Academic artisans in the research university

Angela Brew*, David Boud, Lisa Lucas, Karin Crawford

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
339 Downloads (Pure)


In the changing context of universities, organisational structures for teaching and research problematise academic roles. This paper draws on a critical realist analysis of surveys and interviews with academics from universities in England and Australia. It identifies important academic work, not captured simply in descriptions of teaching or research. It shows that many academics, who are not research high flyers nor award-winning teachers, carry out this essential work which contributes to the effective functioning of their universities. That work is referred to as academic artisanal work and the people who do it as academic artisans. Characteristics and examples of academic artisans are presented, and the nature of artisanal work is explored. Implications for higher education management and for future studies are discussed. The paper points to an urgent need to better understand the complex nature of academic work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-127
Number of pages13
JournalHigher Education
Issue number1
Early online date17 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018

Structured keywords

  • SoE Centre for Higher Education Transformations


  • Academic career
  • Academic performance
  • Academic work
  • Teaching-only contracts


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