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Perceptions of Identity in Higher Education: Professional Services and Academic Staff

Caldwell, Joanne (2021) Perceptions of Identity in Higher Education: Professional Services and Academic Staff. Doctoral thesis (EdD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

The aim of this thesis is to investigate perceptions of professional identity within professional services staff in higher education. It considers if this identity is impacted by their relationships with academic staff. This research stems from my own feelings about my identity at work and how I view the relationships I have with academics. There is significant research into academic identity but relatively little regarding that of professional services. It is only within the last twenty years that research into professional services as an occupational group has emerged. The work was undertaken using a theoretical framework of Figured Worlds (Holland et al., 1998) and an interpretivist perspective in an attempt to understand the views of professional services and academic staff. Using a qualitative methodology and semi-structured interviews with both professional services and academic participants, I gave a voice to both sides to understand the relationship between the two. The findings from this study add to the limited knowledge around perceptions of professional identity by professional services and their relationships with academic staff. They also offer practice implications, including reducing perceived negative terminology and ensuring the visibility and value of professional services staff and the various roles and responsibilities they undertake. This includes more opportunities for developing ‘third space’ collaborative working.

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