|dc.description.abstract||This thesis examines the changing academic work environment in Australian universities and the impact of this change on academics. In particular, this thesis explores the lived experience and perceptions of university academics working in public universities in Australia. Across the globe, universities are facing complex issues that can lead to transformational change. The main drivers of change are globalisation, burgeoning knowledge-based economies, the rapidity of new technology adoption, and global competition. The impact of these drivers and the subsequent reforms are ultimately reflected in the changing nature of academics’ work and in their analysis.
Over the past four decades since the Australian government reforms in the 1980s, public universities in Australia have been experiencing change, mainly influenced by new political and economic ideologies, including neoliberalism, corporatisation, managerialism, marketisation, and commodification of education. The consequences of these influences are reportedly having detrimental effects on academics, whereby academics’ esteem value, academic identity, academic freedom, and academic autonomy are all undermined. Academics report experiencing intimidation, bullying, mistrust, and harassment. As such there is a need and urgency for a research study, giving voice to Australian academics themselves, to investigate this problem to better understand it.
The public university system in Australia is a vast industry with a large workforce, and the services it provides to the country and economy are many. University academics who play a main role in this industry need to be happy, effective, and efficient in order to be productive. It is therefore important to provide academics with a work environment that enables them to exercise academic freedom, academic autonomy, and an academic professional identity esteemed by their peers. Given the scale of the public university system and the impact of its services on, and economic contribution to the country, this study is relevant and significant. This study emphasises the importance of prioritising attention to academics to ensure that the changing nature of academic work does not result in detrimental effects on academics and that they can effectively operate in a conducive work environment. To date, there is little research that has focused on Australian academics’ lived experience and perceptions relating to their changing academic work environment. Hence this thesis is unique and significant because it explores the lived experience and perceptions of academics in Australian public universities.
The study adopts a qualitative research approach, employing an interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) to explore and analyse the lived experience of the participants. To support inductive research and commence a generation of “new” thinking, the data collection method consists of 16 in-depth, one-on-one, and face-to-face interviews with academics working in eight Australian public universities who are experiencing change. The study takes the approach of standpoint theory.
The thesis points to two findings. The first is the formulation of the academic predicament model (APM), which explains the erosion of academic professionalism and how the change de-professionalises academia in Australia. The second is an understanding of the conflicting forces impacting on academics. On the one hand, in the changing learning environments, academics are expected by management to be innovative, collegial and collaborative, and involved in excellent research activities. On the other hand, with changing university governance, academics’ autonomy and academic freedom are challenged. Academics’ esteemed identity is devalued and undermined. Some academics feel a sense of obligation to conform to Senior Management directives and adhere to the introduced mechanisms of accountability. They report being pressured and stressed by what they regard as undue compliance, competition, and university managements’ high expectations of innovative creativity.
The key recommendations of the study call for strategies for enhancing respectfulness and collegiality, strategies to resist constraining ideologies, strategies for resolving work intensification, and strategies for improving existing processes and procedures relating to academics.||