Change and stability in academic agency in higher education curriculum reform

Johanna Annala, Marita Mäkinen, Jyri Lindén, Jonna Henriksson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
46 Downloads (Pure)


This study explores academics’ changing agency in curriculum work in higher education. Bourdieu’s concepts of field, habitus and capital, followed by the metaphor of game, are used as tools to analyse stability and change in agency. The interview data collection from 17 academics was implemented twice over 3 years after two different processes of curriculum change at one multidisciplinary research university in Finland. Through narrative analysis, two storylines were identified. The storyline with changes in agency included transformative, sidelined and divided narratives. The storyline with stable agency included development-oriented, autonomous and opposition narratives. The lived experiences create habitus as it is, as internalization of social structures but also as unconscious enterprises to maintain old or develop new forms of capital through curriculum change. While competing for the capital, the habitus and the ‘feel of the game’ are shifting. The different narratives show how academics as players in the field of curriculum change have different access to compete for different types of capital. The results raise a question: who can legitimately become an agent in the curriculum process, and what qualities make for an academic ‘fit’ with curriculum change?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-69
Issue number1
Early online date21 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Curriculum change
  • higher education
  • field theory
  • agency
  • academic work

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 3


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