The shifting times of the Australian University: Struggles for temporal equity in higher education.

Year: 2017

Author: Bennett, Anna, Burke, Penny-Jane, Manathunga, Catherine, Tuinamuana, Yoo, Joanne, Bun, Matthew

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

As Australian universities undergo a major restructure towards market-driven logics of efficiency, profitability and managerialism, students and staff face a new temporal frontier. The way time is and can be used, the means of managing time and the eventual 'products' of temporal investment in higher education institutions are being profoundly altered. This symposium explores the 'timescapes' (Adam: 2004) of the contemporary Australian university, and if/how these produce new forms of temporal equity. Time, as a precious resource, is one that is central to undergraduates, postgraduates and staff alike, and must be carefully measured and manipulated to succeed in the neoliberal context. The papers in this symposium draw on important and intersecting issues of time, and time pressures, that are increasingly produced as individual responsibilities that must be flexibly and proactively managed.
In the context of mass participation, many more individuals enter Australian universities with limited access to the forms of social and/or cultural capital valued in HE. Yet, they must simultaneously navigate more precarious structures and take more personal responsibility for their success or failure at university. This inevitably impacts upon equity, as equal access ('fairness')-particularly regarding time resources-makes invisible the complex layers of time experienced differently by students. Students may be given equal access to resources and support but their means of access vary widely: from high levels of commitment outside of study, through to requiring more time to invest in learning curriculum.
Yet, as these time pressures change, staff must manage higher student numbers with few resources, while also responding to the precarity and pressure of academic life. On the one hand, casualisation of staff requires careful time-management for those wishing to succeed in academic spaces and, on the other, staff with a greater sense of permanence are placed under increased demands for output and excellence. The changes create an accelerated work pace, that sees work-life and personal-life become entangled. Hence, the Australian university has many emerging temporalities that are varied and intersecting. These are of central concern to understanding the challenges that higher education are undergoing now and in the future.