Reconstructing Identities in Higher Education: The rise of 'Third Space' professionals, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Reconstructing Identities in Higher Education

The rise of 'Third Space' professionals, 1st Edition

By Celia Whitchurch


184 pages | 1 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9780415614832
pub: 2012-10-19
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pub: 2012-10-19
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pub: 2012-11-12
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Reconstructing Identities in Higher Education: The Rise of Third Space Professionals draws on studies conducted in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States to explore the roles and identities of a growing number of staff associated with broadly based institutional projects such as student life and welfare, widening participation, learning support, community partnership, research and business partnership, and institutional research. Thus, at the same time as professional staff are acquiring academic credentials, some academic staff are moving in a more project-oriented direction. This has effectively created a Third Space between professional and academic spheres in which lateral interactions, involving teams and networks, occur in parallel with formal institutional structures and processes, and give rise to new forms of management and leadership. Yet such developments have tended to occur ‘under the radar’, and have not been fully articulated.

The concept of Third Space is offered as a way of exploring the knowledges, relationships, legitimacies and languages that characterise those who work in less boundaried roles, and the implications of these developments for both individuals and institutions. The ability to problematise and accommodate a series of paradoxes and tensions, for instance between formal and more open-ended structures and relationships, would appear to be at the heart of working in Third Space. Individuals also grapple with the fact that Third Space can, at one and the same time, be a safe haven for experimentation and creativity, and also a risky space in which there is likely to be contestation and uncertainty.

The text is addressed to professional and academic staff who, by design or default, for long or short periods, find themselves working in Third Space environments; to those to whom such staff may be responsible, including senior management teams; and also to researchers interested in changing identities in higher education.


"Whitchurch’s research has implications for our understanding of professionals in higher education and organizational structures in modern higher education institutions. She frames professional roles according to four "dispositions"—bounded professionals, cross-boundary professionals, unbounded professionals, and blended professionals—that can be distinguished by their degree of agency within their organizational structure and their affinity to their associated spaces, knowledges, relationships, and legitimacies. The resulting typology forms 16 unique identity categories that can help us understand the context, motivations, and operational behaviors of professionals in complex organizations". - Jeri L. Childers, University of Technology, Sydney

Table of Contents

Part I 1. Introduction 2. The Concept of Third Space Part II 3. Being a Third Space Professional 4. Paradoxes and Dilemmas Part III 5. Third Space Professionals and the Organisational Interface 6. Possible Futures

About the Author

Dr Celia Whitchurch is Senior Lecturer in Higher Education at the University of London Institute of Education. Between 2005 and 2009 she undertook two studies funded by the UK Leadership Foundation for Higher Education on the changing roles and identities of professional staff, and the emergence of a Third Space between academic and professional spheres of activity. In 2010 she edited a monograph with George Gordon, entitled Academic and Professional Identities in Higher Education: The Challenges of a Diversifying Workforce, also published by Routledge.

About the Series

Research into Higher Education

Co-published with the Society for Research into Higher Education

This exciting new series aims to publish cutting edge research and discourse that reflects the rapidly changing world of higher education, examined in a global context. Encompassing topics of wide international relevance, the series includes every aspect of the international higher education research agenda, from strategic policy formulation and impact to pragmatic advice on best practice in the field.

For more information, or to express an interest in writing for the series, please contact Sarah Tuckwell,

Learn more…

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