Identities of research-active academics in new universities: Towards a complete academic profession cross-cutting different worlds of practice

Monica van Winkel, Roeland van der Rijst, R.F. Poell, Jan van Driel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


This study explores how academics who expanded their teaching-only positions to include research view their (re)constructed academic identity. Participants worked in a higher professional education institution of applied research and teaching, comparable with so-called new universities. The aim is to increase our understanding of variations in academic identity and to be better able to support academics’ ‘role making’ within and across different worlds of practice. Data from semi-structured interviews with 18 academics at a Dutch new university were analysed using a grounded theory approach. This revealed six well-rounded academic identities reflecting participants’ personal scholarly objectives: the ‘continuous learner’, ‘disciplinary expert’, ‘skilled researcher’, ‘evidence-based teacher’, ‘guardian of the research work process’ and ‘liaison officer’. The researcher role served to promote the overall development of participants’ identities. The ‘disciplinary expert’ matured through participation in the academic world and research activities. Participants discovered what ‘being’ and ‘becoming’ a researcher in the new university might entail, and contributed to the professions’ knowledge base. Participants learned to apply various research-based teaching approaches. As brokers, they linked research projects to practices in meaningful ways. The six identities embodied an emergent power in creating and preserving a complete academic profession. Participants’ accounts showed tensions inherent in an extended role portfolio and constraints in ‘role making’ given inconsistencies between the university’s espoused research mission and the one in use. These imply challenges for university managers in aligning policies and practices, and scaffolding academics’ attempts to integrate their academic roles in different worlds of practice.
Keywords: Academic identity, Research–teaching nexus, epistemic modes, boundary work, higher professional education, institutional change
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)539-555
JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Academic identity
  • Research-teaching nexus
  • WORK
  • boundary work
  • epistemic modes
  • higher professional education
  • institutional change


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