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Toward an understanding of how university apprenticeship programmes impact academic autonomy in the computer science discipline

FRANCIS, Janet (2022) Toward an understanding of how university apprenticeship programmes impact academic autonomy in the computer science discipline. Doctoral thesis, Staffordshire University.

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Abstract or description

Almost twenty years prior to this research, a “chasm” was identified between the computer science academic discipline and its associated IT occupations (Denning, 2001, p23). In 2016, government commissioned reviews confirmed a mismatch between the skills and knowledge of computer science graduates and the requirements of IT workplaces (Shadbolt, 2016; Wakeham, 2016). The chasm symbolised this divide. For this thesis, it represents the academic autonomy of the computer science discipline in terms of its insulation from external influences.

While various political initiatives from the 1960s onwards resulted in a reduction of academic autonomy in Higher Education generally, academics working in the computer science discipline experienced fewer constraints related to occupational requirements than their counterparts in disciplines linked to regulated professional practice.

The 2015 English apprenticeship reform introduced university-level apprenticeship programmes which saw vocational education extended to master’s level. These apprenticeship programmes were designed to meet learning outcomes defined by employer-led groups and approved by a government department. At the time of the thesis, they were funded through a payroll levy and as such provided a fully funded, vocational route through Higher Education for would-be graduates, presenting a clearcut alternative to the self-funded, academic route. The levy funding provided a financial incentive for employers and university managers to engage with apprenticeship programmes. However, for academics working in the computer science discipline, the pervasive involvement of employers and oversight of external regulatory bodies threatened to impact the levels of academic autonomy they had hitherto enjoyed.

At the time of this thesis, the post-2015, university-managed apprenticeship programmes were in their infancy and there was no research covering their impact on academic autonomy from the perspective of academics. This thesis is a case study of the perceptions that computer science academics in an English university had of academic autonomy in the context of apprenticeship programmes. It follows the Critical Realist paradigm (Bhaskar, 1975) and uses data from biographical narratives and semi-structured interviews. Data was analysed using Legitimation Code Theory (Maton and Howard, 2018) to provide a visualisation of the perceptions. The theoretical lens incorporates aspects of Bourdieusian (Bourdieu, 1977), Foucauldian (Foucault, 1977a) and Bernsteinian sociologies (Bernstein, 1977), alongside Service Dominant Logic (Vargo and Lusch, 2004, 2016).

The research found that computer science academics perceived academic autonomy was reduced in university apprenticeship work. Links between perception of academic autonomy and the background of academics were tenuous, but there was a much clearer link with the perception of the value proposition offered to academics through apprenticeship work.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty: School of Digital, Technologies and Arts > Computer Science, AI and Robotics
Depositing User: Library STORE team
Date Deposited: 14 Sep 2023 13:26
Last Modified: 09 Oct 2023 04:30

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