This paper builds on earlier reviews by the author of the changing roles and identities of contemporary professional staff in UK higher education (Whitchurch, 2004; 2006a; 2006b), and describes an empirical study that was undertaken between 2004 and 2007. It progresses the argument that the generic terms ‘administration’ and ‘management’ no longer do justice to the activities of these staff, and uses the concept of identity to develop four categories of bounded, cross-boundary, unbounded and blended professionals. Via these categories it is shown how individuals are not only interpreting their given roles more actively, but are also moving laterally across boundaries to create new professional spaces, knowledges and relationships. The paper goes on to introduce the concept of third space as an emergent territory between academic and professional domains, in which unbounded and blended professionals, particularly, are likely to work. It considers the implications of these developments for both institutions and individuals, and makes some comparisons with parallel groups of staff in Australia and the United States. Finally, it proposes that third space working is suggestive of future trends in professional identities, which may increasingly coalesce with those of academic colleagues who undertake project- and management oriented roles.
May 1, 2008
Research and Occasional Papers Series (ROPS)
Shifting Identities, Blurring Boundaries: The Changing Roles of Professional Managers in Higher Education by Celia Whitchurch. CSHE.10.2008 (May 2008)