Making it work in practice: how heads of quality negotiate the third space

Making it work in practice: how heads of quality negotiate the third space
Author: Renyard, Jon (5 June 2024)


Recent decades have seen increasingly complex external regulation applied to higher education providers. This has accentuated the role of heads of quality, who require considerable specialist knowledge and insight to ensure that organisational practices align with regulatory expectations. However, while the existing literature recognises that heads of quality do not perform a uniform role, it does not typically discuss the key organisational features which explain the differences in the role or necessarily position of heads of quality as third space professionals. Drawing on a comparative case study of three universities, the article extends our understanding by confirming that heads of quality can legitimately be termed third space professionals and by showing that heads of quality must navigate their environment in different ways according to the degree of access to the third space offered by their organisation. A more structurally situated explanation of third space activity is thus required. The article also reflects on the tendency to discuss a particular group of third space professionals and to characterise their experience as though it were broadly common. It argues for a more nuanced explanation, taking account of organisational structure as a further variable which may help to explain the experience of the third space professional.

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