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Development and Skills Conference 2013: Kenton Lewis - professional identity
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Development and Skills Conference 2013: Kenton Lewis - professional identity



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  • 1. Professional Identity in higher education administration and management Kenton Lewis E @kenton_lewis
  • 2. Setting the context  What is ‘professional’?  Theoretical and analytical frameworks  Key themes explored  Discussion topics  Summing up  @kenton_lewis
  • 3. Context HE has gone, and is going, through significant change  Complexity in the system -New providers -Managerialism -Globalism/Internationalism -Commercialisation/consumerism  @kenton_lewis
  • 4. Context “The role of professional administrative and support staff is becoming more pivotal as the sector becomes more competitive, more business and market focussed, and more international…the old divide between academic and “non-academic” is starting to change.” (Wild and Wooldridge, 2009, 1) @kenton_lewis
  • 5. Context “UK universities need a bigger administrative machine today than they did 30 years ago. The reasons include a more complex legal framework and laborious application procedures for research grants, as well as advancement of fundraising and alumni relations.” (Oppenheimer, 2011, 2) @kenton_lewis
  • 6. Context “There is a growing tension between the professional managerial approach and academic life – the need to account for resource and time, the need to produce and measure. Those engaging in academic management are being required to take decisions and responsibility in greater amounts.” (Holbeche, 2012, 3) @kenton_lewis
  • 7. Context So how complex is the situation? Here’s an overview of the English set up (HEFCE and Deloitte, 4)
  • 8. Context HE Change 1963-2000 HE Change since 2000 1963 Robbins Report 2003 Roberts Review (of research assessment) 1986 Research Assessment Exercise 2004 The HE Act (variable fees and OFFA) 1988 Education Reform Act 2005 NSS 1997 Dearing Report 2010 The Browne Review 1997 QAA Established 2011 White paper (Students at the heart of HE) 1998 Teaching and HE Act 2012 Introduction of £9k ‘fees’ 2014 Research Excellence Framework Not just about overall complexity. 2006 Access Agreement 1992 FE&HE Act We should also Act FE&HE (Scotland) consider the speed of change (Lewis, 2012, 5)
  • 9. Context Within this confusing, unstable and uncertain system, what is it to be ‘professional’? “Constructions of professional identity within UK higher education administration and management: the importance of collective selfconfidence” @kenton_lewis
  • 10. Context  What does ‘professional’ mean to you?  Are you part of a ‘profession’?  If yes, what are the distinguishing features of your ‘profession’? @kenton_lewis
  • 14. On professionalism    13th Century - traditional, exclusionary definition: theology; law; and medicine. 19th Century - rise of ‘professional’ civil service; distinct from the ‘ruling classes’ and able to manage an increasingly complex government 19th/20th Century - occupational groups seeking professional recognition through collective association ethical codes / formal learning / licensing @kenton_lewis
  • 15. On professionalism By 1930s further clarity was forming:  skill/ability linked to competency and quality driven specialist training  collective identity through formal association  clear articulation of values and codes of conduct linked to high level integrity  autonomy and independence  focus on service to others and to society @kenton_lewis
  • 16. On professionalism Yet there are differences between the traditional definitions and experienced understandings  Contemporary professionals face multiple, concurrent drivers: -gaining and managing expert knowledge -operating entrepreneurially -managing limited resources -navigating regulatory guidelines -meeting clients needs and expectations  Professionals are: -losing autonomy / authority -no longer sole owners of knowledge -experiencing increased levels of regulation  @kenton_lewis
  • 17. On professionalism ‘trust’, ‘integrity’, ‘service’ and ‘authority’ being replaced by  ‘quality assurance’, ‘performance indicators’, ‘standards’, and ‘efficiency’  “professionalism is witnessing a lurch from an ethic of service to an ethic of performance” (Barnett, 2008, 6) @kenton_lewis
  • 18. On identity Considerations of ‘sameness’ Demonstrated through the affiliations we choose, and have chosen for us, with different groups  Inherent link with the verb to ‘identify’; something that needs to be established  Through identification, one’s identity is open to change and reconceptualisation over time  Identity is therefore a socially constructed entity which is constantly being reconfigured and reformed   @kenton_lewis
  • 19. On identity We are not limited to a single ‘identity’; we all experience multiplicity  We all constantly reassert, reconsider and reconceptualise our identities  Therefore any actuality, expectation of threat of change is very likely to provoke concerns about who or what we are  @kenton_lewis
  • 20. On identity Identity as a theme within HE  Governmental desire for greater control over HE’s contribution to economy and society  New forms of regulation place greater burden on universities  Massification of the sector creates desire for recognition and status from different groups  Universities have become accustomed to operating in a multidimensional environment (public/private, competitive/collaborative)  Blurring of the boundaries between groups of all types and at all scales @kenton_lewis
  • 21. On identity In such a context, identity is a process: continuous; changing; reflexive; and without a defined end point  Freedom to create new, or redefine existing, identities  Creation of ‘third space’ roles, that straddle the boundaries between traditional views of ‘academic’ and ‘nonacademic’  @kenton_lewis
