The Culture of Scholarship

Analyzing the culture of scholarship, like any other organizational culture, we are supposed to look at both ‘cultural prohibitions’ and ‘cultural imperatives’ (Beach, 2006, p.30), which are encoded into the academic artifacts (college logos, symbols, dress code, rituals and ceremonies, mimics and body language), the mission and goals of the academy, the beliefs and values shared by its members.

The artifacts are probably the first that catch the eye. However, as they differ widely from university to university and from country to country, I believe, they could be downgraded to subcultures and be left out of the frame of this discussion.

It is essential to concentrate on the more universal values and beliefs shared by scholars worldwide. Education on the international level is increasingly (though with various degrees of success) showing a universal pattern, borrowed from the United States and Great Britain. And even if individual countries occasionally show endemic patterns, they are more likely than not to follow suit if they are to participate in the global academic network (see what the Bologna process is doing to Eastern Europe and Russia). It would not be an exaggeration to say that the British and the American culture of scholarship have the same global influence on the respective cultures of other countries as top management subculture has on all the subcultures to be found within an organization. As Mary Jo Hatch puts it in Organizations: A Very Short Introduction:

. . . non-dominant subcultures usually orient themselves around the top management subculture. Most will publicly embrace the corporate culture in order to maintain themselves as members in good standing. However, this does not always mean their subculture is in harmony or even supportive of the corporate culture. A counter-cultural orientation to top management will sometimes occur in organizations, just as it does in societies.  Thus power relationship can create different subcultures within organizations.  (2011, p.70)

Thus, if we focus on the development of culture of scholarship in the US or the UK, we would be looking at the present or future state of culture of scholarship in most of the countries worlwide. However, it would be useful and mutually academically benefitial if academic globalization were accompanied with academic glocalization, which is not the case now.

The goals, mission and content of higher education in the United States have been repeatedly modified (changed mildly) and redefined (changed dramatically) in the past 300 years. Ernest L. Boyer (1990) identifies and elaborates on the three stages of higher education structure and purpose development in the United States in Chapter 1 of Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. Examining the history of higher education, he answers the question that he asks on the opening page of Chapter 1: ‘…what it means to be a scholar’ (p.2). Boyle presents the evolution of the concept of scholarship in a highly coherent manner, showing how, under external pressures, the concept developed, becoming increasingly multifaceted until it came to be described in terms of ‘the trilogy of teaching, research, and service’ (p.15). The changes in what scholarship stands for had a tremendous impact of the culture of scholarship, or vice versa, were made possible by the fact that culture is sensitive, responsive and flexible, it is, indeed, ‘a mechanism by which organizations adapt to their environment’ (Hatch, 2011, p.63)

Chapter 2 of Boyle’s Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate is a widely cited piece of writing, for it offers a concise and consistent analysis of the concept of scholarship, which fully refers to the aspects of Culture of Scholarship. Boyle singles out (1) ‘the scholarship of discovery’ (p.17), which stands for research / investigation / ‘the pursuit of knowledge’ that ‘is at the heart of academic life’ and ‘must be assiduously cultivated and defended’ (p.18); (2) ‘the scholarship of integration’ (p.18), by which he means ‘making connections across the disciplines, placing the specialties in larger context, illuminating data in a revealing way’ (p.18), ‘interpretation, fitting one’s own research – or the research of others – into larger intellectual patterns’ (p.19); (3) ‘the scholarship of application’ (p.21), which presupposes rigorously servicing ‘the needs of the larger world’ (p.22) and understanding that ‘theory and practice vitally interact’ (p.23); and (4) ‘the scholarship of teaching’ (p.23), which Boyle sees as a synergy of ‘transmitting knowledge, . . . transforming and extending it. . .’ (p.24)

The scholarship of discovery is truly the oldest to be associated with scholarly activities (Boyle, 1990), and it is the one that makes academy insiders widely different from academy outsiders in terms of ‘institutional ethics’, namely, the ‘cultural prohibitions’ and ‘cultural imperatives’ (Beach, 2006, p.30). Every HE institution provides a handbook on academic behavior. The message of such a handbook is clear: fair play and integrity, that is, broadly speaking, recognition of and respect for the effort, hard work and commitment of others, a responsible approach to scholarly research, no scientific misconduct, no short cuts to undeserved praise. We should learn to live by these rules and these responsibilities for they never take a break either in or outside the academy.

The scholarship of integration, which means living on the borderline of disciplines, taking a cross-disciplinary approach, is what contributes to learning and academic maturing. It is like travelling across borders, selecting, building bridges and incorporating. Although higher education and research tend to become increasingly specialized, knowledge, by contrast, is increasingly generalized, incorporating the findings of a wide range of disciplines. Thus, it is worth while reading up in different fields of study before making conclusions. Otherwise, you risk being outdated and below the mark. Corporate effort takes you further.

The scholarship of integration also concerns the culture of sharing knowledge, being open to criticism, and lending you work to peer review and discussion. And never letting go!

The scholarship of application is what you and I aspire to, being on-line students and having jobs, hopefully, consistent with the field of study. Any attempt to apply knowledge and research to real-life situations requires and develops responsibility, consistency, determination and accountability.

I hope, you did not find reading this a total waste of your time. I highly recommend everyone to give Boyle’s Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate some time and attention even if you are not actively engaged in teaching. The development of higher education in the United States may be taken as a classic example of organizational development.

Thank you all,

Liutova Marina




Beach, L.R. (2013). Leadership and the art of change: A Practical Guide to Organizational Transformation. Sage Publications Incorporated.

Boyer, E.L. (1990). Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. Princeton University Press.

Hatch, M.J. (2011). Organizations: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s