A University Administrator Inquiry, part 2


November 25, 2019

I was very grateful to Notes From Below for publishing my thoughts on the reasons why there has been an exponential growth in the number of people engaged in administrative work in British universities. As promised at the end of that initial article I will now turn my attention to explore other facets of the experience of being a university administrator. In this piece I shall draw upon my experience of working as a mid-grade administrator at a large, self proclaimed “research intensive” university to explore the technical composition of administrative labour and illustrate what higher education institutions are like as work sites for those employed in non-academic positions.

Around about five years ago-when I first went to work at the university - I was engaged through a temping agency to work in a placements team. It had such a large volume of administrative work to do that it overwhelmed the permanent, directly employed staff and necessitated temps supporting them pretty much the entire time. Turnover in this team was high, and from performing routine clerical tasks such as data entry, filing, and document production I soon found myself “promoted”, though still a temp, to being one of the administrators who had responsibility for part of the placement programme.

This role was multifaceted, but genre wise it can be broadly conceptualised as customer service. On a day-to-day basis, I and the three other people employed in similar roles, were responsible for liaising with the organisations providing the placements, liaising with students undertaking placements, ensuing a smooth flow of information between academic departments and the university’s central student administration, record keeping, and ensuring that certain pieces of required paperwork were completed. In this way, the role and its contours were clearly defined and delineated.

The university management’s sense of what these roles were supposed to do, were also similarly clearly defined and delineated. They were buying our labour-power to offer an experience to students that they hoped would improve key metrics affecting their funding, such as student satisfaction and post-graduation employment.

In common with similar roles that focus upon providing these services to students, this meant that the actual administrative component of the work was routine and required us to utilise - according to a timetable that was externally determined - a set of tools, systems and processes which had been designed by either the university or a funding body for the purpose of collecting, storing, and conveying information about student placements.

When a degree of variation crept into the work that we were performing it conformed closely to Arlie Russell Hochschild’s classic definition of “emotional labour.” This entails “the active emotional labor involved in [people focused work]… a distinctly patterned yet invisible emotional system—a system composed of individual acts of ‘emotion[al] work’ and social ‘feeling rules’”.1 As workers we were expected to regulate our own emotions when dealing with students, placement organisations, and other university workers such as academics responsible for advising students in their disciplines about placements. While using our social and emotional intelligence to apply the right amount of kindness, exuberance, assertiveness (and, on occasion, menace), we had to ensure that students, placement organisations, academics and other non-academic workers completed application forms, risk assessment, and mandatory feedback forms correctly and on time.

In these respects the first university administrative job that I held conforms to a generally held model of what office work and general administrative labour looks like. Whilst the managerial and work regime at the university was far less oppressive and intense, it was in many ways akin to that which has been explored recently in a number of studies of call centre labour, where workers mix basic computer, data manipulation and organisational skills with the real hard work of engaging at an interpersonal level with the members of the public who they are phoning.2

A Gendered Matter

It also corresponds with well established, traditional notions of what being a university administrator entails and the ways in which they have to conduct themselves in the workplace. Much as Jamie Woodcock has argued that social science disciplines have had a blind spot when it comes to the forms of social organisation, negotiation, and oppression which exist within the university, so historians have also been slow to explore the history of the institutions within which so many of them are situated.3 One of the few exceptions to this rule is the CCCS50 project which was undertaken by Matthew Hilton and Kieran Connell at the University of Birmingham between 2013 and 2015. In the course of their research, Kieran Connell interviewed numerous members of the iconic Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) about their memories of being at the Centre. Two of his interviewees, John Clarke and Janet Batsleer, mentioned Joan Good, who was the Centre’s secretary during the 1970s. John Clarke discussed her in passing whilst reflecting upon how the relative lack of “administrative support” meant that students had to take on responsibility with regards to keeping the centre running.4 Janet Batsleer’s reflections are rather more perceptive, recalling how when she came for an interview a noisy Gestetner copying machine was running in the office where Joan Good was trying to work, and that she was “very kind, very patient… Put up with a lot”.5

Despite the exponential growth in the number of people engaged in administrative labour since the 1970s, and the intensification of the amount of work in universities - accompanied by increased specialisation - rendering obsolete traditional departmental secretary roles like the one held by Joan Good, in many ways university administrators still have to “put up with a lot.’‘ Hazel Chowcat - another of John Clarke and Janet Batsleer’s contemporaries at the CCCS - argued in her PhD thesis, along similar lines to Arlie Russell Hochschild, that many facets of administrative labour are as they are because it is predominantly “done by women [and] imbued with patriarchal relations”. She gives the example of “buying presents for the bosses wife” as being something that a traditional secretary might be expected to do because they are a woman. Chowcat concluded that women office workers are “doubly controlled” both as women and as workers.6

