22 SES 04 D, Imaginations and Identities in and of Higher Education
The conditions of academic work have been rapidly changing in the last decades all over Europe and a diversity of themes have been explored in the research about those changes such as job satisfaction, precarity of employment, links between teaching and research, professional development, amongst many others. Various European research projects have been producing data and reports about the changes in the work of academics, from which we quote two:
- in 2015, Clarke published a report of a research that comprises a survey answered by academics in nine countries (Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Romania, Russia, United Kingdom) and its results highlight the negative experience of academic life in the initial years, the deterioration of working conditions, the challenging demands of teaching and research roles, the lack of influence and non-involvement in decision-making processes within institutions as problems to be addressed urgently. Consequently, the author (Clarke, 2015) argues for the creation of a supportive working environment in European higher education trusted both to provide higher levels of job satisfaction and promote productive work contexts.
- the European Science Foundation published the first report from its pilot study career tracking of PhD holders in 2015 and launched a more developed survey in 2016 with the participation of nine organizations from the Netherlands, Germany, Croatia, Romania, Luxembourg, Austria and France. The findings of this last survey enable the authors (Bomam et all., 2017) to state that employment rates of PhD are high and the vast majority deploy their skills as researchers, but also to show that there seems to be a persisting structural problem in universities (the most popular job destination for PhDs) because the number of permanently employed is much lower than in other sectors.
These European reports (amongst others) enable the identification of changes that feature a context in which “writing, reflection and investigation in the area of academic identities have become mainstream in higher education research over the last 20 years” (Macfarlane, 2016). This paper intends to contribute to this area of research with an exploratory analysis drawing on the conceptualization of social and professional identities advanced by Dubar (1991) that conveys an understanding of academic identities as the result of a transaction between individuals and groups, comprising an “internal transaction” (within each individual) and also an “external transaction” (involving the individuals and institutions with which they interact). Also in accordance with Dubar (1991) academic identities are understood as a social construction and various aspects such as professional categories, type and level of degree and qualification, characteristics of employment and labor market, professional knowledge among others, contribute to that construction. Additionally, the individual construction of his/her social and professional identity is inextricably linked to his/her biographical social and professional trajectory.
On the basis of this set of assumptions about academic identities as social constructions, the papers’ main goal is to examine the changing conditions of the interaction between individuals and the HE institutions in which they work, aiming at enhancing the reflection about its implications in the process of social construction of academic identities. To achieve that goal, a systematic analysis of European reports (the three mentioned above and other to be identified) aiming at identifying the changing conditions of academic work. Additionally, the specific case of Portugal will be explored given that significant changes within HE regulation laws have been put in place in the last decade framing a different context for the work of academics that has not been sufficiently studied, especially in what concerns its effects for academic identities.
The paper draws in systematical analysis of results and data available from European reports such as the ones mentioned above. The exploration of the case of Portugal will be guided by two specific goals: 1) to consider the current institutional context in which academic identities are socially constructed, drawing on documental analysis focusing the most recent regulations about HE institutions and teachers and researchers careers; 2) to depict the interaction between individual and institutions that have effects in the process of social construction of identities, drawing on statistical data available at the national level about the personal and social profile of academics in Portugal, as well as their work and employment conditions. The documental analysis related to the specific goal 1 considers Portuguese regulations related to the statutes of teaching and research careers; and also national laws about organization, management and evaluation of HE institution. The most recent version of these laws and regulations (issued in the first decade of the XXI century) are the focus of a content analysis designed to enable the understanding of the institutional framework in which teachers and researchers develop their work in Portugal. The statistical analysis related to the specific goal 2 focuses on data (available from the Ministry of Science and Technology) about all the teachers and researchers in Portuguese HE institutions since the year 2000. Namely, the analysis is aimed at showing how the total number of teachers and researchers has been evolving; how these professionals have been distributed across different types of HE institutions and professional categories, as well as between private and public sector. Additionally, the statistical data available enables to characterize the type of employment and the proportion of stable and precarious work amongst HE teachers and researchers, as well as to consider their personal profile in what concerns the qualifications, age and sex.
On the one hand, it is expected an overview of the changing work conditions of academics in Europe, based on the consideration and systematization of various research projects, enabling to reflect upon the interaction between academics and the HE institutions in which they develop their work and its implication on the social construction of academic identities. Besides Clarke (2915) and the reports from the European Science Foundation already mentioned (2015; 2016), results from the international survey titled ‘Changing Academic Profession’ will also be taken into account (see for instance Santiago, Carvalho e Cardoso, 2015), as well as others to be identified. On the other hand, the exploration of the Portuguese case is expected to foster deepen knowledge about the recent changes affecting academic work in the country and to identify differences and similarities regarding the European trends. Namely, the documental and statistical analysis will contribute to characterize the current work conditions of academics in the country and their interaction with the HE institutions in which they develop their work, under the legal framework put up in the last decade. Overall, the paper is expected to contribute to further the reflection upon the ways in which the changing conditions of academic work are having implications for the social construction of academic identities. The deterioration of working conditions (including the increasing of non-permanent jobs) and the lack of involvement in decision-making within institutions will probably appear as important elements for the reframing of the interaction between academics and HE institutions with implications to the pondered for the social construction of academic identities.
Bomam, Julia (coord.) (2017). 2017 Career Tracking Survey of Doctorate Holders – project report, Strasbourg: European Science Foundation. Clark, Marie (2015). Creating a Supportive Working Environment in European Higher Education, Brussels: Educational International Research Institute,. Dubar, Claude (1991). La Socialisation – construction des identités sociales et professionnelles, Paris: éditions Armand Colin. MacFarlane, Bruce (2016). From Identity to Identities: a story of fragmentation, Higher Education Research and Development, vol. 35, nº 5, 1-3. Nogueira, Maria Manuela (2016). Career Tracking of Doctorate Holders – Pilot Project Report, Strasbourg: European Science Foundation. Santiago, Rui; Carvalho, Teresa; Cardoso, Sónia (2015). Portuguese academics’ perceptions of institutions’ governance and management: a generational perspective, Studies in Higher Education, vol. 40., nº 8, 1471-1484
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