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Posted: July 10, 2020 by zombieacademy in Academy, Uncategorized

An open letter from the Australian academic community.


Posted: June 22, 2020 by zombieacademy in Academy, Uncategorized
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In a gratifying vindication of the effectiveness of decades of rigorous cultural Marxism and deplatforming on campus, on Friday the education minister, some guy, produced an effort to mangle public funding for most humanities and social sciences education in Australia. Exhibiting a cavalier disregard for empirical reality, this incompetent and unconvincing manoeuvre is of a piece with the short-sighted and vindictive ideological approach taken by the current government to higher education. Savaging local economies during a recession, exacerbating already chronic precarity in the sector, and insulting low-income and female school leavers, the minister fails to comprehend that these people are even more worrying when recognising and defending their common interests than when toiling in their overcrowded Zoom tutorials and online forums. Look out, we’re onto you.

Call for book chapter contributions:

Doing Academic Careers Differently: Portraits of academic life

Editors: Sarah Robinson, University of Glasgow; Alexandra Bristow, The Open University; Olivier Ratle, University of the West of England.

Academic career trajectories have for some time been becoming more normative and prescribed. Ideals of what makes a good or successful academic are increasingly seen through the achievement of various institutionally set targets such as publications in top journals and high teaching scores, and through performance management systems which routinely review individuals across a considerable number of pre-determined criteria. Academics are encouraged to carefully cultivate their ‘research profiles’ and digital presence, displaying their ‘H index’ scores, high-level publications and esteem factors and publicly showing allegiance to such externally set manifestations of ‘excellence’ (Butler and Spoelstra, 2012, 2014).

Anxiety to achieve such targets is high and academia is currently fundamentally unhealthy (Bristow et al., 2019), experiencing an ‘epidemic of poor mental health’ (Morrish, 2019) with widespread academic anxiety and insecurity (Bristow et al., 2017; Knights and Clarke, 2014; Smith and Ulus, 2019). A recent Twitter thread notoriously recounted that some successful academics regularly have 100-hour working weeks. How sustainable is such a model and at what costs does such success come? Perhaps implied in such expectations are views of the ‘ideal’ academic worker – maybe someone who is young, without caring commitments, without disability and prepared to engage with academia in very narrowly prescribed terms not of their own making. Perhaps also someone who is prepared and willing to identify a small research niche and to research and publish in this area for many years, targeting (only) the highest ranked journals in the field. Although this is a widespread phenomenon which talks to wider issues of Higher Education governance and management, it has been noted that business and management school academics have been particularly badly affected by the excesses of managerialism and control mechanisms (Huzzard et al., 2017; Kallio et al., 2016; Ratle et al., 2020).

In this climate, normative advice is given to prospective academics as to how to enter and survive academic life: you have to ‘play the game’, to have senior (often male) champions and mentors, you need to be well networked and ‘known’, you need to be visible both internationally at conferences and on social media. Such requirements imply global mobility and assume Western, masculinist interactive norms. How many of the current academic bodies fit, or wish to comply to such norms? The exclusionary nature of such expectations, practices and assumptions needs now to be critically interrogated.

The current Covid-19 crisis adds and will continue to add new levels of complexity to what it means to be an academic in the 21st century. This includes the increasing blurring of home and work boundaries and the rapid digitalization and technologization of academic work. For some, the pandemic may offer time for reflection on their careers to date. For others, the pressing need to balance home and caring responsibilities within a ‘working day’ may bring into sharp focus the growing rigidity of academic workloads and the impossibility of doing everything well. The need to reskill and adapt to different ways of teaching and learning design as well as to respond to mixed institutional messages may also bring new levels of anxiety and confusion. Tensions and contradictions concerning the nature of academic careers before and after the pandemic abound.

As such, this book aims to add to and develop critical academic career studies and critical university studies by challenging orthodoxies and power relations in academic career trajectories. Given the increased pressure to conform to norms and the potential challenges of the (post-)pandemic world, we wish to illustrate how alternative career trajectories can be possible and, in many cases, preferable and advantageous. We wish to do so by providing an outlet for those doing careers differently and/or not conforming to stereotypical academic norms and roles to tell their own stories on their own terms. In so doing we intend to disrupt the implicit discourse of the ideal academic type (e.g. male, Western, free of responsibilities, able-bodied, 100-hour per week working), thus questioning the sustainability of current ‘required’ trajectories and the system this supports.

