Hello and welcome to a quick round up of news that has some bearing on casualisation in Australian universities.
This week’s keynote event in Australia was the Minister’s speech to the National Press Club, which has been widely shared and thought about. You can read the speech in print form here, watch it here to hear the questions and answers, and see a follow-up television interview here.
The national reform debate has a strong focus on benefits and risks of deregulation to undergraduate students. So there’s quite a bit said about both teaching and cost, and more or less nothing about staffing, which is key to both. This is why it’s important also to keep an eye on standards for accrediting higher education providers, and means of measuring quality teaching. If both of these fall silent on the proportion of academics in an institution hired on casual or short-term contracts, this suggests pretty strongly that Australian higher education is open to higher rates of academic casualisation than currently exist.
This is a critical moment, especially for postgraduate students currently hoping to progress from PhDs to secure academic jobs in the next few years, and there are some obvious questions to ask. What are the likely future staffing profiles in particular disciplines, or specific institutions? What are institutions planning in order to attract, retain and fully support sessional staff? How will institutions represent their sessional staff hiring to students and prospective students?
And what will institutions do if their PhD qualified academic casuals don’t stay around to find out?
What’s happening elsewhere?
In Australia, we heard a bit at the beginning of this year about “portfolio careers” in which university teaching was a supplement to some other professional career. This week, the Chronicle carried an article by a full-time journalism professor off the tenure track who went into teaching in 2008 after retiring from “40 years in the newspaper business”, and now has strong criticism of state universities for failing to recognise that professionals with experience to contribute “aren’t desperate enough to teach for the piddling amount of money colleges offer for that skill.”
Rebecca Schuman made a lively contribution to the Leonard Lopate show; it’s worth checking out the very mixed comments to the show’s website. This one should give Australian universities something to think about:
Amani Bell and Rosina Mladenovic have a new paper out, “Situated learning, reflective practice and conceptual expansion: effective peer observation for tutor development”, and there may still be free downloads available.
According to the teche bloggers at Macquarie University’s Learning and Teaching Centre, the Faculty of Human Sciences is giving free iPads to staff in support of its push towards online grading. And in a positive move, this offer doesn’t exclude casual or sessional staff, although there’s a note to say that “conditions apply”. It would be really interesting to hear more about those conditions. But other universities who have been wondering if they could expect BYOD from casuals might have a think about this.
In other words, in a more competitive higher education market, which universities are thinking ahead about what students want and are not forgetting that these services will be delivered by academic casuals, who will need to be properly resourced, and trained, to meet those needs?
That’s all for this week. Thanks to everyone for supporting CASA, especially our patient new writers who have new posts in the pipeline. We’re both away from our usual listening posts at the moment, but as ever if you want us to cover something, or you want to write something, please do let us know at casualcasa dot gmail dot com.
@katemfd and @acahacker