Linda Evans at the Society for Research into Higher Education's annual conference
Professor Linda Evans and Justine Mercer (associate professor at the University of Warwick's Institute of Education) presented the preliminary findings of the paper "Professorial academic leadership in turbulent times: the professoriate's perspective" (co-authored with Matt Homer), at the Society for Research into Higher Education's annual conference, held at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales, on 12-14 December.
The team has designed a questionnaire that is being sent to professors employed in UK universities, asking for their perspectives on their own roles as professors and on the role of professors generally, and how - if at all - it has changed and is still changing. The research analysed just over 1,000 responses from professors at UK universities, and shows that many professors take a dim view of the management aspects of the role - more than a third believe that attaining professorial status is a matter of politics and acquiring large grants rather than academic excellence. The survey asked them to agree or disagree with some of the more critical statements made about professors by junior staff in a study published in November 2011.
Professor Evans told the event that the study raised questions about the role of professors which remained unclear both to those with the title and to their more junior colleagues.
"The role, like the term, is unclearly defined: not only is there diversity on a global level about what is understood by the terms 'professor' and 'professorial' but even within the UK...there are differences - between institutions, disciplines and individuals - in expectations of what a professor should do," she told the conference.