revisited. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 37, 215–229. Chen, S., McAlpine, L., Amundsen, C. (2015) Postdoctoral positions as preparation for desired careers: a narrative approach to understanding postdoctoral experience. Higher Education Research & Development 34, 1083–1096. Djerasimovic, S. (2015) Formation of the Civic Education Policy as a Discursive Project in post-2000 Serbia. Unpublished DPhil thesis. University of Oxford. Djerasimovic, S. (2014) ‘Examining the discourses of cross-cultural communication in transnational higher education: from imposition to transformation’ in Journal of Education for Teaching, 40: 3, 204-216. Foucault, M. (2002) (Ed. by Paul Rabinow) The Essential Work of Michel Foucault 1954-1984 vol. 3 Power. London: Penguin. Harley, S. (2002) The Impact of Research Selectivity on Academic Work and Identity in UK Universities. Studies in Higher Education 27, 187–205. Leathwood, C., Read, B. (2013) Research policy and academic performativity: compliance, contestation and complicity. Studies in Higher Education 38, 1162–1174. Locke, W. (2007). The Changing Academic Profession in the UK: Setting the Scene. Universities UK, London, UK. McAlpine, L., Turner, G. (2012) Imagined and emerging career patterns: perceptions of doctoral students and research staff. Journal of Further and Higher Education 36, 535–548.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
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