[URBANTH-L]Political Economy of Academia (especially with regardto Social Sciences and Humanities)

George Morgan george.morgan at uws.edu.au
Sat May 5 15:03:21 EDT 2007

I agree completely with John McCreery's observation the creation of an academic underclass parallels what is happening more broadly in contemporary Western societies, including my own (Australia). There is one aspect that has not yet been broached in this thread. In many cases it is tenured staff who use casual workers as sandbags against the erosion of their own working conditions. As funding for higher education declines, particularly in peripheral/ second tier institutions, so there are increasing pressures place on tenured staff. The decision to employ short term/ casual staff to alleviate the growing burden (ie those who are cheaper and a offer something much-prized by human resources managers: flexibility) alleviates those pressures. 

Higher education is unsual in that there is no clear line between who is management and who is a worker. Tenured academics might see themselves as workers by most perform some functions of managers. The decision to replace a retired tenured colleague with academic pieceworkers might make budgetary sense but does little to enhance the prospects of those in the secondary labour market. This is a complex industrial question for academic trade unions, many of which are dominated by tenured staff and have not fully addressed the complexities of the dual academic labour market.


George Morgan
University of Western Sydney

More information about the URBANTH-L mailing list