22 SES 11 C, Adapting to Circumstances and Changing With the Times? Is this the Dawn of a New Academic Professionalism in Europe?
The global financial crisis has affected Europe no less severely than any other geographical region. Iceland has gone bankrupt, in the Republic of Ireland all public sector workers are to suffer 5-8% pay cuts, and the UK (at the start of 2010) remains in recession with widespread unemployment. Moreover, by 2012 the UK government plans to have applied funding cuts totalling a minimum of £915 million to the higher education (HE) sector. Such scenarios are evident across Europe, where the impact on the HE sector is that academics who manage to hold onto their jobs will be required to do more with less. Indeed, in the UK case, universities are being asked by the government to review how they teach and conduct research.
This is not the first time that widely adopted changes in the HE sector have potentially impacted upon academics’ working lives. In the 1990s we saw widespread public sector reforms that included the massification of HE and greater accountability and performativity measures within a new climate of managerialism, fuelled by the pressure of keeping up with the rapidly expanding global knowledge economy. Analysts predicted - or claimed to observe – the consequent emergence of a new academic professionalism, which has been well documented (Gould, 2006; Nixon, 2001, 2003; Skelton, 2005; Taylor, 2006).
How likely is it then that yet another ‘new’ academic professionalism will be fashioned by the current financial climate and the radically different spending policy and practice that it thrusts upon European universities? And if such a ‘new’ professionalism does indeed emerge, what is it likely to look like, and how will it differ from the professionalism that it replaces? This symposium will address these questions indirectly, by a circuitous route that allows for close examination of the nature of what it is to be a European academic today. The three papers - collectively representing a UK, an Irish and a Finnish perspective – home in on theoretical and conceptual considerations related to academic professionalism, identity, and issues of structure and agency in shaping aspects of academic working life.
Combining original theoretical perspectives with empirical research findings, the symposium will address the questions:
- What is academic professionalism?
- What factors influence its nature?
- What factors prompt changes to it?
Gould, E. (2006) Professor or knowledge worker? The politics of defining faculty work. Higher Education in Europe, 31(3), 241-249
Nixon, J. (2001) ‘Not without dust and heat’: The moral bases of the ‘new’ academic professionalism. British Journal of Educational Studies, 49(2), 173-186
Nixon, J. (2003) Professional renewal as a condition of institutional change: Rethinking academic work. International Studies in Sociology of Education, 13(1), 3-15
Skelton, C. (2005) The ‘self-interested’ woman academic: A consideration of Beck’s model of the ‘individualised individual’. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 26(1), 5-16
Taylor, J, (2006) ‘Big is Beautiful’: Organisational change in universities in the United Kingdom: New models of institutional management and the changing role of academic staff. Higher Education in Europe, 31(3), 251-273
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