Most importantly, through the contributions in this book we wish to advise and encourage those starting or considering an academic career in these challenging times, that there are many ways of acquiring and conducting such careers outside of the dominant discourses. Finally, we hope this compilation of insights into alternative academic lives will help to inspire and encourage current academics to re-think and take ownership of their careers according to their own terms.

In inviting contributions this book asks:

1. Are there more inclusive and less prescriptive ways of being an academic which play to individual strengths, motivations and vocations?
2. What lies behind the homogenised institutionalised masks (profiles) we show to the world? What tensions and contradictions have individual academics struggled with? What paths have not been taken or what stories lie hidden or untold?
3. What alternative academic trajectories have been taken that others can learn and take inspiration from?
4. How does the pandemic inform our understanding of academic careers, and how might ways of doing academia differently develop in the post-pandemic world?

In this book we would like to see these questions addressed through the stories of different academic authors from different stages of their careers and from different parts of the world who, through choice or circumstance, do not (fully) play the game/conform to the norms outlined above, thus challenging orthodoxies and inspiring ways of doing academic work differently. We encourage authors to come out from behind their official ‘profiles’ and instead to paint an individual or group self-portrait which reflects individual and/or shared struggles, contradictions and hidden stories. Provocatively, we encourage authors to choose and work with a metaphor or epithet for their self-portrait which in some way challenges current notions of the neoliberal academic. Some indicative suggestions are given below. These are deliberately ambiguous and open to authors’ interpretations however, so contributions are by no means confined to the following:

*   The accidental academic
*   The scatter-gun researcher
*   The caring academic
*   The non-institutionalised academic
*   The public intellectual
*   The part-time academic
*   The hidden talents academic
*   The activist academic/the academic activist
*   The veiled academic
*   The collective academic
*   The vagabond/tourist academic
*   The portfolio academic
*   The naked academic
*   The secret academic
*   The refusenik academic
*   The sustainable academic
*   The pandemic/post-pandemic academic

It is envisaged that most contributions will come from Business School based academics/management and organisation scholars, however contributions from other related disciplines are also welcome.

We are currently under negotiations with the publisher Routledge and would envisage a publication date of 2022. It is anticipated that final chapter length will be between 6,000-8,000 words inclusive of references. However, shorter contributions will be considered. Contributions using non-traditional ways of academic writing (Gilmore et al., 2019) and expression are also welcome.

Please submit expressions of interest in the form of a 500-word abstract to:<><><>

Abstract Deadline: 1st July 2020

Provisional Timeline:

*   Notifications of acceptance 28th August 2020
*   Full chapters required by 7th January 2021


Bristow, A., Robinson, S.  and Ratle, O. (2019) Academic arrhythmia: disruption, dissonance and conflict in the early-career rhythms of CMS academics. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 18(2): 241-260.

Bristow, A., Robinson, S.  and Ratle, O. (2017) Being an early-career CMS academic in the context of insecurity and ‘excellence’: the dialectics of resistance and compliance. Organization Studies, 38(9): 1185-1207.

Butler, N. and Spoelstra, S. (2012) Your Excellency. Organization, 19(6): 891-903.

Butler N. and Spoelstra, S. (2014) The regime of excellence and the erosion of ethos in Critical Management Studies. British Journal of Management, 25(3): 538-550.

Gilmore, S., Harding, N., Helin, J. and Pullen, A. (2019) Writing Differently. Management Learning, 50(1): 3-10.

Huzzard, T., Benner, M. and Kärreman, D. (eds) (2017) The Corporatization of the Business School: Minerva Meets the Market. London: Routledge.

Kallio, KM., Kallio, TJ., Tienari, J.  (2016) Ethos at stake: Performance management and academic work in universities. Human Relations, 69(3): 685-709.

Knights, D. and Clarke, C. (2014) It’s a bittersweet symphony, this life: fragile academic selves and insecure identities at work. Organization Studies, 35(3): 335-357.

Morrish, L. (2019) Pressure Vessels: The epidemic of poor mental health among higher education staff, HEPI Occasional Paper 20. London: Higher Education Policy Institute. Available at:

Ratle, O., Robinson, S., Bristow, A. and Kerr, R. (2020) Mechanisms of micro-terror? Early career CMS academics’ experiences of ‘targets and terror’ in contemporary business schools. Management Learning. OnlineFirst.

Smith, C., and Ulus, E. (2019) Who cares for academics? We need to talk about emotional wellbeing including what we avoid and intellectualize through macro-discourses. Organization, OnlineFirst: 1-18.

