In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Changing Professional and Academic Identities

  • Introduction
  • The Changing Workforce Map
  • Academic Identities
  • The Diversification of Academic Roles
  • The Changing Conditions of Academic Work
  • Academic Careers
  • Academics as Managers
  • Professional Identities
  • The Practitioner View
  • Critiquing a Binary Status with Academic Staff
  • Diversification of Professional Roles
  • “Third Space” Professionals
  • Institutional Researchers
  • Research Managers

Education Changing Professional and Academic Identities
Celia Whitchurch, Christian Schneijderberg
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0181


There is a growing literature on academic and professional identities in higher education in the context of more market-oriented environments, an increasing range of types of institution and modes of delivery, raised expectations by students of the experience they receive, and a rapidly diversifying workforce. As this is a developing field, this chapter is selective in that it is biased toward more recent contributions to the literature, with reference to earlier key texts. Two principal approaches can be identified in the literature—the changing workforce map, documenting international employment patterns and trends against the background of contemporary market contexts; and developing understandings about individual academic and professional identities, which have become less homogeneous and increasingly fluid. The two approaches provide complementary perspectives on issues such as conditions of service and careers, as well as the impact on academic autonomy, rewards and incentives, and motivation and morale. Furthermore, whereas approaches to academic and professional identities in higher education have in the past tended to reflect a perceived binary division between those on academic and those on professional contracts, this is beginning to change. Increasingly, there is recognition of professional and academic staff who work between academic and professional domains on projects that require joint input from staff with a range of expertise. Examples include those working in the fields of teaching and learning, the student experience, and knowledge exchange. Specific roles, and who fills them, also depends on the traditions and conventions of national systems, types of institution, and local organizational structures.

The Changing Workforce Map

Following an early survey on the academic profession funded by the Carnegie Foundation, which resulted in the monograph by Boyer, et al. 1994, there have been multiple texts drawing on national and international data sets associated with the Changing Academic Profession (CAP) project. These have drawn attention to trends in patterns of academic work and have formed the basis for ongoing comparisons. Some texts, such as Cummings and Finkelstein 2012 and Enders and de Weert 2009, draw on national studies. Others, including Teichler, et al. 2013 and Teichler and Cummings 2015, draw directly on the CAP studies, with Finkelstein, et al. 2016; Marginson 2000; and Musselin 2010 providing overarching conceptual frames for the movements identified.

  • Boyer, E. L., P. G. Altbach, and M. J. Whitelaw. 1994. The academic profession: An international perspective. Princeton, NJ: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

    This volume draws on the Carnegie Foundation international study of 1991–1993 and notes that key aspects of academic identity include commitment to a discipline and responsibility for applying new knowledge in the service of society, belonging to international scholarly networks, and freedom of choice of topics for research.

  • Cummings, W., and M. Finkelstein. 2012. Scholars in the changing American academy: New contexts, new rules and new roles. The Changing Academy 4. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-2730-4

    Drawing on the US component of the international Changing Academic Profession (CAP) survey (2007–2008), this volume highlights the diversification of what was a relatively homogeneous profession. The authors also point to an increase in non-tenured appointments, with those in tenure track positions more than twice as likely to be involved in research and publication.

  • Enders, J., and E. de Weert, eds. 2009. The changing face of academic life: Analytical and comparative perspectives. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

    In the context of moves toward mass higher education systems in more market-oriented, global environments, this volume offers international perspectives on structural influences on the academic profession, including new models of governance and new forms of knowledge. It analyses, inter alia, the potential effects on academic careers, employment relationships, and labor markets in Europe and the United States.

  • Finkelstein, M. J., V. M. Conley, and J. H. Schuster. 2016. The faculty factor. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

    This monograph considers the impact of the market economy, including financial constraints, the casualization of the workforce, and globalization, on the lives and careers of academic faculty in the United States. It goes on to develop a “third paradigm,” comprising ten key elements, including the diversification of the workforce and the influence of technology on the delivery of contemporary higher education.

  • Marginson, S. 2000. Rethinking academic work in the global era. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management 22.1: 23–35.

    DOI: 10.1080/713678133

    This early but seminal paper argues that the academic profession in Australia is undergoing a profound transformation with four dimensions: globalization and institutional responses to associated pressures and opportunities, the decline of government commitment to and funding of higher education, the crisis of collegial values in an era of corporate and professional principles, and the deconstruction of the academic profession itself.

  • Musselin, C. 2010. The markets for academics. New York: Routledge.

    Translated from Le Marché des Universitaires (Presses de Sciences Po, 2005). Focusing on competition among academics for positions, financial resources, and reputation, the book compares changes in education and training, tenure, and career paths, including new challenges in research, teaching, and the transfer of knowledge, from staff at junior to the most senior levels in France, Germany, and the United States.

  • Teichler, U., A. Arimoto, and W. Cummings. 2013. The changing academic profession: Major findings of a comparative survey. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-6155-1

    This text focuses on key influences on academic identities, including internationalization, increasing regulation, a strengthening of management functions, and increased value being placed by institutions and governments on the impact of research and knowledge exchange activity. Nevertheless, it is suggested that job satisfaction remains high overall as a result of academics being able to maintain significant discretion over their work.

  • Teichler, U., and W. Cummings, eds. 2015. Forming, recruiting and managing the academic profession. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-16080-1

    This edited text extends the Changing Academic Profession (CAP) study to seven additional European countries to consider changes to academic career trajectories, motivation and reward structures, and international mobility, and the relationship of these factors to local institutional contexts.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.