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      The cost of managerialism in the university: an autoethnographical account of an academic redundancy process

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            This paper presents an autoethnographical account of the events associated with the author's redundancy from a tenured academic position at Murdoch Business School, Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia. It is argued that managerialism, a social philosophy that sees the management of a university to be little different from the management of a for-profit business, provided university management with a rationale for a course of action that imposed heavy costs on individuals and undermined core academic values. The apparent weakness of the protection provided by tenure is highlighted by the mechanisms through which university management exerted control over the academic employment relationship. The cost of imposing management's will to win at all costs corrodes valuable aspects of academic work, such as collegiality, trust and the sharing of information. The paper shows that the various mechanisms of control imposed by a university management that adheres to managerialist principles can destroy much of what is worthwhile in the university. What is left is something with little spirit and nothing worthwhile to manage.


            Author and article information

            Pluto Journals
            1 June 2015
            : 33
            : 2 ( doiID: 10.1080/prometheus.33.issue-2 )
            : 139-163
            The John Curtin Institute of Public Policy, Curtin University, Perth, WA, Australia
            © 2015 Pluto Journals

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            Computer science,Arts,Social & Behavioral Sciences,Law,History,Economics


            1. No attempt has been made to disguise dates or the name of the university. The author was an associate professor in electronic business at the time of the redundancy.

            2. To be fair, it is difficult to determine how much this was a genuine surprise to the academic staff union. It is not as if redundancy was unknown at Murdoch University. The union representing general staff had been dealing with redundancy and cases of sacking of general staff for some time. In August 2005, a small group of academic staff teaching in software engineering at a satellite campus had their teaching programme closed because of low student numbers. With hindsight, these developments (which had little profile on the main campus) could be seen as a precursor to the redundancies in the business school.

            3. The estimate of $A400,000 is conservative. The university's redundancy provisions under the Enterprise Agreement prevailing at the time provided the payment of three week's pay for each year of service. Pro rata long service leave and annual leave were also to be paid. Altogether, the four affected staff had a combined period of service of just over 50 years. Assuming a weekly pay of $2000 (or approximately $100,000 per annum) for each staff member, the figure can be seen to be conservative.


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