Early Career Academics’ Experiences of Precarity in the ‘Corporate’ Higher Education: The Accounts of the UK and the USA

Can A., Kınıkoğlu C. N.

BSA 70th Anniversary Virtual Annual Conference - Remaking the Future, Oxford, United Kingdom, 12 - 15 April 2021, pp.50-51

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Oxford
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Page Numbers: pp.50-51


Neoliberal restructuring of higher education and its crises, as evidenced in the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, have exacerbated the inherent stratifications of academia based on discipline, age, race, and gender, and further casualised academic labour force. The increase in fixed term and part-time contracts, escalating pressure on early career academics to publish, teach, and attract more research grants in a shrinking and competitive job market have pushed young academics into insecure work and life environments. Notwithstanding the differences stemming from their institutionalisation, the USA and the UK stand out as the two most prominent examples of corporate higher education that rely mostly on tuition fees and research grants. This study sheds a comparative light on how early career academics in the UK and the USA negotiate their positions in insecure academic work environments and a shrinking job market, particularly against the backdrop of an overarching hiring freeze across the fee-based higher education sector during the on-going pandemic. Since April 2020, we have carried out semi-structured interviews with 20 (10 from the UK and 10 from the USA) early career academics (ranging from new PhDs to those who have completed their PhDs in the last 10 years) in the field of social sciences. Our preliminary findings highlight gendered aspects and nuanced degrees of precarity experienced by early career academics in the UK and the USA in line with varied features of employment, work and living conditions, and how these affect the future of the sector in the Global North.