Exploring the role of professional bodies in HE policy development and enactment (1997-2017)

Robinson Canham, Alison and McArthur, Jan (2023) Exploring the role of professional bodies in HE policy development and enactment (1997-2017). PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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The study explores how professional, statutory and regulatory bodies (PSRBs) collectively, as a ‘sector’, influence and are influenced by government policies related to higher education (HE), professional learning and workforce development. The research question asks what the comparative histories of the government, HE and PSRBs activity systems tell us about how government HE policies are enacted. Professional bodies appear as muted or invisible players in the education system, with very little written about them, beyond their established role as gatekeepers to the professions, their role in establishing areas of specialism, and the impact of democratised knowledge on the privileged monopoly of the professions. Public confidence in the professions has been undermined by rare but significant scandals, challenged by politicians and populist politics, and championed by those who promote continuing professional development (CPD) and the value of expertise. The research uses Engeström’s Third Generation Activity Theory, comparative histories and oral histories to explore the interconnections between government HE policymaking, the HE sector, and PRSBs. The activities of these three ‘activity systems’ have been plotted in a timeline, starting with the publication of the Dearing Report in 1997, which heralded significant changes in the landscape of British HE, and concluding with a similarly seismic policy event, the Higher Education and Research Act (HERA) in 2017. Pivotal narratives have been crafted to illustrate factors at play during some of the most critical moments: changes in professional accountability by individual practitioners and the organisations that represent them; attempts by professional bodies collectively to mobilise as a sector; the process by which a new profession or professional body might emerge and how this can be influenced by government policy; and how higher education practices have been fundamentally altered by teaching excellence policies from government and the emergence of a new professional body. A number of conclusions about the structures, practices and impact of government education policy, higher education practices and the work of professional bodies have been drawn from the research which will be of interest to educational theorists, policy makers, and those working in higher and professional learning.

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Thesis (PhD)
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28 Jun 2023 08:55
Last Modified:
16 Jul 2024 06:04