Today universities portray non-academic careers as being far removed from traditional secretarial labour. Ambitious Futures (a national graduate scheme for aspiring university administrators) claims that “universities… provide a highly stimulating environment in which to make a career” and require “leaders of the highest calibre”.7 The reality however, is that the day-to-day expectations placed upon non-academic workers, or at least those not on sector flagship graduate schemes, is not so far removed from the kind of secretarial labour familiar to earlier generations.

The reality is that because it hinges so much upon the formation and maintenance of interpersonal relationships, just as I found when working in the placements team, a lot of university administrative work is defined by the worker selling the institution their ability to understand, comprehend, and meet the needs of others. In my final university role where I held a mid-grade research focused post spanning several humanities departments, I engaged in a series of examples like this. I often had to meet a senior academic that I worked with, who would request specific types of food ahead of meetings she held with postgraduates and research fellows. This led to occasions where I would be hurrying around campus on my personal mobile phone attempting to locate a Domino’s delivery driver bringing pizza and Pepsi, flexing my debit card (and claiming it back through expenses) to buy burritos from a student union cafe, and power walking to and from a mini-supermarket adjacent to campus with bags of Magnum ice creams and ice cubes.

The reason why I was doing this, and why my non-academic managers condoned it, was that funding these students and early career academics was connected to their strategy for the upcoming Research Excellence Framework (REF). The REF is a competitive periodic audit exercise which determines the amount of direct research grant funding each British university receives. As such the university, and my bosses within it, were trying to ensure the continuation of a stream of income for the university - and ideally increase it at the expense of institutions elsewhere. Critically, however, the fundamental character of this aspect of my work was focused upon the creation and maintenance of interpersonal ties between a group of students and academics. This meant that despite the major changes that universities have been through, it conformed closely to the kind of traditional secretarial work that Hazel Chowcat wrote about and which Joan Good was engaged in at the CCCS nearly fifty years ago.

What this indicates is that most non-academic roles in universities are gendered as female - with the exception of areas like IT and campus security. This was something brought home to a group of colleagues and I, when a middle aged male academic, walked into the office where I was situated and greeted us collectively as “ladies”. Sixty percent of the workers based in that office, myself included, are male. Indeed as a man working in an office based non-academic role, I was undoubtedly in a position of relative privilege compared to many of my counterparts who were women. Feminist sociological research has indicated that in offices, women workers are substantially more likely that their male counterparts to be expected or feel obliged to minute meetings, purchase the office coffee supply, and organise social events like Christmas parties. These are all aspects of what I have outlined above, which should hopefully be of use to anybody looking to undertake enquiries in office focused areas of the economy far outside higher education.8

In common with many of the UK’s other pre-1992 universities, the institution where I worked maintained a distinction between “Support” and “Academic Related” non-academic staff.9 This fairly archaic distinction, which some institutions have abandoned in form if not in practice, governs the terms, conditions, and benefits workers can expect, as well as the nature of the tasks they undertake. For the final two years I was employed on an “Academic Related” contract - which is to say - in a role which the university’s grading framework deemed to require knowledge, skills, and experience equivalent to that of an academic worker. At the institution where I worked, this also meant that my contract and the benefits I received were the same as those of somebody engaged in academic labour on the same part of the payscale.

On paper this presented a fairly attractive package: a good salary for the region where I live, forty days a year holiday, membership of the University Superannuation Scheme pension, and benefits such as sick pay, and levels of job security which are increasingly unusual to encounter today. It also meant that I had no fixed hours of work and that whilst I had been hired on a job description, my contract - like that of an academic worker - stated that my “actual duties… Would be confirmed by the Head of [the academic unit]” where I was situated. The latter two details turned out to be absolutely critical, and what this meant for me as a worker will be explored in depth, as this inquiry turns from exploring the overarching framework within which non-academic labour is technically composed, towards providing a case study of how it is experienced in practice.

In broad brush terms, my final job at the university was focused upon collating and refining materials for submission to the REF. When I was hired into the role, my understanding was that the core thrust of the position would be focused upon developing research communications and delivering initiatives to engage the public with academic research. This was something I was attracted to given my belief in the line: “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.”10 However, the reality, of course, was rather different. I felt out of place in the job from the start. However, the experience in its totality does provide a brilliant case study of an increasingly prominent form of labour on contemporary university campuses.

