Crafting professionals in UK higher education
: craft work logics and skills for professional practice

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis explores professional development in craft higher education (HE) and how early career practitioners develop and sustain independent creative practice. An institutional logics perspective is adopted to consider how socially constructed values, rules and practices guide organisational and individual behaviour, and the relationship between HE provision, independent professional practice and wider sector influences. The research draws from the growing academic interest in craft work and the existing literature on creative graduates which does not to date include in-depth discussions and evidence on craft HE. 
A mixed methods approach is taken to investigate four case studies of HE providers in England. Participants (n=82) include crafts educators, first and final year students and graduates up to four years after graduation. The project follows two lines of investigation; the first reviews pedagogical approaches for professional development and the student experience of craft HE; the second explores the early career experience and the skills and resource needs of crafts graduates. 
Firstly, it is identified how multiple logics – socially constructed beliefs, values and practices – coexist and compete for time and space in HE curricula. These logics are manifested in different educational practices for professional development, creative practice and academic work. The impact of employability agendas and sector challenges are also highlighted alongside the influence of educators and regional resources on professional development provision. The student experience of professional development and their perceived preparedness for professional practice is then explored. While issues with provision are identified, so are problems with student engagement and the perceived relevance of professional development education. 
In exploring the early-career experience, the skills and resources required for professional practice are presented as networks of interrelated creative and business components. A shift in priorities towards more traditional business skills and resources is also observed among graduates with more than one year of experience after university. It is then identified how crafts graduates negotiate their passion for creative work with the economic demands of sustaining a creative career, resulting in the adoption of different production strategies and business models. From this it is concluded that craft work, as a professional pursuit, should be understood as a hybrid practice requiring a careful balance between passion for the creative pursuit and economic sustainability. 
This study presents institutional logics as a useful framework for understanding the hybridity of craft work and the individual, organisational and societal influences on creative development and trajectories into professional practice, with significant potential for further application. Policy recommendations are also made to address the gaps in support and infrastructure identified in this research and assist the development of sustainable craft enterprise.
Date of Award1 Feb 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorRoberta Comunian (Supervisor) & Anna Woodham (Supervisor)

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