Year: 1991

Author: Neumann, Ruth

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The nature of academic work has been receiving increasing attention by researchers in the field of higher education in recent years. In the United States, for example, Clark (1987) has portrayed vividly the academic profession and academic life in American universities, while Ruscio (1987) has discussed academic work in a specific group of American higher education institutions. In the U.K., Becher (1987, 1989a, 1989b, 1990) has focused on academics and academic work at the level of the discipline, illuminating a rich variety of disciplinary cultures. In Australia, Harman (1988) has undertaken a case study of academic work and culture at the University of Melbourne. Adopting a different approach, Moses (1990) has undertaken a questionnaire study of academic work in select disciplines in a traditional Australian university, while Everett and Entrekin (1987) have undertaken a longitudinal survey study of academic attitudes on a number of aspects of academic work across a broad range of higher education institutions.

This paper reports on the findings of the first stage of a qualitative study of academic work in Australian universities1. This stage examined through interviews and document analysis the perceptions senior academic administrators hold of the research and teaching roles of academic work. The perspective sought, is thus an "internalist" one (Clark, 1983:4). The findings presented in the paper briefly describe the perceptions of 'research' and 'scholarship' and the link between research and scholarship, as well as the interconnections between research, scholarship and teaching. The study found a high level of consensus in the views presented and the final section of the paper discusses possible reasons for and interpretations of the unanimity of perceptions.