Educator-in-Residence Programme (EiRP)

EiRP facilitates active exchanges between the NUS academic community and distinguished educators from around the world

EiRP Public Lecture 2016 - Roberto Di Napoli

Ethical Interprofessionalism: Academic Work, Practices and Identities



'Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you’ (Ovid, trans. 2004)

This quotation, from the Metamorphoses by the Latin poet Ovid (trans. 2004), nicely serves as both entry and exit points to this lecture. As an entry point, it highlights the need for resilience that academics must develop today to survive (and indeed thrive) in higher education systems, which are arguably in a state of flux, both nationally and internationally, as a result of forces such as marketization as well as quality and audit regimes (Guzman-Valenzuela & Di Napoli, 2015). As an exit point, the quotation functions as a positive and hopeful exhortation to remain resilient and learn how to transform change into opportunities for innovation by rethinking academic work, practices and identities in novel ways that are at once mindful of tradition, yet also transcend it.

Starting from tentative definitions of academic work, practices and identities, the lecture will focus on the interfaces (or lack of them) between these concepts to illustrate some of the conundrums in which academic life is embedded.  These include the uneasy relationship between teaching and research as well as the altering perceptions of what being an academic means today: rather than being ‘simply' lovers and scholars of their discipline, academics are becoming multi-functional professionals (Barnett & Di Napoli, 2008).  The talk will pay attention to the ethical tensions underlying these trends, which involve on the one hand beliefs about education as a good in itself, and on the other an emphasis on its market value.

Going beyond dichotomies such as these, the talk will finally explore how, through resilience and patience (two defining characteristics of academics), we can perhaps start conceiving of and enacting fresher forms of academic life, which are based on what I call ‘ethical interprofessionalism’.  By this I mean those collective endeavours that take place in academic institutions and that are enacted for the higher good of knowledge and learning.  ‘Ethical interprofessionalism’ would mark a sector that is informed, as far as possible, by ideas and ideals of intellectual curiosity, respect, cooperation and fairness (Di Napoli, 2014; Kinsella & Pitman, 2012).

This will require, among other things, new ways of conceiving academia and the career opportunities it may offer.  We should recognise the complexity of practices in higher education institutions, and the contribution people make to these practices in different but interdependent ways that go beyond the traditional fractures between roles and activities (such as teaching and research, for example) and involve both academic and academic-related professionals in an institution.  The pain of change could turn into something useful, if proper recognition is accorded to all in their effort to imagine and enact novel and forward-looking forms of higher education.



Barnett, R., & Di Napoli, R. (Eds.). (2008). Changing identities in higher education: Voicing perspectives. London: Routledge.

Di Napoli, R. (2014). Value gaming and political ontology: between resistance and compliance in academic development. International Journal of Academic Development. 19(1), 4-11. doi:10.1080/1360144X.2013.848358

Guzman-Valenzuela, C., & Di Napoli, R. (2015). Competing narratives of time in the managerial university: The contradictions of fast and slow time. In P. Gibbs, O.-H. Ylijoki, C. Guzman-Valenzuela, & R. Barnett (Eds.), Universities in the flux of time: An exploration of time and temporality. (pp. 154-167). London: Routledge.

Kinsella, E. A., & Pitman, A. (Eds.). (2012). Phronesis as professional knowledge: Practical wisdom in the professions. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers. doi:10.1007/978-94-6091-731-8

Ovid. (trans. 2004). The metamorphoses. D. Raeburn (Trans). London, UK: Penguin Classics.


Educator in Residence 2016

Roberto is an academic with a national and international reputation. He is Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA). Since September 2013, he has been working as an academic developer at Kingston University London, where he is the Programmes Director at the Centre for Higher Education Research and Practice (CHERP). He leads on all programmes offered by the Centre: the Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, the MA in Research and Practice in Higher Education and, as from 2016/17, a new doctoral programme in Higher Education Studies. Roberto is also ultimately responsible for a number of pedagogic short courses the Centre is currently designing and has started delivering. Roberto is a member of the CHERP management team and has departmental and institutional responsibilities. For example, he leads the Centre’s International Links Group (ILG) and represents the Centre on the university-wide group on Educational Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).

Prior to joining Kingston University London, Roberto held academic and managerial posts in a number of UK universities (Imperial College London; University of Surrey; Goldsmiths, University of London; and University of Westminster, London).

Over the years Roberto has collaborated, in a consultancy role, with many international partners, including the University of Westminster at Tashkent (Uzbekistan), the University of Barcelona (Spain), the UNESCO International Institute for Education Planning (Paris, France) and, more recently, through a British Council grant, the Ho Chi Minh City University of Transport (Vietnam). Roberto also teaches and supervises students on the MEd in Surgical Education at Imperial College London. He holds a position as Visiting Professor at the Università di Teramo (Italy). He is on the editorial board of Innovations in Education and Teaching International (IETI) and Revista de Docencia Universitaria, Spain (REDU).

Roberto’s current research interests focus, among other things, on the concept of academic practice and professional identities in higher education.