Professor, Vice Principal Rosemary Deem

Who is Actually Working in the Contemporary University and Who Values That Work? – A Rethinking of the New Meaning of Valuable Work in the Academy
(click the header to read the full presentation, please)

Rosemary Deem
University of London



Exploring a paradox in 21st century universities whereby in an complex organisational environment where many different kinds of work and workers contribute to university work,  including students (as paid employees), academics, professional service staff, managers and manual workers, nevertheless it is sometimes claimed that only some of the work carried out within higher education institutions is of value.  Typically this claim arises during debates about the declining power of academic staff under regimes of neo-liberalism and new managerialism (Lorenz 2012, Fredman and Doughney 2012) which document the growing power of managers and administrators, and the increasing importance of technical  and administrative knowledge over academic knowledge, whether in relation to audit and quality assessment  or academic performance management and surveillance.   Managers and administrators are effectively accused of not doing real or valuable work that is perceived as actively detracting from the importance and value of academic work.  Academic work itself is in a process of considerable change (Musselin 2009, Bentley and Kyvik 2012) as higher education systems and institutions around the world grapple with the continuing consequences of financial crises and austerity as well as a greater emphasis on performativity but it is interesting to reflect on how, by questioning the value of work done by administrators and by implication also manual workers, who increasingly include universities’ own students, how critiques about neo liberalism and new managerialism in the academy can lead to downplaying and devaluing of any work in higher education not carried out by academics.  The paper concludes by asking what the consequences of such critiques are for power relations in universities between different categories of worker and for valuing the work of professional service and manual staff without whom it is arguable whether universities would be able to function properly and academics would be able to work effectively. Is it time that academics re-examined their notions of valuable work in the academy?

Bentley, P., and Kyvik, S. (2012). "Academic work from a comparative perspective: a survey of faculty working time across 13 countries." Higher Education, 63(4), 529-547

Fredman, N., and Doughney, J. (2102). "Academic dissatisfaction, managerial change and neo-liberalism." Higher Education, 64(1), 41-58.

Lorenz, C. (2012). "If You're So Smart, Why Are You under Surveillance? Universities, Neoliberalism, and New Public Management?" Critical Enquiry, 38(3), 599-629.

Musselin, C. (2009). Towards A Sociology Of Academic Work: Springer.


Rosemary Deem is Vice Principal (Education), Dean of the Doctoral School and Professor of Higher Education Management at Royal Holloway, University of London, UK.  

An Academician of the UK Academy of Social Sciences, Rosemary is a sociologist who has also worked at Loughborough, York, the Open and Lancaster Universities and the former North Staffordshire Polytechnic. At Lancaster she was Dean of Social Sciences (1994-7) and founding director of the University Graduate School (1998-2000). She was a UK Education Research Assessment Exercise sub-panellist in 1996, 2001 and 2008, has twice chaired the British Sociological Association and was Vice-Chair of the Society for Research into Higher Education from 2007- 2009.   From 2001-2005 she was joint editor of The Sociological Review and is currently a co-editor of Higher Education (Springer).  In 2013 she was appointed OBE for services to higher education and social sciences.  From July 2015 she will be the first woman to chair the UK Council for Graduate Education. 

Her research interests include HE policy, leadership, governance and management; academic work; research excellence evaluations; inequality and diversity in educational settings; doctoral training; the purposes of universities.


20014 Turun yliopisto, Finland
Tel. +358 29 450 5000

People search

 Tilaa RSS:
Seuraa meitä: 
© Turun Yliopisto