Academics' career practices

The study of academic careers has increasingly received attention from both career and higher education researchers. The former focuses on new career patterns that have evolved over the past 30 years and authors (Baruch/Hall 2004) see academic careers as prototypes for these 'new careers'. The latter picks up policy debates on the attractiveness of the academic workplaces and find that several European countries have changed or are changing the conditions under which academic careers unfold (Enders/De Weert 2004). For example, the introduction or the abolishing of specific institutions (such as the Habilitation as additional proof of qualification) are connected with specific assumptions about the suitability, functionality and performance promises

of these new or old rules. As sceptical observers, it is interesting from both theoretical and practical standpoint to determine if these institutions work as they are intended to do. This view on the link between institutional arrangements and academics' career practices leads to the research question below. This study focuses on academic career systems as institutional arrangements for academics' career practices.

How does the design of academic career systems influence academics' career practices?

Neo-institutional theory guides this study in its exploratory investigation into the link between academic career systems and academics' career practices. The institutional analysis concentrates on the relevant institutions or sets of rules that can be used to explain academics' career practices in academic career systems. Neo-institutional theory is particularly useful because it takes into account informal rules, human agency as enactment and reproduction of institutions and can address possible contradictions between institutions within a given arrangement. Giddens' concept of knowledgeability makes it possible to identify academics' knowledge about the institutional arrangement as mediating between the academic career systems and academics' career practices. In this study academics' objective careers, networking and output orientation are outcomes of and resources for their practices or flow of action.

The institutional analysis is done by analysing secondary literature and policy documents. The empirical data for the analysis of academics' knowledgeability and career practices is gathered by interviewing academics and collecting their CVs. Three different types of academic career systems are identified (regular employee, contract and tenure) and the interviewees will be selected from the prime examples of these types (England, Germany and US).

Researcher involved: Marc Kaulisch