Unveiling faculty conceptions of academic risk taking: a phenomenographic study

Catarina Figueira*, Nicholas Theodorakopoulos, Giorgio Caselli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Among recent developments in the field of higher education is the emergence of New Public Management and of what has been labelled as ‘risk university’. The aim of this paper is to redress the lack of discussion over the role that risk taking plays in academic practice by exploring what faculty understand academic risk taking to be and how they enact this understanding in their tasks. Drawing on a phenomenographic perspective and semi-structured interviews with 20 faculty members from a high-profile UK university, we find that academic risk taking is experienced in four qualitatively different ways. Our results suggest that although academics engage in relatively similar endeavours, they exhibit various approaches to these endeavours due to their different conceptions of what constitutes academic risk taking. These findings have implications for the literature on identity construction and the debate over how the greater accountability of academic activity is affectively experienced.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1307-1320
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Issue number8
Early online date16 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Studies in Higher Education on 16/11/16, available online: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2016.1250074


  • academic risk taking
  • academic work
  • identity construction
  • new public management
  • phenomenography
  • risk university


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