Original Research

Perceived career management challenges of academics at a South African university

Nina Barnes, Marieta du Plessis, José Frantz
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 19 | a1515 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v19i0.1515 | © 2021 Nina Barnes, Marieta du Plessis, José Frantz | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 November 2020 | Published: 22 April 2021

About the author(s)

Nina Barnes, Department of Industrial Psychology, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Marieta du Plessis, Department of Industrial Psychology, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
José Frantz, Department of Physiotherapy, DVC Research and Innovation, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa


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Abstract

Orientation: Understanding academic career challenges is important at a national and global level, to support academic career progression. Whilst challenges are identified in academic career literature, higher education institutions are identified as complex interdependent structures and, therefore, encouraged to be studied from a perspective of interdependency and complexity.

Research purpose: To explore and describe the perceived career management challenges of academics at a South African university.

Motivation for the study: To address the need for an integrated approach, from an individual and organisational perspective, through a systems-thinking framework (STF), which acknowledges academic career progression as an interdependent and complex system.

Research approach/design and method: A qualitative, phenomenological approach, through individual semi-structured interviews with 17 academics, across all career phases.

Main findings: The study confirmed typical challenges captured in literature, and identified a number of additional challenges, through a systems thinking approach, as perceived by academics in all career phases. Challenges were identified at individual, departmental, organisational and societal levels. Personality; holistic well-being; team dynamic; institutional culture; role transition; institutional strategies, policies, systems and support, interpersonal/peer support; social culture in which university is located; regulatory bodies; and external stakeholders are new contributions to the existing literature/knowledge.

Contribution/value-add: An understanding of career management challenges, as perceived by academics, for the purpose of strategy development. In addition, - to provide leaders and talent management practitioners in the higher education sector with the components to consider, through a systems thinking approach, when reproducing contextually sensitive maps and negotiating the landscape for academic career success.


Keywords

career management; academic career challenges; higher education; systems-thinking framework; career development

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