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Forging identities : the experiences of probationary lecturers in the UK

Smith, Jan (2010) Forging identities : the experiences of probationary lecturers in the UK. Studies in Higher Education, 35 (5). pp. 577-591. ISSN 0307-5079

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This article concerns itself with how academic identities may come to be formed. Taking a longitudinal approach, stories of the experiences of probationary lecturers have been gathered and analysed, to outline an emergent typology of academic socialisation. Whilst the stories are unique to individuals, and the broader context of their experience is key, some overarching trajectories through the probationary period emerged from the data. For some, the transition to academic life is unremarkable, and identity is untroubled. For others, this appears to be a more troublesome time and a good deal of dissonance is encountered: an academic identity is hard fought and felt to be forged in difficult circumstances. The ‘underlying game’ of UK higher education may thus be experienced as more confounding and inhospitable than we would hope. Attention to this ‘game’ and explaining the ‘rules’ may well be beneficial to new colleagues, smoothing a sometimes difficult journey.