Vicious circle

Academic insecurity and privatization in western universities

Authored by: Claire Polster

Routledge Handbook of the Sociology of Higher Education

Print publication date:  June  2016
Online publication date:  June  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138778122
eBook ISBN: 9781315772233
Adobe ISBN: 9781317677789


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Whether one reads large-scale surveys of academic workers, case studies of particular higher education institutions, or professors’ personal accounts of their daily experience of university life, there is no escaping the conclusion that Western academics are a troubled lot (Sparkes, 2007; Newson and Polster, 2010; O’Meara and Bloomgarden, 2011; Kinman and Ray, 2013). To an unprecedented degree, they are experiencing discontent, stress, alienation, and fear in relation to various aspects of their work, parties associated with their work, and the academic calling itself. Whereas many discussions of the informal and emotional aspects of academics’ experience treat them as unfortunate side effects of the ongoing transformation of higher education, this chapter approaches them as integral parts of the process. Thus, rather than describing or theorizing these aspects of academics’ lives, it considers what they help accomplish or what they actually do.

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