The marketisation of the English higher education sector and its impact on academic staff and the nature of their work

Taberner, Andrea M (2018) The marketisation of the English higher education sector and its impact on academic staff and the nature of their work. International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 26 (1). pp. 129-152. ISSN 1934-8835

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The purpose of the empirical study is to investigate whether, the impact of the marketisation of the English HE sector on academic staff and the nature of their professional work, are felt to the same degree in different English universities. The study was conducted between November 2015-April 2017.

Using the interpretivist paradigm, a qualitative, inductive approach is adopted. Twelve semi-structured interviews of 60-90 minutes each conducted with academics of six English university types (ancient, old and new civics, plate-glass, technological and Post 1992). Participants, who were identified by non-probability sampling, included professors, principal, senior and lecturers, and associate lecturers.

Six key themes emerged regarding the impact on academic staff and their work. The themes include: 1. Efficiency and quantity over effectiveness, 2. Autocratic, managerialist ideology over academic democracy and debate, 3. Instrumentalism over intellectualism 4. De-professionalisation and fragmentation of the academy 5. Increased incidence of performativity, bullying and workplace aggression 6. Work intensification The ancient university is least impacted by marketisation in terms of academic staff and the nature of their work. Next are the old and new civic universities, then the technological, plate-glass. The most impact is felt by academics (and the nature of their work) in the Post 1992 universities.

Research limitations/implications
There is a relatively small number of interviews in this study, therefore it is difficult to categorically correlate an academic biography with their opinion in the context of their university type. More male than female participants were interviewed. International staff were not interviewed, these could bring a varying perspective to the narrative found in this study. A mixed approach in further research would aid this objective. Some of the questioning in the pilot study was not as focused as any further primary research would have to be.

A further area of study, which could have practical implications, add originality and value would be to investigate how good practice in ‘employee engagement’ in the university context might pave the way forward. This has the potential to benefit academic staff directly and the institution, a win-win solution for all stakeholders.

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