The professional identity formation of Career Change Academics and their perceived contribution to Higher Education Institutions

  • Nicola Shephard

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education


    [Doctor of Education in Higher Education] A literature review shows there is an evidence gap regarding the experiences of Career Change Academics in Higher Education (HE). The sector has faced multiple changes over the past few years with the introduction of a neoliberal approach to measuring quality including new Research Excellence Framework (REF), and adjustment to online learning in response to COVID-19. This research explores the transition experiences of Career Change Academics, asking what they believe they contribute to HE.

    As I sought to explore lived experiences, I selected a qualitative phenomenological approach utilising Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) (Smith, Flowers and Larkin, 2022) and semi-structured interviews to explore the experiences of Career Change Academics as a case study of one Robbins Group university. Through data analysis, I generated four Group Experiential Themes, ‘I felt like an outsider’, ‘I get by with a little help from my friends’, ‘My professional identity is a work in progress’ and ‘I am here to teach future practitioners’.

    This study highlights, that as a consequence of the REF, Career Change Academics feel as if they are second class academics. The thesis suggests that it can take five years to form a merged professional identity and that narrating one’s identity transition supports interpersonal and intrapersonal acceptance. Building support networks helped the formation of a merged professional identity and the participants found that studying for HE teaching qualifications supported their pedagogic development as well as providing opportunities to create informal networks. In conclusion, the Career Change Academics in this research were motivated by teaching future practitioners in support of student employability, student outcomes and real work impact through knowledge exchange, all of which support HE institutions with their submission for the new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the new Knowledge Exchange Partnership (KEF) and the National Student Survey (NSS).

    Date of AwardDec 2022
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMichael Larkin (Supervisor) & Gemma Heath (Supervisor)


    • IPA
    • REF
    • TEF
    • Career Change Academic
    • Identity Formation
    • Identity Complexity

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