Published in the Journal of Further and Higher Education, this article is co-written by Professor Andy Noyes with colleagues from the university's Faculty of Engineering.
Technicians and technical staff are making increasingly significant contributions to the teaching and learning of undergraduate and postgraduate students in the UK. This paper reports on a survey of 1766 technical staff regarding their roles within teaching and learning environments, and a series of follow-up focus groups with 44 technical staff further exploring the roles, visibility, and recognition of technical staff. Analysis suggests many technicians’ roles have transitioned to such an extent that traditional lines between academic and technical teaching responsibilities, expertise, and contributions are becoming increasingly blurred. This trend is particularly noticeable for disciplines within creative arts but is also found in other discipline areas. This is likely accelerated by a competitive higher education environment and global graduate job market which incentivise skills-based learning and graduate employability, with a general transition towards increased value of ‘know-how’ as well as ‘know-what’. Although this can greatly enhance students’ skills-based learning at the hands of experienced practitioners, there is a danger that under-valued ‘cheap labour’ could be used to replace under-resourced academic teaching communities, or that technical staff find expansion of their teaching responsibilities are not being matched with adjustments in value, recognition, or reward. Specific examples are explored, and the impact of COVID-19 related disruption is further used to highlight these overall themes. The authors advocate for common understanding and recognition of teaching roles throughout the higher education sector, regardless of job family.
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Posted on Monday 17th July 2023