The work of university research administrators: Praxis and professionalization


  • Sandra Acker University of Toronto
  • Michelle K. McGinn Brock University
  • Caitlin Campisi University of Toronto



As part of a project on the social production of social science research, 19 research administrators (RAs) in five Canadian universities were interviewed about work, careers, and professionalization. While rarely featured in the higher education literature, RAs have become an important source of assistance to academics, who are increasingly expected to obtain and manage external research funding. RAs perform multiple roles, notably assisting with the complexities of grant-hunting as well as managing ethical clearance, knowledge mobilization, and related activities. Aspects normally associated with professionalization include organizations that control entry, higher degrees in the field, and clear career paths, all of which are somewhat compromised in the case of RAs. Nevertheless, most of the participants regard research administration as a profession, and we argue that it is more important to focus on the sensemaking and identity formation of these mostly female staff than to apply abstract criteria. Although their efforts do little to challenge a culture of performativity in the academy, and indeed may be regarded as supporting it, the RAs have defined for themselves a praxis dedicated to easing the burdens of the academics, helping one another, and contributing to the greater good of the university and the research enterprise.




How to Cite

Acker, S., McGinn, M. K., & Campisi, C. (2019). The work of university research administrators: Praxis and professionalization. Journal of Praxis in Higher Education, 1(1), pp. 61–85.



Research Articles (peer-reviewed)