Navigating the neo-academy: Experiences of liminality and identity construction among early career researchers at one Australian regional university

Article


Larsen, Ellen and Brandenburg, Robyn. 2023. "Navigating the neo-academy: Experiences of liminality and identity construction among early career researchers at one Australian regional university." The Australian Educational Researcher. 50 (4), p. 1069–1087. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13384-022-00544-1
Article Title

Navigating the neo-academy: Experiences of liminality and identity construction among early career researchers at one Australian regional university

ERA Journal ID20008
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsLarsen, Ellen (Author) and Brandenburg, Robyn (Author)
Journal TitleThe Australian Educational Researcher
Journal Citation50 (4), p. 1069–1087
Number of Pages19
Year2023
PublisherSpringer
Place of PublicationAustralia
ISSN0311-6999
2210-5328
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1007/s13384-022-00544-1
Web Address (URL)https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13384-022-00544-1#citeas
Abstract

Across the world, many university-based early career researchers (ECRs) are experiencing an unprecedented intensification of research expectations on transition from doctoral research to academic life. Countries such as Australia have put into place national frameworks of research excellence to remain globally competitive. Pressure on universities to elevate global research rankings has soared, with many regional universities and disciplines such as education responding with a rapid escalation of research performance expectations for academics. Consequently, concerns have been raised for ECRs embroiled in intensified research agendas in these contexts. Framed by concepts of liminality and identity construction, we argue that intensified expectations do not take account of liminality experienced by ECRs during times of transition, compromising perceived academic progress. We report on the identity journeys of ECRs in a School of Education at one regional Australian university. Data was collected from nine ECRs using online focus groups and analysed using a hybrid thematic approach. Key findings indicate that ECRs transition into the Academy post-doctorate with varying experiences of identity liminality that impact their capacity to manage research expectations. ECRs experiencing shorter periods of liminality are best positioned to manage the intensified expectations of academic life while ECRs experiencing persistent liminality and identity ‘struggle’ are more likely to perceive a diminished sense of achievement and support. These findings have significant implications for university leadership and research supervisors, in Australia and globally, regarding the ways they support ECRs to productively navigate the hyper-invigilated audit cultures of what we have termed the neo-academy.

KeywordsEarly career researcher; Identity construction; Liminality; EducationRegional universities · Academy
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390201. Education policy
390305. Professional education and training
390303. Higher education
Byline AffiliationsUniversity of Southern Queensland
Federation University
Open access urlhttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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