In a matter of months, the world has changed beyond recognition. Covid-19 has led to an unprecedented reorganisation of everyday life, with half the world’s population subject to lockdown measures at the peak of governmental response to the pandemic. These measures are being eased across the world, with uncertain and worrying consequences in the continued absence of the vaccine which would herald a potential resolution of the current situation. In its continued absence we face the necessity of institutionalising what has been called ‘social distancing’ but is perhaps better described as ‘physical distancing’, given the capacity of digital platforms to facilitate social interaction without the co-presence which is still frequently seen as its defining characteristic.

The impending arrival of the forthcoming academic year means we urgently need to grapple with what this crisis means for the future of the university. How will higher education be transformed by lockdown and social distancing? What university do we hope to work within after this crisis? What contribution should we make to building this post-pandemic university? The current operations of the university are reliant on the affordances of digital platforms and this seems likely to grow in the coming years, even if some face to face meetings resume in the name of blended learning and research capacity. This includes digital platforms like Microsoft Teams and Zoom being incorporated into the core operations of the university in a manner which is likely to be difficult to unwind at a later date, as much as it has served a clear purpose in the present crisis. For this reason it’s essential we begin to incorporate the socio-technical into our established accounts of higher education, opening up the ‘black box’ in order to understand the role played by technology in building the post-pandemic university.

However while we see digital technology as playing a crucial role in response to this crisis, the questions which the sector faces are much more than technical ones. Our intention is to facilitate a conversation which bridges theory and practice, analysis and intervention, animated by a shared concern about what this crisis means for the university and how we ought to respond to it. If we want to understand the challenges facing higher education, it is imperative this encompasses the range of potential responses to these difficulties and the interests and ideals served by these for the multitude of groups who will play a part in building the post-pandemic university. We hope this will be a broad and multifaceted conversation which brings together multidisciplinary expertise engaging with an eclectic range of topics rotating around the core problematic of ‘building the post-pandemic university’. We imagine this would include themes such as:

  • The built environment of the campus and how it is likely to change
  • The enactment of social distancing across the university’s activities
  • The impact of the pandemic on racialised, classed and gendered injustice
  • The implications of these changes for equality & diversity within the university
  • The impact of Covid-19 on the challenge of climate change
  • The search for new markets and products by education investors
  • The public role of the university and transition out of the crisis
  • Equality and diversity in the post-pandemic university
  • The geo-politics of Covid-19 and its relationship to global higher education
  • The challenge of academic mobility and the potential demise of the global conference circuit
  • The surveillance architecture inherent in the turn towards platforms
  • Labour relations during the crisis and what this means for the post-pandemic university

These are only suggestions and we welcome contributions on any topic which speaks to the broader theme of building the post-pandemic university, particularly if they also contribute to a broader exercise of mapping out the contours of the present crisis and possible transitions from it.

Please send 300 word abstracts to by July 31st with the subject line ‘Building the Post-Pandemic University’. We aim to inform contributors of acceptance by August 10th for an online conference due to take place on September 18th. We hope this event will be the starting point for an edited book so please indicate when submitting your abstract if this is something which you might be interested in contributing to.

We will release full details of the conference format soon after the confirmation of acceptance but at this stage we expect the bulk of the event to take place through Zoom with an as yet to be confirmed asynchronous component which will extend participation beyond those who are speaking at the conference.

*The Transformation of Higher Education: Acceleration, Platformisation and
*Friday, 03 April 2020, 11am-5pm in London, UK*
Register online here:

There is widespread agreement that universities are undergoing a profound
transformation but much less agreement on what these changes mean and how
we should characterise them. The Digital University Network has stressed
the role of new technologies in transforming practice within the
university. The Accelerated Academy has presented the tempo and rhythm of
academic life as an analytical lens through which we can productively
examine these changes. The Platform University network has explored the
cultural political economy and organisational sociology of the digital
platforms which are increasingly ubiquitous within higher education. In
this symposium we bring together leading figures from the latter two
networks in order to explore their intersections with our own work, as well
as how they relate to each other.

*Speakers and topics:*

*Assetization and the future of value in the digitalized higher education
Janja Komljenovic, Lancaster University

*Regimes of Sight and Optical Illusions in the Platform University*Susan
Robertson, University of Cambridge

*In Praise of Speed*Filip Vostal, Institute of Philosophy of the Czech
Academy of Sciences

Posted: January 24, 2020 by zombieacademy in Academy, Uncategorized
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The colleagues in management absolve themselves of any responsibility for securing the required funding (by, for example, arguing the case for public funding of research, say). Instead, they delegate blame, in advance as it were, to the academic community. This is a delegation of blame for some simple reasons: first, grant application successes are now extremely low, given the huge numbers of individuals chasing small pots of funding; second, the securing of grants is now, explicitly, taken as a measure of performance; and third, it follows from the first two observations that colleagues are being set up for failure in performance. That is to say: we have an accounting structure here, whose purpose is to jeopardize the secure conditions of work of academic colleagues.

