The bridge from practice into academia

Susan Smith and I recently attended the Advance HE Symposium in York on Academic Career Progression. Delegates came from a range of disciplines and backgrounds but all had in common a passion to help those working in academia develop their careers.

Susan is Associate Dean at the University of Sussex Business School and I am attached to the Open University. We both sit on the ICAEW Academia and Education Community’s Advisory Group and were delighted when we were accepted to present the only practical workshop in the programme. We introduced ICAEW as a case study in a session entitled ‘The bridge from practice into academia’.

Susan began by setting the scene with some very well-chosen literature covering why members in practice move into academia, what might be the barriers to be overcome, what accountant practitioners can bring to academia and why it is important to support those seeking to make the transition.

I was then able to talk about what we have done in the Community to support qualified accountants making this move, including the Pathways into Academia infographic and the video clips we recorded at the Flourishing in Academia course which we ran in conjunction with CABA a year ago. (If you haven’t already done so, do have a look at these resources on the community.)

We then asked delegates to share their thoughts about what issues they felt colleagues might face if they moved from ANY practice environment into academia and wished to develop a research career path. We asked them specifically about the knowledge and skills they thought would be needed, the challenges colleagues might face and the people and places they felt they should interact with. We asked them to put all their ideas onto post-it notes.

Then the magic happened! Susan and I allocated their post-it notes to the nine learning spaces in the Researching Accountant Development Framework (RADF) and found that delegates had come up with very many of the same issues as had emerged from my original research with chartered accountants making the transition. As in my research, mentors were seen as a very good idea. And many of the same challenges emerged, in particular a loss of confidence after making the move and a feeling of imposter syndrome.

One of the key messages that came out of the research underpinning the RADF is that such feelings are normal - it is not you - this is how accountants often feel when they make such a big move mid-career. Susan and I can now report that this does not just apply to accountants. It seems that anyone moving into academia mid-career will to some extent need to reinvent themselves. Meanwhile the delegates went away motivated to see how the nine learning spaces in the RADF could be tailored to produce a resource for their own particular contexts. (Again, if you haven’t already done so, do have a look at the RADF here on the community.)