Continuum: New Learning Professionals

Completed: January 2011
Leader(s): Professor John Storan, Dr Petula Peters, Kathy Wright
Organisation: University of East London
Contact Email:

ESCalate provided funding to support work with widening participation practitioners to be extended to staff managing student ambassadors and mentoring schemes.

The changing Higher Education landscape has had a significant effect on the role of academic and professional staff and profound effect on professional identity.

The aims of the scoping study were:

  • to explore the extent of support and recognition for practitioners;
  • to identify the learning and training needs of a particular group of support staff.

We set the scene for by reporting on findings from a recent focussed research project on the development needs of staff working in higher education with responsibility for student ambassadors, mentors and mentoring programmes. This work builds on previous research into the development, training and accreditation needs of widening participation practitioner (Hudson & Pooley, 2006).

An online survey of practitioners was used to gather data on both the previous learning and training that practitioners had received and to identify their future training needs. In addition the survey also explored respondents’’ professional identity and impact of location within their institutional setting. The survey revealed a string demand for current informal learning activities to be recognised and accredited. These findings were supported by practitioner focus groups which also explored the issue of professional identity in more depth.

These niche professionals working in multi-functional teams working on what Whitchurch (2008) describes as “institutional projects” are blurring the boundaries between previously well defined academic and professional domains leading to the creation of a “third space.”