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We’re still here.

Yes, we haven’t posted for a while but we’re still here. Still thinking, still working on our few words. Still (with)standing.

Why are we still here? We’ve asked ourselves this question quite a few times over the last 18 months or so. And we’ve partly answered on Twitter and on our own blogs and we’ve also stayed quiet, because in some instances, there has been too much to say, too much to take in, too much to process, too much to get through.

And we’ve been rather tired.

But we’re making the most of the tiny swell of energy that’s come from this news, and from a few paragraphs in the always-informative Campus Morning Mail newsletter, May 2, 2017 :

Casual but professional

Leo Goedegebuure and Peter Bentley from the L H Martin Institute have crunched the numbers and found no evidence that increased teaching by casuals causes a crunch in classroom quality. While Professor Goedegebuure warns that the results are based on limited data, the results, he says, “are pretty robust.”

Goedegebuure and Bentley will present their findings at the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association conference in Sydney this week.

Simon Birmingham is a bit busy with a budget plan to sell scholars into slavery (if hysterics in the gallery are to be believed), but you can bet the news that low-cost casuals do not harm learning and teaching will interest him mightily.

Professor Goedegeburre and Dr Bentley report that between 2007 and 2014 the use of casual staff increased in all disciplines, notably in education, architecture and creative arts with the lowest growth in agriculture and natural and physical sciences.

Looking specifically at management and commerce and natural sciences, they find no correlation between quality as measured in student surveys and increasing use of casual teaching. “If the focus is on improving the student experience, the contract status of staff probably is a very minor factor,” they conclude.

Yep, so we’re still here. Doing what we’re contracted to do. (‘What do you do?’ ‘Oh, I’m a contracted university student experience improver’.)

Also, the academic workforce is now a fungible workforce.

Also, because casualisation (adjunctification, sessionalisation, zero-hour contracts) is now the norm, the trap, and the great shame of this profession.

Also, because anybody who has depended on casual work to earn a living in Australia is likely to be caught up in this and this  and this , with people from all walks of life and working in all sorts of sectors and industries, sharing stories here.

Because teaching has somehow inexplicably become something Other than fundamental to research, research training, and research communication. No links here, just a statement.

And then –  we’re still here because of this surprisingly positive vision from an unlikely source (the event that provoked and inspired us to start CASA three years ago). It’s when you get down to the bottom.

So we’re still here, looking out the windows of CASA to this new view, yet still asking how to move the landslide roadblock that the casualisation of knowledge work really is.

What do we need to do differently? Besides improve the student experience.


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