Rehabilitating Third Space Professionals in Contemporary Higher Education Institutions

Main Article Content

Celia Whitchurch


This paper updates earlier work by the author (Whitchurch 2008, 2013, 2018) to consider ways in which better recognition might be achieved for people working in third space environments, suggesting that an acceptance of Mode 3 knowledge in higher education, alongside disciplinary and professional knowledge, could provide a way forward in promoting their work. It considers how such knowledge is co-created between individuals and groups, often as a result of activity across the informal institutional economy, and how this might be used by institutions to re-evaluate third space activity within the formal institutional economy. This process is illustrated via a case study of a wildlife garden, which acts as a boundary object linking disciplinary teaching in ecology to engagement with local communities, the development of woodland management skills for students, and a social environment for both. Finally, the paper develops ideas about how organisational processes and structures, representing the formal institutional economy, might be adapted to reflect third space activity in parallel with disciplines and professional specialisms, including specific initiatives relating to promotion, progression, and career development. By contextualising third space activity in Mode 3 knowledge theory, therefore, it makes practical suggestions as to how individuals might be better recognised within  institutional systems, thereby increasing the perceived value of their work.

Article Details

Academic Labor in the Third Space
Author Biography

Celia Whitchurch, University College London

Dr Celia Whitchurch is Honorary Associate Professor at IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education. Her research interests focus on academic and professional roles, identities and careers, and on third space environments in higher education. She has conducted projects for the UK Leadership Foundation and Higher Education Academy and was latterly the Principal Investigator on the Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE) project on The Future Higher Education Workforce in Locally and Globally Engaged Higher Education Institutions. Monographs include Challenging Approaches to Academic Career-making (2023) (with William Locke and Giulio Marini); Reconstructing Relationships in Higher Education: Challenging Agendas (2017) (with George Gordon); and Reconstructing Identities in Higher Education: The Rise of Third Space Professionals (2013).