From a gift to a gig economy in entrepreneurial universities and the implications for academic work

Year: 2018

Author: Blackmore, Jill

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Universities globally are being reconfigured by the pressures of massification, marketisation, internationalisation and technologisation. The organisational response in Australia, UK, NZ, USA and Europe has, to varying degrees, been that of increased managerialism with a focus on markets and research reputation in the context of reduced funding and increased global competition (Lynch et al 2012).  The paper draws on data from three university case studies in a three-year ARC Leadership in entrepreneurial universities: diversityand engagement involving 150 participant interviews. A feminist materialist reworking of Bourdieu’s distinction between intellectual and academic capital analyses the implications of managerialism and marketisation on leadership and academic work while tracking a shift from a gift to a gig ‘economy’.
The gift economy has been traditionally the basis of academic collegiality and the production of knowledge in the academy, involving time consuming activities of peer review, refereeing, mentoring, capacity building, organising conferences, editing, advocacy in communities so critical to quality teaching and research.  But the nature and purpose of the university is changing as is academic work. One aspect is the rise of contractualism (Rowlands, Rawolle Blackmore 2014) and the increased precarity /casualistion of academic work in a gig economy most evident with increased numbers of academics and senior managers on contract, outsourcing services, offshoring and partnerships. Market practices permeate everyday processes of the university with pseudo contractual relations between the university and academics (performance management, codes of conduct, intellectual property) between students and the university, between students and academics, and academics and research partners.  These changing material, social and cultural conditions of academic labour produce particular tensions for academics and their managers.
 A key aspect is the how academic sociality is shifting from one of gifting with the voluntary exchange of expertise or gifting to focus on the contractualised economic activities aligning with university and national priorities.  Paradoxically, universities rely on academics gifting their labour to maintain quality, to be ranked internationally as do publishing firms to gain profit. And yet gifting is increasingly devalued and rendered invisible in workload allocations which rely on academics doing the gift work in unpaid overtime. What are the implications of this for relations between academics and with the university?
Lynch. K. Grummell, B. and Devine,D 2012.  New Managerialism in Education. Commercialization,, Carelessness and Gender Commercialization. Palgrave
Rowlands, Rawolle, S.and Blackmore, J. 2016 The implications of contractualism for the responsibilisation of higher education. Discourse. DOI: 10.1080/01596306.2015.1104856