Changing academic identity as a result of policy actions

Year: 2008

Author: Smith, Richard, Nanyang, Billot, Jenny

Type of paper: Refereed paper

In the context of a dynamic New Zealand tertiary environment, this paper examines the policy that has restructured the research funding regime and the consequent impacts of these changes upon academic identity/identities. As institutions strategise to meet increased competition and changed expectations for funding (academic staff have had to modify their role (Ashcroft, 2005; Middleton, 2005). We refer to our research project (Billot & Smith, 2007, 2008; Smith & Billot, 2007) whose aim was to map the research environments in two emerging applied institutions one a relatively new university and the other a leading polytechnic in order answer the research question of how the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) has affected staff roles and responsibilities and also the academic 'identities' of staff. The qualitative study involved case studies of both institutions, focusing on the disciplines of Education, Design and Nursing. We outline the research methodology and methods including an online survey and interviews. Furthermore, we present the preliminary findings, which illustrate the complexity of aligning institutional strategy and staff performance. The actual project whilst completed has quite a rich set of data which has yet to be fully analysed and reported upon. We argue that academics need to work within a supportive research culture, it is essential for institutional health (Hazelkorn, 2005) and that to be effective it needs to be embedded into the institutional environment. We believe that our small study provides the opportunity for identifying initiatives that could enhance both collective and individualised objectives and also for building research teams and capacities.

Keywords: higher education; educational policy; academic identity; research culture