Getting the gown into the town; accessing the liminal as a threshold for business students

Getting the gown into the town; accessing the liminal as a threshold for business students

Jill Tidmarsh, Durham University - Download slides here

This paper discusses the delicate process of establishing access to work based learning and mentoring opportunities for higher education scholars of business and management. More commonly discussed in ethnographies (Hobbs and May, 1993), issues of access as valid components of the research process are seldom or only lightly touched upon in most fields, including business and management. Likewise access is largely overlooked in course design other than in placement literature, where ethical considerations are central.

In pursuit of innovative scholarship opportunities for students to  fruitfully partner learners in business and mutually “add value” (Hughes et al 2007), letting “the gown” loose on “the town” would be haphazard at best and counter-productive at least.  Negotiating access and building relationships with gatekeepers (Bryman, 1988) becomes a public relations exercise more akin to the staged and nuanced steps of ethnographic access (Hamersley and Atkinson 1997) for today’s teaching focused academic.

 Based upon work with a business start up incubator unit in a regeneration region, this paper sets the liminality (Popova, 2014) of those in the setting alongside that of students to consider the access process as a first and critical threshold concept (Meyer et al, 2003)