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The construction of professional identities in Further Education in the UK: perspectives of middle managers and academic experts in Educational Leadership and Management

Mhlanga, T. (2017) The construction of professional identities in Further Education in the UK: perspectives of middle managers and academic experts in Educational Leadership and Management. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Abstract/Summary

Despite the burgeoning body ofliterature in the field ofEducational Leadership and Management (ELM), there has been relatively little discussion on middle management which it is a key strategic stratum that is central in the translation, filtration and implementation of senior management policies in an organisation. In the context of Further Education (FE) in the UK, an educational sector that has been in a state offlux since the incorporation ofcolleges in ) 993, middle managers are positioned in a buffering, bridging and brokering role between the triad of students, lecturers and senior managers who perceive their role as implementing government policy. Middle managers are expected to reduce potential conflict and manufacture consent between professional and managerial interests in colleges of FE yet their role remains neglected, fuzzy and misunderstood -there is little empirical research in FE leadership, particularly in the professional identities ofmiddle managers. This research seeks to address this gap by presenting an original contribution to knowledge illuminating the role of middle managers in the FE sector. More specifically, it provides insights into the construction of the professional identities of middle managers in the FE sector. This research adopts a sequential mixed methods design embedded in constructivism and interpretivism. The sequential mixed methods approach facilitates elaboration on the findings of one method with another method. The study has three distinct stages: (i) It begins with qualitative interviews with ) 2 academic experts in the field ofELM for purposes of setting the context. (ii) Completion of an on-line questionnaire by 75 middle managers in colleges ofFE. (iii) Individual follow-up interviews for deeper exploration of issues with 10 middle managers who participated at Stage II. The use of a variety of data sources and lenses allows for comparisons to be made, thus facilitating a thick description of the phenomenon. The results provide insights into the duality ofthe role of structure and agency in the construction ofthe professional identities of middle managers in FE. Whilst organisations have influence on employees' professional identity, professional identity cannot be imposed or bestowed on employees by government agents, government policies or organisational culture -individuals are not neatly sutured into the social structure as docile beings -they exercise agency. The results highlight that individuals respond differently to similar conditions. Thus, the following typology of middle managers, as described in the literature is confirmed: (i) willing compliers, (ii) strategic compliers, and (iii) unwilling compliers. In addition, this study identifies a fourth type who are described as principled mutineers. Recommendations are made for occupational, organisational and individual levels on how middle management roles could be ameliorated. This research contributes to the illumination of the middle management role and increases knowledge about the professional identities of middle managers in FE.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Rassool, N. and Floyd, A.
Thesis/Report Department:Institute of Education
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Institute of Education
ID Code:74884

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