The transformation of professors’ careers: standardization, hybridization, and acceleration?

Article de Pierre Benz, Felix Bühlmann et André Mach dans la revue Higher Education.


Over the recent decades, the turn to managerial governance has thoroughly transformed the European university systems and, by extension, the careers of university professors. Scholars postulated that professors’ careers have undergone an increasing formalization, that disciplinary careers have been hybridized, and that new modes of selection and recruitment (through assistant professorship) have been introduced. This article, based on a case study of the EPFL Lausanne, one of the leading European technical universities, aims to understand these changes by conducting a sequence analytical study of the actual trajectories of professors. By studying the careers of 351 professors who were nominated between 1969 and 2010 at the EPFL, we first develop a typology of professors’ careers. We distinguish between “direct careers,” “seniority careers,” “conversion careers,” and “parallel careers.” We then examine, based on a series of binomial logistic regression models, how career types vary according to the nomination cohort, the discipline, and the recruitment mode. Our results show that slower “seniority careers” within academia have become more important in recent cohorts, that disciplinary logics still shape professors’ careers, and that new recruitment mechanisms, such as assistant professorship, do not necessarily lead to accelerated careers. This article contributes to the literature by showing that beyond the analysis of the institutional setting of academic careers, it is also important to study their actual progression.

Accéder à l’article