Third Space

Friday 22. March 2019 — Hotel Ador, Laupenstrasse, Berne

Discussion: Third Space – Teaching and Research as a Collective Performance


Today's research activities require highly-qualified specialists in a range of functions, for instance with regard to the organisation of working processes, to digital tools such as databases, or for the identification, preparation and examination of objects of various kinds (texts, collections, etc.). Teaching and research are increasingly performed as a collective activity. The changing academic landscape thus produces a third area between science and administration, referred to as «third space» in the relevant literature. It is characterized as both science-oriented and service-oriented.

Career at Third Space

In 2018 the SAHS published the report «Next Generation: For an effective Promotion of Young Scientists», in which the important question was addressed, once again, as to what kind of highly qualified personnel is required in the Swiss scientific system. Which career paths are open for highly qualified specialists in addition to professorships? Answers to these questions are essential, not only to offer advanced young scientists a fair perspective, but also to ensure continuity and preservation of human resources in a sustainable system. The following model was introduced in the report in order to encourage discussions:

Compared to today's Swiss academic system, the model put up for discussion differs primarily in three respects. In the suggested model:

  • There is the greatest possible permeability between the different career paths and the non-academic labour market.
  • The number of permanent positions grows as qualifications increase
  • The classical pyramid form of the professorial university in the German-speaking area is modified due to two new career paths for the upper career levels

Many readers of the publication «Next Generation» pointed out that the third space should not grow at the expense of genuine research and teaching activities, that there is a danger of using these positions as a dead-end alternative (especially for women), and that it remains unclear what is actually meant by «third space».

Identifying new positions in the science system

However, the aim of the event «Third Space - Teaching and Research as a Collective Performance» is to identify the growing need within the science system for increasingly collective scientific achievements in the light of new senior positions. Thereby, the associated challenges, dilemmas and opportunities need to be addressed. For the discussion, the concept of «third space» is to be thought of broadly, i.e. beyond the classical profiles of science administration.

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