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Reconstructing Identities in Higher Education: The Rise of 'Third Space' Professionals (Research Into Higher Education)by Celia Whitchurch
Synopses & Reviews
The professional workforce in higher education is diversifying. Alongside increased functional specialisation to meet, for instance, legislative and market requirements, has been the emergence of more project-oriented individuals who are crossing boundaries to create new forms of practice, working in partnership with academic colleagues in multi-functional teams. This has created a a twin dynamica (TM) of both increased specialisation and greater fluidity of professional identity, which institutions and individuals seek to manage in ways that are optimal for them. This book explores the implications of these changes and the complexities that they engender for both institutions and individuals, in relation to, for instance, the management and leadership of teams, career paths and professional development, and new forms of language that transcend traditional understandings of professionalism, administration and management.
Drawing on a study conducted in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, the book offers the first comprehensive account of professional staff in higher education not categorised as a academica (TM), but who, through their expertise in areas such as student life, business partnership, and professional practice, make an increasingly significant contribution to institutional futures. It:
Suggesting that third space working may be indicative of future trends in professional identities, so that new forms of third space professional are likely to continue to emerge, the book will be of prime interest to senior institutional managers and members of their senior management teams; second tier professional managers such as directors of human resources; and academic managers such as deans and heads of department, professional staff at all levels in generalist, specialist and a nichea (TM) roles and academic researchers in higher education.
Reconstructing Identities in Higher Education: The Rise of Third Space Professionals draws on studies conducted in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States to explore the roles and identities of a growing number of staff associated with broadly based institutional projects such as student life and welfare, widening participation, learning support, community partnership, research and business partnership, and institutional research. Thus, at the same time as professional staff are acquiring academic credentials, some academic staff are moving in a more project-oriented direction. This has effectively created a Third Space between professional and academic spheres in which lateral interactions, involving teams and networks, occur in parallel with formal institutional structures and processes, and give rise to new forms of management and leadership. Yet such developments have tended to occur under the radar, and have not been fully articulated.
The concept of Third Space is offered as a way of exploring the knowledges, relationships, legitimacies and languages that characterise those who work in less boundaried roles, and the implications of these developments for both individuals and institutions. The ability to problematise and accommodate a series of paradoxes and tensions, for instance between formal and more open-ended structures and relationships, would appear to be at the heart of working in Third Space. Individuals also grapple with the fact that Third Space can, at one and the same time, be a safe haven for experimentation and creativity, and also a risky space in which there is likely to be contestation and uncertainty.
The text is addressed to professional and academic staff who, by design or default, for long or short periods, find themselves working in Third Space environments; to those to whom such staff may be responsible, including senior management teams; and also to researchers interested in changing identities in higher education.
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