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Title: Researching an overlooked workforce in a university : catering, caretaking and securtiy
Author: Meakin, Susan Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 2739 1590
Awarding Body: University of Wolverhampton
Current Institution: University of Wolverhampton
Date of Award: 2012
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The people who service the physical needs of university populations and maintain their built environment are barely acknowledged in the research into university life. An observed dissonance between university staff encountered on the ground and those appearing in the literature prompted this research into the work experience of university catering, caretaking and security staff. This thesis is based on a case study which investigated perceptions of this experience in an English university. Consideration was given to the contribution of these staff to the social and learning aspects of the institution. The research was positioned within the theoretical tension between the structural nature of the social determinants of work, and individual subjective responses to working practices. The format of the study was guided by Paul Edwards’ consideration of the components of a useful labour process analysis. The research strategy was an inductive single case study, drawing on ethnographic traditions of observation and conversation, supplemented by the perusal of documents. A first phase of familiarisation was followed by a second stage of interviews, participant and non-participant observation. Forty-five staff were directly engaged with the research with informal observations and conversations with others. Thematic analysis was used to consider data across the case study. English universities have been subject to structural change which have created large, fragmented and dispersed populations and impacted on the ways that the built environment is used. The formal work activities of these staff enabled the University to open and operate securely. They contributed to the social processes of the institution through their interactions with staff, students, customers and visitors. It is argued that they also had a valuable role in establishing a friendly, welcoming, supportive environment for students through discretionary, activity during frequent encounters. The work of these staff was closely structured as to time, place and task. These everyday social interactions provided an autonomous opportunity to craft their work environment and develop relationships whose significance is insufficiently explored in the current literature on low paid and low status work.
Supervisor: Cross, Vinette; Haynes, Michael J. Sponsor: CETL
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: caretaking ; catering ; staff ; university ; Security ; Student ; labour ; work ; welcome ; Orientation