Higher Education

, Volume 76, Issue 1, pp 115–127 | Cite as

Academic artisans in the research university

  • Angela BrewEmail author
  • David Boud
  • Lisa Lucas
  • Karin Crawford


In the changing context of universities, organisational structures for teaching and research problematise academic roles. This paper draws on a critical realist analysis of surveys and interviews with academics from universities in England and Australia. It identifies important academic work, not captured simply in descriptions of teaching or research. It shows that many academics, who are not research high flyers nor award-winning teachers, carry out this essential work which contributes to the effective functioning of their universities. That work is referred to as academic artisanal work and the people who do it as academic artisans. Characteristics and examples of academic artisans are presented, and the nature of artisanal work is explored. Implications for higher education management and for future studies are discussed. The paper points to an urgent need to better understand the complex nature of academic work.


Academic work Academic career Teaching-only contracts Academic performance 


  1. Archer, M. S. (2012). The reflexive imperative in late modernity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Australian Government. (2016). Higher Education Statistics. Available, Accessed 9th March 2017.
  3. Blau, P. M. (1994). The organisation of academic work. New Brunswick: Transactions.Google Scholar
  4. Boyer, E. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: priorities for the professoriate. Princeton: Carnegie foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, University of Princeton.Google Scholar
  5. Boyer, E. L. (1996). The scholarship of engagement. Journal of Public Service & Outreach, 1(1), 11–20.Google Scholar
  6. Brew, A., & Boud, D. (2009). Understanding academics’ engagement with research. In A. Brew & L. Lucas (Eds.), Academic research and researchers (pp. 189–203). London: Open University Press and Society for Research into Higher Education.Google Scholar
  7. Brew, A., Boud, D., Namgung, S. U., Lucas, L., & Crawford, K. (2016). Research productivity and academics’ conceptions of research. Higher Education, 71(5), 681–697.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brew, A., Boud, D., Crawford, K., & Lucas, L. (2017). Navigating the demands of academic work to shape an academic job. Studies in Higher Education.
  9. Churchman, D., & King, S. (2009). Academic practice in transition: hidden stories of academic identities. Teaching in Higher Education, 14(5), 507–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Courtney, K. (2013). Adapting higher education through changes in academic work. Higher Education Quarterly, 67(1), 44–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. De Sousa Santos, B. (2013). Rise of the global left: World social forum and beyond. Zed Books.Google Scholar
  12. Diamond, R. M., & Adam, B. E. (1995). The disciplines speak: rewarding the scholarly, professional, and creative work of faculty. Forum on faculty roles & rewards. Washington,. American Association for Higher Education, [FGK01523].Google Scholar
  13. Fumasoli, T. (2015). Academic work and careers in Europe: trends, challenges, perspectives. In T. Fumasoli, G. Goastellec, & B. M. M. Kehm (Eds.), The changing academy—the changing academic profession in international comparative perspective 12 (p. 12). Switzerland: Springer international publishing.Google Scholar
  14. Gibbs, P., Ylijoki, O.-H., Guzman, C., & Barnett, R. (2015). Universities in the flux of time. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Gornall, L., Cook, C., Daunton, L., Salisbury, J., & Thomas, B. (2013). Academic working lives: experience, practice and change. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  16. Gouldner, A. W. (1957). Cosmopolitans and locals: toward an analysis of latent social roles. I. Administrative Science Quarterly, 2(3), 281–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Henkel, M. (2005). Academic identity and autonomy in a changing policy environment. Higher Education, 49, 155–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Henkel, M. (2016). Multiversities and academic identities: change, continuities and complexities. In L. Leisyte & U. Wilkesmann (Eds.), Organising academic work in higher education (pp. 223–242). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Locke, W. (2014). Shifting academic careers: implications for enhancing professionalism in teaching and supporting learning. York: The Higher Education Academy.Google Scholar
  20. Locke, W., Whitchurch, C., Smith, H., & Mazenod, A. (2016). Shifting landscapes: meeting the staff development needs of a changing academic workforce. York: Higher Education Academy.Google Scholar
  21. Lucas, L. (2006). The research game in academic life. Maidenhead: Open University Press and the Society for Research into Higher Education.Google Scholar
  22. Lucas, L. (2017). Evaluating Academic Research: ambivalence, anxiety and audit in the risk university. In S. Wright & C. Shore (Eds.), Death of the public university? Oxford: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  23. Macfarlane, B. (2007). Defining and rewarding academic citizenship: the implications for university promotions policy. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 29(3), 261–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Macfarlane, B. (2011). The morphing of academic practice: unbundling and the rise of the para-academic. Higher Education Quarterly, 65(1), 59–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Macfarlane, B. (2015). Dualisms in higher education: a critique of their influence and effect. Higher Education Quarterly, 69(1), 101–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Malcolm, J., & Zukas, M. (2009). Making a mess of academic work: experience, purpose and identity. Teaching in Higher Education, 14(5), 495–506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. McInnis, C. (1998). Academics and professional administrators in Australian universities: dissolving boundaries and new tensions. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 20(2), 161–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McNay, I. (2003). Assessing the assessment: an analysis of the UK Research Assessment Exercise, 2001, and its outcomes, with special reference to research in education. Science and Public Policy, 30(3), 1–8.Google Scholar
  29. McNay, I. (2009). Research quality assessment: objectives, approaches, responses and consequences. In A. Brew & L. Lucas (Eds.), Academic research and researchers (pp. 35–53). Maidenhead: McGraw Hill, Society for Research into Higher Education and the Open University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Nowotny, H., Scott, P., & Gibbons, M. (2001). Re-thinking science: knowledge and the public in an age of uncertainty. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  31. Odate, T. (1984). Japanese woodworking tools: their tradition, spirit and use. Newtown, CT: The Taunton Press.Google Scholar
  32. Ryan, S., Burgess, J., Connell, J., & Groen, E. (2013). Casual academic staff in an Australian university: marginalised and excluded. Tertiary Education and Management, 19(2), 161–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Snyder, T. D., & Dillow, S. A. (2012). Digest of Education Statistics 2011. Washington: Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, US Department of Education.Google Scholar
  34. Strauss, L. (1962). The savage mind. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson.Google Scholar
  35. Szekeres, J. (2004). The invisible workers. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 26(1), 7–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Teichler, U., & Höhle, E. A. (2013). The work situation of the academic profession in Europe: findings of a survey in twelve countries. Dortrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ward, K. (2003). Faculty service roles and the scholarship of engagement. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report, Volume 29, Number 3. Washington, DC: Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series.Google Scholar
  38. Whitchurch, C. (2008a). Shifting identities and blurring boundaries: the emergence of third space professionals in UK higher education. Higher Education Quarterly, 62(4), 377–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Whitchurch, C. (2008b). Beyond administration and management: reconstructing the identities of professional staff in UK higher education. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 30(4), 374–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Angela Brew
    • 1
    Email author
  • David Boud
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Lisa Lucas
    • 5
  • Karin Crawford
    • 6
  1. 1.Office of Dean, Higher Degree ResearchMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital LearningDeakin UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.University of Technology Sydney UltimoAustralia
  4. 4.Institute for Work-Based LearningMiddlesex UniversityLondonUK
  5. 5.School of EducationUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  6. 6.Lincoln Higher Education Research InstituteUniversity of LincolnLincolnUK

Personalised recommendations