The university understood my job to be having oversight and providing general project management support to a suite of REF “Impact Case Studies” and the production of a statement about the “Research Environment” in the disciplines I worked with. On a day-to-day basis this meant I was responsible for maintaining an overall project plan. This listed actions and delivery times for the aspects of the submission I was responsible for overseeing. The actions I was working towards included collecting evidence (which could be attendance numbers, audience surveys, or letters of testimony) from people who had been “impacted upon” by collaborating with an academic worker, and storing and organising the information that was collected in folders on the university’s servers and on a cloud based research management database system.

In many regards, the actual contours of the job were not that different from the placement administration work I did years earlier when I first joined the university. Both jobs essentially entailed encouraging people to engage with a process of collecting and manipulating information to meet externally imposed audit requirements. Where it differed from the earlier role was that other than guidance produced by Research England, who manage the REF process on behalf of UK Research and Innovation, there were no clear processes in place to collect, store, and organise the information being collated. Because each case study being produced was unique, different information was required to support each one. This meant that whilst there was a single database system covering the university that this information had to be uploaded too, any other filing or tracking systems had to be developed by the staff working on the case studies. This meant that a lot of the monitoring and storage tools I used had been created either by me or another worker in a comparable job using standard Microsoft Office packages like Excel and Word.

It was this component of having to design processes yourself, or source a method of doing so from a colleague, so as to be able to do your job which differentiated the “Academic related” post I was in, from the earlier placements job I had held which was graded as a “Support” role. In reality undertaking them felt rather similar, though I had a lot more human interaction when I worked in the placements team and found students generally more rewarding to work with.

As my earlier example of having to buy lunch and snacks for a recurring meeting illustrates impact case study data collection and storage was not the only component of the role. I was also responsible for collecting, recording and storing examples of research related activities (such as editing journals, holding fellowships, undertaking public engagement activities) which academic workers in the departments I worked in had undertaken since the last REF so that the academic worker with primary responsibility for research strategy in each of the departments could refine it into a submission about the “research environment” in their discipline. To collect the information in the first place, in addition to soliciting it from academic workers directly, I was also responsible for searching for it online and set up Google and Talkwalker Alerts, which sent me weekly reports by e-mail, that I had to read through so as to see whether there were any relevant updates. In the overwhelming majority of instances there wasn’t. To store and organise the information once collected I used an Excel sheet and the cloud based research management database mentioned earlier, this was broken down by discipline, research cluster, and then by the name of individual academic workers.

Relationship with Academic Workers

What are the effects upon a worker of undertaking this kind of labour for any length of time? In short, the experience of academic related work exerts a heavy toll upon those who are engaged in it. There are many factors which mean that at the most basic level it is lonely and stressful. Whilst there exist teams, departments, and sub-areas of work where there is a high degree of camaraderie between colleagues, for many academic related staff members the experience of coming to work is an isolating one.

The way in which administrative labour is organised means that a worker will typically be responsible for a particular set of processes and or projects. It is a model that is somewhat akin to the way workers on a traditional assembly line work, except requiring mental and emotional labour as opposed to strength and manual dexterity. Each worker is responsible for a particular stage in the process, for instance logging and recording an academic worker’s internal funding application, passing the contents of the form onto a superior for a decision, and then communicating the outcome to the applicant and arranging-if the applicant had been successful-for the transfer of the funds. I frequently performed this operation as a routine part of my job. The only times in the process I typically got to interact with other workers was in the form of submitting rote requests for them to perform functions that linked into the process I was managing (for example, asking a colleague to complete a form and send it to someone in the faculty finance office to make a payment).

How such workers relate to others in the university, especially those engaged in teaching and research, and how they are managed, serves to compound a sense of alienation. My experience was that even though there were commonalities of material interest (for example, the defence of the USS pension scheme) between academic and academic related staff, the way in which the university was structured served to create a deep divide between the two groups. Some of this was due to the role that mid- to senior administrative staff play in making the university function. Some of it was due to a culture amongst academic workers (more prevalent in some disciplines than others) of seeing themselves as having a special status marked out by their professional identity and therefore - as if by natural right - having obtained a superior place in the hierarchy to other university workers.