This is what passes for ‘management’ – even for ‘best practice’ in management – in our time. It explicitly rewards those with money, pays little heed to what the money is actually for, but ensures that everyone is intrinsically penalized even before they begin their work as researchers. The point is to consolidate managerial power, to ensure ‘crony academicism’, and to tie success firmly to money-as-such. There can be no doubt that some will play the game and succeed. We can call this the monetization of compliance.

Docherty, T., 2016. Complicity: Criticism Between Collaboration and Commitment, p. 44.

Emphasis in original.

Posted: December 7, 2019 by zombieacademy in Uncategorized
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The West’s response to environmental issues has been restricted by the dominance of neoliberal economics since the 1970s. That led to hyper-individualist, market fundamentalist, incremental and atomistic approaches. By hyper-individualist, I mean a focus on individual action as consumers, switching light bulbs or buying sustainable furniture, rather than promoting political action as engaged citizens. By market fundamentalist, I mean a focus on market mechanisms like the complex, costly and largely useless carbon cap and trade systems, rather than exploring what more government intervention could achieve. By incremental, I mean a focus on celebrating small steps forward such as a company publishing a sustainability report, rather than strategies designed for a speed and scale of change suggested by the science. By atomistic, I mean a focus on seeing climate action as a separate issue from the governance of markets, finance and banking, rather than exploring what kind of economic system could permit or enable sustainability.

This ideology has now influenced the workloads and priorities of academics in most universities, which restricts how we can respond to the climate tragedy. In my own case, I took an unpaid sabbatical, and writing this paper is one of the outcomes of that decision. We no longer have time for the career games of aiming to publish in top-ranked journals to impress our line managers or improve our CV for if we enter the job market. Nor do we have a need for the narrow specialisms that are required to publish in such journals. So, yes, I am suggesting that in order to let oneself evolve in response to the climate tragedy one may have to quit a job – and even a career. However, if one is prepared to do that, then one can engage with an employer and professional community from a new place of confidence.

If staying in academia, I recommend you begin to ask some questions of all that you research and teach. When reading others’ research, I recommend asking: “How might these findings inform efforts for a more massive and urgent pursuit of resilience, relinquishment and restoration in the face of social collapse?” You may find that most of what you read offers little on that question, and, therefore, you no longer wish to engage with it. On one’s own research, I recommend asking: “If I didn’t believe in incremental incorporation of climate concerns into current organisations and systems, what might I want to know more about?” In answering that question, I recommend talking to non-specialists as much as people in your own field, so that you are able to talk more freely and consider all options.


That’d be Jem Bendell.

Posted: October 1, 2019 by zombieacademy in Readings, Uncategorized
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SD CfP 3 2020 – The academic profession in the making

Posted: September 25, 2019 by zombieacademy in CFP, Uncategorized

The academic profession in the making
Teaching innovation, digital, accountability and other challenges

«Scuola Democratica – Learning for democracy» | special issue 3/2020

Assunta Viteritti (“La Sapienza” University of Rome)
Gioia Pompili (“La Sapienza” University of Rome)
Leonardo Piromalli (“La Sapienza” University of Rome)

The arena of higher education is nowadays invested by several tensions. Actors, scales and stakes are being reconfigured and reassembled in the wake of social and political events which education institutions and practitioners are called to face on heterogeneous scalar levels. The academic profession is deeply implicated in this intricate and ever-changing context, as several complex challenges arise with which it has to deal with, e.g.: the engagement of universities in teaching innovation efforts; the emergence of reforms based on New Public Management logics; the plain-sight as well as concealed effects of digital technologies; the Europeanisation and globalisation of higher education arenas; the involvement of universities in ‘third mission’ efforts; etc.

«Scuola Democratica», one of the most relevant Italian journals on education, is thus issuing a call for papers for a special issue about The academic profession in the making: Teaching innovation, digital, accountability and other challenges. The extended call for papers and all details can be found at the following link: The deadline for the submission of abstracts is 13 December 2019.


Posted: September 25, 2019 by zombieacademy in Uncategorized