Problematizing the 'Career Academic' in UK construction and engineering education : does the system want what the system gets?

Pilcher, Nick and Forster, Alan and Tennant, Stuart and Murray, Michael and Craig, Nigel (2017) Problematizing the 'Career Academic' in UK construction and engineering education : does the system want what the system gets? European Journal of Engineering Education, 42 (6). pp. 1477-1495. ISSN 0304-3797

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    Abstract

    Within construction and engineering education, 'Career Academics' enter academia straight through the academic route with limited or, no industrial or professional experience. Career Academics are welcomed in the research focused UK Higher Education context. In line with UK government policy, despite some institutions being overtly or purely teaching led, the system's priority is to attain research funding through grants and publications, and enhance institutional reputation through world-leading research. Whilst not the sole driver, current strategy is an understandable response to government led policy. The Career Academic's professional trajectory furthers their career through administration, teaching, but principally research. This critical paper problematizes the Career Academic around three inter-related areas: their institutional appeal; their impact on the student experience, team dynamics and broader academic functions and; current strategic policy to employ them in response to government strategy. We also argue that recent UK government initiatives to focus on teaching will not address the fundamental need to employ practical academics, or 'Pracademics', for what are predominantly vocationa , practical subject areas. In addition, it could also be argued that current recruitment policy to employ Career Academics will have an adverse effect on the ambitions of the proposed Teaching Excellence Framework with substantive effects on student learning experience. We generate questions for policy makers, institutions, and those entrusted with implementation of strategy. We argue research is key, but a propensity towards the employment of Career Academics over those with industry experience is adverse to much policy focusing on the student experience. We argue for a partial rebalance in order to achieve a diverse academic skill base, and suggest questions to help achieve this.