Juggling competing activities: academic staff as doctoral candidates

Jan Smith , Jennie Billot, Deanne Clouder, Virginia King

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)
    31 Downloads (Pure)


    This article explores the experiences of a group of established academic staff in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, as they undertake a doctorate in their home institutions. Our interest is in how individuals negotiate this dual status from a cultural historical activity theory (CHAT) stance which explores how rules, tools, community and divisions of labour, and interacting activity systems, shape doctoral experiences. The focus in this article, having analysed their detailed narrative accounts, is on how academics experience three interdependent activity systems: those surrounding the thesis, the institutional context, and the home-life spheres. Issues related to time, workload and supervision issues, variability in collegial support and impact on personal priorities and time emerged. There is a range of particularities – from easy access to resources/supervisors, to inflexible institutional regulations – applicable to this group of doctoral candidates. Negotiating life as an academic with concurrent doctoral candidature provides positive outcomes in terms of teaching, research confidence and general personal and professional development. However, a range of difficulties can also be encountered, particularly in relation to personal and professional relationships, and workload management.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)591-605
    Number of pages15
    JournalHigher Education Research & Development
    Issue number3
    Early online date11 Nov 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2020

    Bibliographical note

    This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Higher Education Research & Development on 11/11/2019, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com 10.1080/07294360.2019.1685945

    Copyright © and Moral Rights are retained by the author(s) and/ or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge. This item cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder(s). The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders.


    • academic work
    • doctoral education
    • doctoral supervision
    • professional development
    • Academic work

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Education


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