  • 22. Collective self confidence The loss, or absence, of professional selfconfidence makes it disproportionately harder to operate as a professional  lack of assurance and self-confidence prevent a unified and proud claim of professional status  We need the self-confidence to champion and promote our work as a desirable and rewarding career that contributes to the greater good of higher education and, by extension, to the greater good of society  @kenton_lewis
  • 23. Nuts and Bolts     If you want to know what people think, a good starting point is to ask them! Semi-structured interviews with 23 individuals from 6 different HEIs (cross representative (sex, age, experience, seniority, structural location)) Three further interviews with staff from two international HEIs Socially constructed data where meaning is made rather than observed @kenton_lewis
  • 24. Analytical Framework @kenton_lewis
  • 25. Analytical Framework @kenton_lewis
  • 26. Analytical Framework Nomenclature – the descriptors individuals and collectives choose, and the labels applied to them by others  The behaviours we (un)consciously choose in order to shape our working lives  How perceptions of ‘professional’ staff are ascribed and (re)negotiated  @kenton_lewis
  • 27. Analytical Framework The relevance of acquired skills, experience and qualifications in enacting one’s duties and in engaging with (academic) colleagues  The influence of perceived and formal (relative) status  The formal and informal structures that shape the environment in which HE ‘professionals’ (re)construct their identity  @kenton_lewis
  • 28. Discussion In small groups, consider a single theme  Consider the prompt questions  Consider the examples from my own data  Be ready to feedback to the whole group  @kenton_lewis
  • 29. Discussion What do you collectively understand by this theme?  What personal experience do you have that relates to this theme?  Do you recognise it? If so, how and where?  How might awareness of this theme enhance your own professional practice?  @kenton_lewis
  • 30. My key observations Academic empathy as a key resource in HE management  The need to better promote HE management as a career of choice (the “accidental administrator”)  Space for the AUA to develop a confident and commanding ‘voice’  Opportunity to embrace the term ‘HE professional’  @kenton_lewis
  • 31. Professional Identity in higher education administration and management Kenton Lewis E @kenton_lewis
  • 32. Additional slides Kenton Lewis E @kenton_lewis
  • 33. About me Worked in HE administration / management since 1996  Bristol, Oxford, SGUL, HEA  WP, Student Recruitment, Community Engagement, Mar/comms, TNE, Student Experience, Student Transition, L&T  P/T MA Communications and PR  P/T Doctorate at the IoE 2006-2012  FAUA and AUA Trustee  @kenton_lewis
  • 34. References 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Wild, A. and Wooldridge, E. (2009). The development of professional careers in UK Higher Education. London: Leadership Foundation for Higher Education Oppenheimer, C. (2011). ‘A Chance to Break Free of Administrative and Regulatory Tyranny', Times Higher Education (pp. 27). London: 6-12 January 2011 Holbeche, L. (2012). Changing Times in UK Universities: What Difference Can HR Make? [Online]. Available at: versities%20%28extended%20version%29.pdf. [Last accessed 25 May 2012] Higher Education Funding Council for England and Deloitte. (2012). Mapping the Higher Education Funding and Regulatory System in England. [Online]. Available at: rpg/marchpapers/summary_report.pdf. [Last accessed 4 May 2012] Lewis, K. (2012). Constructions of professional identity within UK higher education administration and management: the importance of collective self-confidence. Available at Institute of Education, University of London, or directly via Kenton Lewis Barnett, R. (2008). 'Critical professionalism in an age of supercomplexity'. In B. Cunningham (Ed.), Exploring Professionalism. London: Bedford Way Papers. @kenton_lewis
  • 35. List of acronyms BIS DfE DH ENQA HEFCE HESA HMRC NHS BSA NDPB OIA OFFA Ofsted PSRBs QAA SHAs SLC TDA UCAS UKBA Department for Business, Innovation and Skills Department for Education Department of Health European Association for Quality Assurance in higher education Higher Education Funding Council for England Higher Education Statistics Agency Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs National Health Service Business Services Authority Non Departmental Public Body Office of the Independent Adjudicator Office for Fair Access Office for Standards in Education Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies Quality Assurance Agency Strategic Health Authorities Student Loans Company Training and Development Agency Universities and Colleges Admissions Service United Kingdom Border Agency
  • 36. Nuts and Bolts Research questions:  How do UK higher education administrators/managers construct their professional identity?  To what extent CAN UK higher education administrators/managers construct an identity as professionals?  Is the term ‘professional’ a legitimate/suitable alternative to ‘non-academic’?  What role can the AUA play in supporting higher education professionals? @kenton_lewis
  • 37. Nuts and Bolts Interviews transcribed and anonymised  Worked through all data to identify themes (‘codes’)  Initial 247 codes eventually rationalised into a branch structure to group and relate themes  Managed through NVIVO QSR software  @kenton_lewis
  • 38. Aims/achievements Mapping construction of professional identity in a clear and accessible format  Demonstrating the extent to which HE administration/management is professionalised  Empowering the AUA to develop a confident external voice  Empowering HE administrators and managers to collectively embrace selfconfidence and assert professional status  @kenton_lewis
  • 39. Further research options To what extent does nationality, both of the individual and of the institution, influence the construction of professional identity amongst higher education administrators and managers?  To what extent does institutional culture influence the construction of professional identity amongst university administrators and managers?  Tipping the scales: does professionalisation of managerial and administrative staff within higher education contribute to the deprofessionalisation of the academy?  @kenton_lewis