For my part, I can perceive why academic workers might be wary of the function some administrative roles have in their workplace. As Jamie Woodcock has argued, in addition to their role in public policy and the neo-liberal state and capitalism’s attempts to drive the direction of universities, the requirements of the REF and the imposition of feedback mechanisms like mandatory student surveys, serve as a means for academic managers and higher education institutions to monitor and discipline academic workers.11 These measures seek to identify and quantify, in an inevitably crude and ununanced way, what it is that individual academic staff are spending their time doing. The data that is collected in this way feeds directly into the processes which determine academic staff’s career progression, from their initial hiring on a permanent contract, through what their teaching load is like, how much research leave they get, whether they gain salary increments, and ultimately if the institution decides to fire them or “encourage” their early retirement.

The fact that I was - ever so nicely - asking academics to account for what they had been doing since 2014, with them fully aware that this information was being organised and filed so that their bosses could make use of it, meant that I was not all that surprised that some were reluctant or not keen to engage with me. One day in the campus chain coffee shop outlet where we had our fortnightly “catch-ups” I made this point to my manager. She responded “you’re right, its very important that none of them think we’re the cops”. This response had an air of levity but I do not think she was joking. The reality of this aspect of the work I and my counterparts in similar roles were performing, as well as a general sense that we were in some ways heralds or agents of external policy development such as the impact agenda which they disliked, provided an understandable reason for them to want to engage with us in a fairly perfunctory way.

Having said this, it appeared to me and my counterparts that there remains an assumption amongst academic workers that they have a professional and disciplinary identity which cuts across or even subsumes their fundamental identity as a worker. This is despite the universal intensification of work in higher education, and the fact that academic workers today, are monitored and performance managed like workers in every sector of the economy. The existence of staff employed for their non-academic expertise, shows the university recognises the need for workers whose knowledge and expertise complements and enhances that of those engaged in academic labour. All while an archaic culture amongst academic workers, encourages a significant number to sideline, belittle and behave in bad faith ways with fellow workers there to extend their reach and effectiveness.

I encountered a range of different examples: from simply withholding information from me; passively aggressively copying my line manager or senior academic staff into correspondence so as to try and get me to do things or respond faster; selectively quoting things I had written so as to make it look like I was being mendacious; and beginning projects in expectation of my assistance without seeking my advice until they were already well in train. Much of this seems like classic graduate school and senior common room petiness, but would be considered highly uncollegiate if conducted in any other workplace, or indeed if a permanently employed academic worker behaved in this manner towards another academic colleague.

One theory which was suggested to me - independently - by a number of current and former administrative workers who I spoke to when writing this piece, is that some of this belittling, undermining and marginalising behaviour, stems from the historically feminised nature of much non-academic work in higher education. I find this theory convincing. On whatever basis, however, it led to situations where my counterparts and I, despite being technical and functional experts. were frequently frustrated by senior academics, who had very limited, or sometimes no project management experience, communications experience or experience of working with people outside the academy. This partly stemmed - I believe - from a culture where academic workers (at least in the disciplines I was working with) are discouraged from experiencing work in contexts beyond the academy so are not used to undertaking projects involving multiple groups of people with different needs and skills. It is easy to see how this could be frustrating, as an experienced administrator with precisely those skills. The situation is exacerbated by a culture which does not consider it problematic that academic workers are seldom willing to admit that they lack knowledge and experience and seek help from others in a collaborative and mutually respectful way.

There were also a number of structural issues with the way in which my role (and roles like mine) had been designed and how they were supposed to be line managed. At the university there was a central office responsible for coordinating and overseeing research data metrics and the institution’s REF submission. My post however, did not report directly to this office, rather it sat within a faculty and was assigned to a cluster of academic departments within the faculty. My manager was also not employed by the office who coordinated the university’s REF strategy and set overall policy, she was also employed by the faculty, except she worked across all the disciplines rather than just being assigned to a small group of interrelated departments. Her line manager however, was based in the central office, although she was expected to spend half her working week in the faculty, rather than with her counterparts based in one of the university’s central administration buildings. This meant that I was located three steps away from where the university’s REF policy was being devised, with a far from clear channel of communication, yet was still expected to be responsible for facilitating its local implementation.

