Higher Education

, Volume 56, Issue 4, pp 423–438 | Cite as

Disciplinary and interdisciplinary affiliations of experienced researchers

  • Angela Brew


This article reports on a study of senior academics’ views of their disciplinary and interdisciplinary affiliations. It questions the idea that academics have a firm and fixed disciplinary identity from which they then act and suggests that academic work in the contemporary university challenges and changes how individuals view their disciplinary affiliation. The article provides empirical data that lends weight to critical questioning of anthropological metaphors, which have tended to dominate discussions of disciplinarity. It suggests that contemporary understandings of disciplinary and interdisciplinary identity need more fluid metaphors and models; ones that can capture the shifting and questioning uncertainties that give expression to the rhetorical and reflexive nature of academics’ disciplinary affiliations. The article explores the implications of a dominant emphasis on disciplinary relationships for understanding disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity and examines the practical implications for structures and systems that are designed to enhance and evaluate research and teaching within higher education.


Disciplines Interdisciplinarity Views of academics 


  1. Bauman, Z. (2006). Liquid life. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  2. Becher, T. (1989a). Academic tribes and territories: Intellectual enquiry and the cultures of disciplines. Buckingham: Society for Research into Higher Education and the Open University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Becher, T. (1989b). Historians on history. Studies in Higher Education, 14(3), 263–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Becher, T. (1990). Physicists on physics. Studies in Higher Education, 25(1), 3–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Becher, T., & Trowler, P. (2001). Academic tribes and territories: Intellectual enquiry and the cultures of disciplines (2nd ed.). Buckingham: Society for Research into Higher Education and the Open University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Biglan, A. (1973). The characteristics of subject matter in different academic areas. Journal of Applied Psychology, 57(3), 195–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bourdieu, P. (1990). Lecture on the lecture. In P. Bourdieu (Ed.), The logic of practice. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L. J. D. (1992). An invitation to reflexive sociology. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  9. Brew, A. (2001a). The nature of research: Inquiry in academic contexts. London: RoutledgeFalmer.Google Scholar
  10. Brew, A. (2001b). Conceptions of research: A phenomenographic study. Studies in Higher Education, 26(2), 271–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brew, A. (2006). Research and teaching: Beyond the divide. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  12. Donald, J. G. (1990). University professors’ views of knowledge validation processes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 242–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Henkel, M. (2000). Academic identities and policy change in higher education. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.Google Scholar
  14. Huber, L. (1990). Disciplinary cultures and social reproduction. European Journal of Education, 25(3), 241–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Huber, M., & Morreale S. P. (2002). Disciplinary styles in the scholarship of teaching and learning: Exploring common ground. Menlo Part: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.Google Scholar
  16. Klein, J. T. (1996). Crossing boundaries: Knowledge, disciplinarities and interdisciplinarities. Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia.Google Scholar
  17. Lucas, L. (2006). The research game in academic life. Open University Press and the Society for Research into Higher Education.Google Scholar
  18. Lyon, A. (1992). Interdisciplinarity: Giving up territory. College English, 54(6), 681–693.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Nowotny, H., Scott, P., & Gibbons, M. (2001). Re-thinking science: Knowledge and the public in an age of uncertainty. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  20. Pinch, T. (1990). The culture of scientists and disciplinary rhetoric. European Journal of Education, 25(3), 295–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Quinlan, K. M. (1999). Commonalities and controversy in context: A study of academic historians’ educational beliefs. Teaching and Teacher Education, 15, 447–463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Stoecker, J. L. (1993). The Biglan classification revisited. Research in Higher Education, 34(4), 451–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Vincenti, V. B. (2005). Family and consumer sciences university faculty perceptions of interdisciplinary work. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, 34(1), 80–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Wareing, S. (2006). How students learn in their subjects; identifying models. Paper presented at SEDA Spring Conference Advancing Evidence-Informed Practice in HE Learning, Teaching and Educational Development, Liverpool, UK, 8–9 June.Google Scholar
  25. Ylijoki, O.-H. (2000). Disciplinary cultures and the moral order of studying: A case study of four finish university departments. Higher Education, 39, 339–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Teaching and LearningThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations