From industry professional to academic leader : identity migration in New Zealand polytechnics
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Citation:Marshall, S. (2015). From industry professional to academic leader : identity migration in New Zealand polytechnics. An unpublished thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Education) Unitec Institute of Technology.
Permanent link to Research Bank record:https://hdl.handle.net/10652/3255
Academic staff in New Zealand polytechnics are mostly industry professionals who have been recruited directly into higher education with little or no background in academia. They have effectively immigrated to a new profession and often struggle to adapt to the culture of their new working environment. Academic immigrant leaders, who share strong identity bonds derived from their shared work histories with their staff, are positioned in the centre of relationships between themselves, their olleagues, and the organisations in which they are employed. Their identity is a complex hybrid amalgam of industry professional, academic and academic leader. The study examined theories of identity focusing on how individuals construct and adapt their identities in changing circumstances. Acculturation to new working environments was explored using an ‘immigrant’ metaphor. Prior studies have examined professional and academic identities of teachers, however, few have explored relationships between academic leaders and staff who share non-academic professional identities. This research employed an interpretive lens, within a constructivist paradigm to examine the personal experiences of sixteen academic leaders who identified as academic immigrants. Individual and group interviews illuminated personal experiences of embracing an academic identity, becoming an academic leader and sharing a professional identity with colleagues. Findings demonstrated that academic immigrants do not identify with traditional notions of academic identity, rather they frame their understanding of being an academic through the filter of their previous professional identity. They are deeply socialised in their professional identity and their loyalty lies with their discipline, rather than with the institution. This enables them to operate in discipline ‘silos’ which link strongly to professional values and practices and which can provide validation for behaviours that result in disconnection and tension with the institution. Academic immigrant leaders, who share these strong identity bonds with their staff, can contribute to this siloed behaviour by acting as ‘gatekeepers’ and choosing to prioritise their staff and discipline over the needs of the institution. Academic immigrant staff are attracted to polytechnics because of the applied and practice based learning, rather than ‘hard core’ academic processes. Institutions need to recognise the differences between their ‘old’ and ‘new’ profession and plan induction and socialisation processes that will support complex identity transition. Academic immigrant leaders are well placed to mitigate the identity-divide because they are in the middle of relationships between the institution and their staff with whom they hold a strong values bond based on their shared professional identity.