Value conflicts in academic teaching

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Many professors will recognize the dilemma when having to choose between the values of professionalism and of collegiality. Everyone will endorse these two values as important in academic teaching, yet professors sometimes find them conflicting. The central research question of this manuscript is threefold: which value conflicts do academic teachers perceive in the Netherlands; what strategies are used to deal with these conflicts; and what value profiles do they have? The empirical study took place at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Data from Q-methodological and 32 semi-structured interviews were gathered and analysed to answer the research question. Thirty-five of the 41 dilemmas found fell within three categories: dilemmas in this particular case study of higher education occur mainly in the area of quality versus efficiency, quality versus equity and between equality and reasonableness. Mostly the old institutional professional values (quality of teaching, equality, and reasonableness) prevail among the academic teachers. Yet, in these times of cutbacks, the tensions between the professional and economic value systems are clearly prevalent in this Dutch case study. The most important coping strategy is hybridization. This indicates something important about the profession of academic teacher. Hybridization is a strategy often used when professionals cannot choose between two values because they value both too highly. For better or worse, the academic teachers (in this case) want to guard the quality of teaching against pressures from career demands (doing research and publish successfully) and from cutbacks and concomitant heavy teaching loads.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-124
Number of pages18
JournalTeaching Public Administration
Issue number1
Early online date17 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


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