27 March 2019

What the job description doesn’t say: working in higher education today

A new working paper by Dr Celia Whitchurch, Professor William Locke and Dr Giulio Marini reveals how those working in higher education may be involved in a range of ‘hidden’ activities and identities, and that roles appear to be increasingly open to interpretation and development, sometimes outside formal job descriptions and in other locales.

These ‘hidden’ activities include, for instance, roles such as the pastoral care of students, and occur for a number of reasons – sometimes out of an individual’s own interest and/or in support of their main role, and sometimes in order to extend experience in ways that will help to promote a career.

The working paper is published in relation to CGHE project 3.2, The future higher education workforce in locally and globally engaged HEIs, and offers an analysis of the interviews undertaken as the first stage of the project, with senior managers and academic staff, in eight universities.

It looks at the approaches taken by a range of staff in higher education in trying to balance institutional and individual aspirations, and considers ways in which relationships between individuals and their institutions may be changing.

Recognition of common dilemmas and concerns was one factor mentioned that could provide reassurance, if not immediate practical help, particularly to younger staff, and help to maintain motivation. Significantly however, despite acknowledged stresses and insecurities, the attractions of an academic career appear to remain strong.