Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory

Living Edition
| Editors: Michael A. Peters

To Be or Not to Be Professional: The Case for Higher Education Teaching as an Occupation

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-287-532-7_634-1

This contribution critiques the idea of the academic as a professional if defined as bound by professional rule developed to reinforce power and structure of the profession. It does not suggest that there’s a problem per se with putting academic life and professionalism together. Rather, the problem arises from contemporary conceptions of professionalism being inappropriately applied. It argues that professionalism has changed from depicting autonomous self-monitoring groupings to rule-bound groups, serving the interests of external “stakeholders.” The professionalism of the profession is being critiqued as a thin form of professionalism of practice.


As Kanes (2010) suggests, there is a difference between the activities of the professional who discharges her role within the profession through adequate capacities and competences for successful exercise of an occupation outside the authority that a profession can confer. Simply put one can show professionalism in what one...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Barnett, R., & Di Napoli, R. (2008). Changing identities in higher education. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Beijaard, D., Meijer, P. C., & Verloop, N. (2004). Reconsidering research on teachers’ professional identity. Teaching and Teacher Education, 20(2), 107–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cunningham, B. (2014). Professional life in modern British higher education. London: Institute of Education Press.Google Scholar
  4. Dall’Alba, G. (2004). Understanding professional practice: Investigations before and after an educational programme. Studies in Higher Education, 29, 679–692.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dall’Alba, G., & Barnacle, R. (2015). Exploring knowing/being through discordant professional practice. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 47(13–14), 1452–1464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Edwards, A. (2010). Being an expert professional practitioner: The relational turn in expertise. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Fournier, V. (2000). Boundary work and the (un)making of the professions. In N. Malin (Ed.), Professionalism, boundaries and the workplace. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Francis Report. (2013). Report of the Mid-Staffordshire NHS foundation trust public inquiry. http://www.midstaffspublicinquiry.com/sites/default/files/report/Executive%20summary.pdf. Accessed 30 June 2013.
  9. Howe, E. R., & Xu, S. J. (2013). Transcultural teacher development to foster dialogue among civilizations: Bridging gaps between east and west. Teaching and Teacher Education, 36, 33–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Johnson, J. (2015). Universities minister demands better value for money for students. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/universities-minister-demands-better-value-for-money-for-students. Accessed 13 Sept 2015.
  11. Jonnergård, K., & Erlingsdóttir, G. (2012). Variations in professions’ adaption of quality reforms: The cases of doctors and auditors in Sweden. Current Sociology, 60, 672–689.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kanes, C. (2010). Elaborating professionalism: Studies in practice and theory. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  13. Killoren, D., & Williams, B. (2013). Group agency and over-determination. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 16, 295–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. MacIntyre, A. (2007). After virtue: A study in moral theory (3rd ed.). London: Duckworth.Google Scholar
  15. Nevgi, A., & Löfström, E. (2015). The development of academics’ teacher identity: Enhancing reflection and task perception through a university teacher development programme. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 46, 53–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Nyamapfene, A. (2014). The teaching-only academic role in research intensive universities: A case of spoiled identity? https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/stem-conference-2014/Post_event_resources/GEN/teaching-only_academic. Accessed 12 Sept 2015.
  17. Phillips, S. (2013). Blinded by belonging: Revealing the hidden curriculum. Medical Education, 47, 122–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Trede, F., Macklin, R., & Bridges, D. (2011). Professional identity development: A review of the higher education literature. Studies in Higher Education, 37(3), 365–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Watson, D. (2014). The question of conscience: Higher education and personal responsibility. London: IOE Press.Google Scholar
  20. Webster-Wright, A. (2010). Authentic professional learning: Making a difference through learning at work. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Whitchurch, C. (2012). Reconstructing identities in higher education (Research into higher education). London: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MiddlesexLondonUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • Paul Gibbs
    • 1
  • Amanda Fulford
    • 2
  • Ronald Barnett
    • 3
  1. 1.University of MiddlesexLondonUK
  2. 2.Leeds Trinity UniversityLeedsUK
  3. 3.University College London Institute of EducationLondonUK