Boundary‐crossing and governance “space”

Adam Dawkins (Institute of Education, University of London, London, UK)

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education

ISSN: 2050-7003

Publication date: 22 April 2011



The purpose of the paper is to provide a personal, reflexive examination of the negotiation of the professional identity of governance services personnel as a specific role set in professional services in higher education (HE).


A reflexive framework is adopted, drawing on the author's own professional positioning and practice in a UK higher education institution (HEI). Drawing on, and challenging aspects of Whitchurch's typology of professional identities in HE, a “weak” social constructivist approach is adopted, through examination of the author's inter‐professional interfaces with the external members populating institutional governance structures. This epistemological approach resonates with an exploration in the paper of the author's interventions as secretary to the institution's audit committee, in production of documentation as a form of corporate knowledge‐creation and narrative production in a wider scheme of accountability.


The paper proposes that in contrast to Whitchurch's notion of “bounded” professionalism, the HE governance professional, in migrating to and from governance “space”, constitutes a mode of boundary‐crossing unexamined in the literature and policy.

Research limitations/implications

While adopting a self‐reflexive stance, the paper provides a basis for undertaking empirical research into professional identity configurations in the corporate governance of HEIs, grounded in the experience of the actors populating governance structures, including professional services staff, ex officio, elected and external members of HE governing bodies.


The paper contributes to an emerging literature on professional identities in HE, and to qualitative approaches to HE governance.



Dawkins, A. (2011), "Boundary‐crossing and governance “space”", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. 3 No. 1, pp. 47-60.

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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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