Boundary spanning as identity work in university business engagement roles

Lynn Martin, Pat Ibbotson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
123 Downloads (Pure)


The study explores how boundary-spanning is carried out to further community engagement in 15 universities of differing sizes/ages across the United Kingdom. Fifteen interviewees participated in a series of four semi-structured interviews, aged between 35–50 and with a first degree (with almost half with an MSc). One third were women. All managed their own teams and felt these were their base in negotiating difficult internal territory.. Here, boundary spanning is found to be synonymous with identity work, carried out to enable individuals to adapt to different internal and external conditions and requirements through processes of interaction and learning. It also suggests the strategic construction of identities to address perceived threats and insecurities - and the impacts of change, dominant organisational discourse and senior management on this process. Their job titles were not useful as identity badges to signal meaning, due to these being outside ‘what universities are for’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Issue numbern/a
Early online date15 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished online - 15 Nov 2019


  • Identity
  • Innovation
  • Knowledge exchange
  • Gender
  • Boundary


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