Becoming University Academics From Professional Practice: Finding, Learning, Playing

  • Louise Wilson

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The transition from professional practitioner to university academic is well-documented in the areas of nursing, healthcare, sociology, and law. However, little is known about the experience of practitioners making the transition from other professions and this study investigates the collective experiences of those from a wider range of professional backgrounds who have also made this transition from professional life and professional careers to academic life and academic careers. This study explored the experience of twenty-three professional practitioners drawn from eight professional backgrounds across four post-1992 institutions. All became university academics during the last five
    years. Adopting the concept of transition, specifically transition cycles, as part of the conceptual framework, the participants’ experiences were explored using a Narrative methodology to study the experience of transition.

    Building on, combining, and expanding the transitional cycles provided by Nicholson (1990), Williams (1999) and Bridges (2009), a prior transitional stage was identified as part of the early transitional process. From findings, a new model, termed here as the Early-Transition Cycle (ETC) was located and broadly categorised as having three phases: Finding, Learning and Playing. Recognising that the experience of transition from practice to academic life was found to be complex, varied, and individual, this study concludes with recommendations to support the transition of university academics from practice by improving preparation, academic induction, on-boarding and addressing
    areas relating to career progression routes and the promotion of a better understanding of how to develop academic careers. Raising the awareness of the importance of transition is key and it is proposed that the ETC developed in this thesis provides a useful
    tool to help achieve this.

    The argument underpinning this study is that the conventional journey into an academic career is via the research route: undertaking a PhD and often post-doctoral research before securing a lecturing position. Implicitly if not always explicitly, this is the assumed default journey which underpins academic life and career progression. Entering higher education from professional practice is less common. If universities are to fully benefit from the expertise that practitioners bring, and they in turn are to achieve their career potential, universities need to recognise and support their specific needs and requirements.

    Date of Award2022
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorJanet Hannah (Supervisor) & Alexeis Garcia-Perez (Supervisor)

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