Shaping the Future of Educational Research: Collaboration between Academics and Project Managers

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsOral presentationResearch


This paper reflects on the future of educational research by examining the emerging role of project managers. Increasingly their role is becoming pivotal in supporting those aspects of research, which are not strictly academic in nature. As funding environments become more complex, success in research projects requires expertise in accountancy, public relations, and the management of extended global networks. It is therefore telling of this development, that emphasis on including this group of professionals is found in the new Erasmus+ funding bids (2013). Yet, their role and impact on the success of any research project is still under researched and somehow misunderstood. In the UK the commonly used term research administrator brings to mind an individual who sits at a desk, files paper and send emails. Far from it, Kirkland (2009) and Langley (2012) have argued that increasingly this has become more of specialist role for staff working in Higher Education. A Research ‘Project’ Manager is caught between neither being traditional administrative staff nor fully fledged academics, they occupy what Witchurch (2008) calls a ‘third space’. Greg Cimmarrusti, was quoted as saying “Being a Project Manager is like being an artist, you have the different colored process streams combining into a work of art”. The changing roles of project managers are part of wider changes in higher education in which traditional binary boundaries between academic and administration and management responsibilities have been blurred. Simultaneously, academic pursuits, whether related to teaching and learning or research, are progressively more aligned to business models against an entrenched dislike and misunderstanding of what a business ethics can bring to the success of academic enterprises. In such a landscape, both academics and professional support roles undergo continuous revision, which however has tended ‘to occur by default, and have remained relatively unremarked and under-theorised, either in the literature or by professional staff themselves’ (Witchurch, 2008: 4).
Period3 Sept 2014
Event titleEuropean Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2014: The Past, the Present and Future of Educational Research in Europe
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionInternational