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Theorising Practices of Relational Working across the Boundaries of Higher Education

Theory and Method in Higher Education Research

ISBN: 978-1-80043-321-2, eISBN: 978-1-80043-320-5

Publication date: 9 November 2020


Higher education research is replete with discussion of boundaries imagined as structural constraints in need of removal or circumvention. But, while foregrounding national–transnational frameworks, leadership strategising and institutional structures, the scholarship is subdued about how boundaries are actually dealt with at ground level. How do practitioners come together, day by day, across higher education boundaries; and what is required for desirable practices to be nurtured? It is on this issue, and in particular the theorisation of this issue, that this chapter will focus.

This chapter presents and develops a relational working framework, based on the work of Anne Edwards. We highlight three core concepts (common knowledge, relational expertise and relational agency), disaggregating each into constituent features. We then apply the framework to reinterpret previously published empirical studies, to demonstrate its broad applicability. We argue that the framework usefully conceptualises how practitioners work with others across boundaries; that it helps us to notice how many boundaries are, in fact, routinely permeated; and that it usefully highlights important aspects of local practices that are easily obscured.



Hasted, C. and Bligh, B. (2020), "Theorising Practices of Relational Working across the Boundaries of Higher Education", Huisman, J. and Tight, M. (Ed.) Theory and Method in Higher Education Research (Theory and Method in Higher Education Research, Vol. 6), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 1-20.



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