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Third Space Learning Circle

The Third Space Learning Circle is for anyone at Warwick who considers themselves a third space professional and would like to be involved in discussions on the opportunities and challenges that this presents at Warwick.

Whitchurch (2009, p. 407) defines third space professionals as those ‘with identities drawn from both professional and academic domains.’ Given that this article is now ten years old during which time much has happened in the HE landscape, in the first instance we would like to investigate whether this definition is still relevant to staff working at Warwick.

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Expanding on the work of the Teaching Recognition and Reward Learning Circle we would ultimately like to be able to inform institutional discussions at Warwick on third space professional identity; recruitment and recognition of third space professionals and third space professional career progression.

Latest update

The notes from the first meeting are now available below.

Older updates

Co-leads have had several preparatory meetings to frame their thinking about third space professionals and their role at Warwick. This is a very broad topic and one that needs careful consideration.

Literature on the subject is dated and often irrelevant. Many institutions/individuals have effectively jumped on the ‘third space bandwagon’ without really considering if this is appropriate or what it really means.

Individual meetings are taking place between circle members and co-leads to establish the themes that we want the circle to focus on.

Notes from meetings

Thursday 13th February 2020, 2.00 - 3.30 pm in SH2.19

  • Introductions including one positive and one negative comment about being a third space professional.
  • Definition of third space professionals - card sort activity in groups.
  • Terms of reference – description of the Learning Circle and main aim; agreed common goals; intended outcomes by the end of academic year 2019/20.
  • Prioritising our top two or three issues going forward.
  • Activity for next meeting – journal club activity.
  • AOB
In attendance

AB, SP, DH, MU, AW, HN and CB

We collated definitions of third space professionals from the literature and from the individual meetings with circle members and created a card sort activity. This is a copy of the original cards.

The purpose of the activity was to sort the third space definitions into positive, negative and neutral definitions to get a better understanding of how we feel as third space professionals at Warwick. The results of the activity are shown below:

Card sort image Card sort image
Card sort image Card sort image
Card sort image Card sort image
Card sort image Card sort image
Card sort image Card sort image

It was interesting to note that many of the definitions from the literature were felt to have negative connotations and did not represent how we feel as third space professionals at Warwick.

We then went through a summary of the themes that emerged from the individual meetings. A copy of this presentation is available here.

A number of questions/topics were suggested which we hope to move forward with in subsequent meetings:

  1. Establishing how many third space professionals there are at Warwick.
  2. How to map academic research/teaching promotions criteria onto third space/non-academic contracts.
  3. How to recognise the scholarship of third space professionals when no concessions are currently available.
  4. How to recognise and value the third space.
  5. How to create our own third space narrative at Warwick.
  6. How to disseminate information about Warwick third space professionals both within Warwick and externally.
  7. How to value third space professional research as part of the PDR process.

It was felt that networking opportunities should be made available to third space professionals as a priority. In the longer term a mentoring programme should also be made available for third space professionals.


If you would like to know more about third space professionals the following resources are a good place to start:

Whitchurch, C. (2008) ‘Shifting Identities and Blurring Boundaries: The Emergence of Third Space Professionals in UK Higher Education’, Higher Education Quarterly, 62(4), pp. 377-396.

Whitchurch, C. (2009) ‘The rise of the blended professional in higher education: a comparison between the UK, Australia and the United States’, Higher Education, 58(3), pp. 407-418.

Kubiak, C., Cameron, S., Conole, G., Fenton-O’Creevy, M., Mylrea, P., Rees, E. and Shreeve, A. ‘Multimembership and identification’ in Wenger-Trayner, E. (2015) Learning in Landscapes of Practice: Boundaries, identity, and knowledgeability in practice-based learning. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Abigail Ball (CTE) Co-lead Third Space Learning Circle

Abigail Ball photo

Sue Parr (WMG) Co-lead Third Space Learning Circle

Sue Parr photo

Click on their pictures to find out more about Abi and Sue.

Current membership list:

  • Christine Bradford (Library)
  • Rebecca Freeman (Education Executive)
  • Emily Hargreaves (Philosophy)
  • Dr Damien Homer (Widening Participation)
  • Jessica Humphreys (ADC)
  • Helen Nolan (WMS)
  • Emily Reid (Careers and Skills)
  • Michele Underwood (Doctoral College)
  • Anne Wilson (Careers and Skills)

For further information on this Learning Circle or if you are a WIHEA Fellow interested in joining, please contact: or