This picture was further complicated by the fact that whilst I was supposedly responsible for ensuring the completion and overall “quality” of the information presented as part of the REF audit process, I actually had no way other than attempted persuasion to make this happen. In addition to having non-academic managers to report to, there were also numerous academics responsible for setting and implementing “research” and “impact” strategy at university, faculty, departmental grouping, and departmental level. Judging by the incumbents, the main criteria for being assigned the role of “impact” or “research” lead, was a track record of producing highly regarded books and papers (preferably through winning large research grants) or conducting relatively high profile public engagement and outreach activity (preferably through winning large research grants). Neither of these things actually pertained to having especially well developed administrative skills, strategic nous, or for that matter the ability to form interpersonal connections and build consensus and coalitions.

All of these competing centres of power and potential decision making lacunae, meant that nobody involved in the REF process really knew what was going on or what the end goal was. However, the amount of funding and “prestige” hanging on the submission meant that nobody was willing to admit this. Jittering amongst the academic workers leading the process of preparing for the audit (documents for which have to be submitted to Research England by the end of November 2020) meant that the overall parameters of what we were supposed to be achieving kept changing. This in turn unsettled the academics whose external engagement work was due to be submitted as examples of “impact.” This meant it was impossible for me to pin them down to plan how we could work together. This led to increased frustration amongst all parties involved and further breakdowns in communication. Ironically, given we were supposed to be going out and ensuring that academic knowledge was having a positive and beneficial effect upon the wider world, nobody whether an academic worker or a non-academic worker, was getting to do much of this. Instead we were log jammed trying to move forwards.

With hindsight, whilst my immediate counterparts working with similar departmental clusters and I were highly frustrated, the pressures being placed upon our managers were at least as immense. They were being told by every level of the university that they had to justify the amounts of money being spent on their salaries and benefits and ours. As such their stress at being made to account for this was placed upon us and we were given extreme reporting targets to meet.

As Mario Tronti argued in the mid-1960s: “the capitalist cannot know the working class.”12 So today as much as external metrics have to be invented to measure and rank academic workers output, so managers of those engaged in administrative labour must find ways to try and prove that their employees are doing their jobs. In what now seems like many years ago, my first manager in a university would set seemingly arbitrary targets for data input: “thirty student records created by lunchtime, one hundred by close of play tomorrow” and so on. In the supposedly higher level and more autonomously functioning team that I found myself in later, this took the form of ever more elaborate project management tools, an ever more segmented list of tasks and even as those tasks were not completed, I tried to find ways to incrementally increase the amount of green and amber colour coding at the expense of the red.

This frequently reached absurd proportions. I barely heard from any of the academics I was supposed to be working with between mid-July and mid-September because they were not on campus, yet I still had to try and find ways to illustrate that progress had been made on projects which had stalled. These increasingly complex gantt charts, service level agreements, and tracking spreadsheets joined the five tab spreadsheet I had inherited from my predecessor, which listed in great detail the inputs in terms of labour and money, versus attendance and completed feedback forms for events, every funding bid we had contributed to, how much it was worth and how much had (or had not been secured) and numerous other performance metrics. In this way it felt that my job had moved from servicing and facilitating the intangible creation of knowledge, experience and human connections, towards the production of a facsimile of bureaucratic attempts to monitor and account for these things.

In many ways the situation we faced as white collar workers at the university was not unlike that described by Max O’Donnell Savage in his piece for Notes From Below “Human Shields and Supermarket Managers”.13 In this article, he argues that the multiplication and relative disempowerment of supervisory workers in supermarkets means:

Supervised workers quickly realise that any anger directed at their supervisor is misdirected. If you have a massive go at a supervisor it’s probably justified - but in the back of your mind you feel guilt and pity, not satisfaction. Having a pop at low level supervisors just causes additional stress for other workers, rather than actually getting at the managers who make the decisions and reap the benefits. There is no direct power relationship with management, instead, the low-level proletarianised supervisor operates as a human shield. The internal labour market is designed to maximise worker compliance by creating internal divisions amongst an otherwise homogenous semi-skilled workforce.

And so it was at the university. The only real power that my manager had within the institution was over me and the three other people in the team she managed, and even that in practice was limited. Like managers across time she had no actual way of tracking or monitoring the work that we were doing, reducing her leverage considerably. Hence the constant requests for more and more in depth data and the institution of weekly “team meetings” and “weekly 1:1s” in the hope that it would somehow improve the flow of information within our part of the organisation and give her something tangible to feedback to her bosses. I did not take this especially personally, the person who was our line manager changed part way through my time in post, and I knew that the first person I reported to had taken the job not knowing that she was supposed to build a cohesive team from four (very independently minded) people and try and get it functioning as a whole. Her situation, being hired into a job that was very different from the one advertised, completely mirrored my own, so I had some sympathy.

