Cockman, Rachel (2015) Leadership, downshifting and the experience of power in higher education. Doctoral thesis, Sheffield Hallam University.

Leadership, downshifting and the experience of power in higher education
Copyright © 2015 Rachel Cockman
The world of higher education is changing and as such what academics must do is different, they must be different. Academic identity is thus considered to be a necessary site of change. This thesis explores what academics are, their identities, as well as what they might be. Identities are considered to be sites of power, in which processes of power, specifically interactions with discourses, produce subjects who think, act and speak in particular ways. Identities allow academics to exert power, both over themselves and others. They are sites of struggle, as particular identities are constrained or enabled by the exercise of power. Focusing on two discourses, leadership and downshifting, this study explores the identities of nine Principal Lecturers within one post-1992 university. Through a discursive analysis of focus group and interview data, and institutional points of contact including; consultation documents, strategy documents and employee opinion survey results, the thesis renders as problematic both the premise for change and the reorientation itself, of what it means to be an academic. The thesis concludes that the focus on the individual and their need to take personal responsibility for change, to in effect change themselves, averts attention from the institution and its practices as necessary sites of change. Instead, academics are encouraged to focus on the notion of performance and to monitor themselves and others in relation to ever more elaborately refined ‘markers of development’, which diverts their attention from their pedagogical and scholarly practices. This creates the potential for a collective misrecognition, as people battle workloads, and the proliferation of these ‘markers of development’, but fail to recognise, what that work does. My hope is that this thesis provides a place to begin the process of developing an understanding of how identities are limited.

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