For my part I resolved that as so much of the “impact” we were monitoring and recording was so concocted or heavily glossed that it did not actually matter. Or that it was in fact entirely appropriate that a lot of the work I was saying I was going to do was actually things I thought sounded good, but in fact had no buy-in from the supposed academic leads on the projects to achieve and deliver. Things rather came to ahead in late September, shortly after I had fully resolved to quit and walk away from the university. A team meeting was called and the overall head of our team from the central office began shouting at us in the middle of a campus coffee shop that all of the impact work we had done did not amount to anything and that we had not been doing what we were told to do. The upshot of this was that all of our workloads were to be reviewed and anything “nonessential” we were working on was cancelled. Everybody in the team apart from me responded to this with - rightfully judged - indignation. I did not. When it was my turn to respond I just said “it’s bullshit”. When asked what I meant by this I said “all of it, all the documents we’ve produced, all the things we said we’ve done, the REF, all of it”. Following the conclusion of the meeting I walked back to my office, logged onto the university intranet, entered the HR section, and formally tendered my resignation.

Impact

Reflecting upon my time as a university administrator it is clear that several key components of how the work is technically composed standout. The development of the neo-liberal university since the 1970s has meant that the increasingly large number of workers who are engaged in non-academic labour are in roles where they are responsible for collecting, organising and presenting information needed by the university to secure and enhance its income base and for internal management purposes. Universities now largely mirror the working conditions and forms of attempted managerial control long present in other parts of the economy.

Yet at the same time, the internal structures, attitudes, and outlooks of many people who work in higher education have not kept pace with the material changes in how universities are composed and organised. Some of this relates to the sexist treatment meted out to the traditionally (and still overwhelmingly in most work areas), women non-academic university workers, which relates to structural inequalities inherent in capitalist and patriarchal society, which universities reify and reproduce. Other aspects relate to the lingering sense amongst academic workers that they somehow stand apart from the situation and struggles of workers as a class, when in fact if this was ever the case. Today they and their non-academic colleagues stand together on the frontline of the struggle for autonomy and control between workers and capital.

I will write further from my personal experience about how resistance to these trends has been attempted, whether or not it has been successful, contributing to how non-academic workers in administrative and technical roles can better organise themselves in future.



  1. Hochschild, Arlie Russell, “The managed heart: commercialization of human feeling” (Berkeley, 1983) p. x. 

  2. Breaking the cycle, Notes from Below. 

  3. Woodcock, Jamie. ‘Digital labour in the university: understanding the transformations of academic work in the UK’, tripleC, 16(1), 2018. 

  4. Clarke, John (interview by Hudson Vincent) “John Clarke Interview”, Cultural Studies, 27 (5), 2013. 

  5. Batsleer, Janet (interview by Kieran Connell) “Janet Batsleer Interview”. 

  6. Hazel Chowcat Transcript pp. 9-10. 

  7. Ambitious Futures

  8. Camussi, Elizabetta & Leccardi Carmen, “Stereotypes of Working Women the Power of Expectations”, Social Science Information, (44:1, 2005, pp. 113-140), pp. 119-126. 

  9. In the United Kingdom prior to 1992 the government maintained a distinction between supposedly research focused universities and supposedly teaching focused polytechnics (in practice a lot of teaching and a lot of research were conducted at both, hence the abolition of the distinction). Before they became universities in 1992, the polytechnics-many of which have a pedigree at least as old as the country’s Victorian Redbrick universities-were overseen by local government education departments. As such non-academic staff are typically employed at them on the same basis as local government officers and academics on the same basis as primary and secondary school teachers. This contrasts with universities created prior to 1992 where staff are typically employed on either a nationally agreed “academic” contract (which also includes many non-academic staff) and locally agreed “support” contracts (which typically encompass the worst paid staff on campus with the least professional autonomy). 

  10. Marx, Karl, “11th Thesis on Feurbach” Theses on Feurbach, (1845, 2002). 

  11. Woodcock, Jamie. ‘Digital labour in the university: understanding the transformations of academic work in the UK’, tripleC, 16(1), 2018. 

  12. Tronti, Mario (trans. David Broder), Workers and Capital, (London, 2019), p. 13. 

  13. Human shields and supermarket managers, Notes from Below. 


author

Thomas Litterick

is the pseudonym of a writer, content creator and project manager who sometimes still works in the university sector.