Tag Archives: neoliberal

Pressure to “publish or perish” and short-termism are barriers to innovation: new large-scale study

J. G. Foster et al. Tradition and Innovation in Scientists’ Research Strategies, American Sociological Review (2015).

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Is “embracing ordinariliness” really the only way to cope with the impossible demands of contemporary universities?

Another depressing article: astute analysis of the problems in contemporary academia (which affect both women and men, but the average man tends to have better invisible support in coping with them)…sadly followed by a call to “embrace ordinariliness”.


“Given that women still bear the brunt of responsibility for running households and organising the school schedules of children and so on, the question I was asking myself was how can women academics ever hope to achieve success in their working lives when this kind of pattern is seen as not just normal but entirely unremarkable, especially in a sector deemed by and large to be well-disposed towards working parents? Deciding not to have children, and having a partner who is also an academic or at least very familiar with these kinds of schedules would seem like the obvious answer.

the ideal career track in the academy especially one which carried all the laurels of prizes, awards, fellowships and a high volume of grants seemed to have been tailored around the image of the brilliant young man untrammelled by any of the fine details of domestic life. And if the young woman was to follow this pathway and plan the right time to have a child, then when would this right time be? The first few years of full time work (34-38) are marked by all kinds of expectations, and so it may be that just before getting to 40 having children could be embarked upon.”

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Unsurprising findings: universities damaged by “student as consumer” ideology

Academics under pressure to bump up student grades, Guardian survey shows

“Many academics said recent reforms, which encourage universities to treat students as consumers and expand their intake, have damaged the quality of education offered to undergraduates. […]52% of academics said the emphasis placed on “the student experience agenda” had damaged the quality of education offered, while 40% said the removal of the cap on student numbers had also had a negative impact. Of those academics who said the rush to recruit extra students was lowering standards, many complained of cramped facilities, a relaxing of entrance criteria, and a reduction in the amount of time academics can spend with undergraduates.”

full findings here.

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“An Aspiring Scientist’s Frustration with Modern-Day Academia: A Resignation”

“While there was a time when I thought that I would be proud to have the letters “PhD” after my name, this is unfortunately no longer the case.”  from “An Aspiring Scientist’s Frustration with Modern-Day Academia: A Resignation”, anonymous text posted in Pascal Junod’s blog

Have I posted this story of academic frustration yet? No?? Well, here it is… Read the comments, too.



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Trafficked Filipino Maths Teachers in the USA

I just read an article about something new and shocking to me – qualified teachers of mathematics (and other subjects) from the Philiphines who are  recruited on one-year contracts to teach in USA public schools, but often end up in appalling working and employment conditions:

“Between 2007 and 2009, 350 Filipino teachers arrived in Louisiana, excited for the opportunity to teach math and science in public schools throughout the state. They’d been recruited through a company called Universal Placement International Inc., which professes on its website to “successfully place teachers in different schools thru out [sic] the United States.” As a lawsuit later revealed, however, their journey through the American public school system was fraught with abuse.

According to court documents, Lourdes Navarro, chief recruiter and head of Universal Placement, made applicants pay a whopping $12,550 in interview and “processing fees” before they’d even left the Philippines. But the exploitation didn’t stop there. Immediately after the teachers landed in LAX, Navarro coerced them into signing a contract paying her 10 percent of their first and second years’ salaries; she threatened those who refused with instant deportation. Even after they started at their schools, Navarro kept the teachers dependent on her by only obtaining them one-year visas before exorbitantly charging them for an annual renewal fee. She also confiscated their passports.”

The article continues with an interesting analysis of the underlying problems in education and the neoliberal economy:

The idea that new teachers should be imported from halfway around the world for yearlong stints, knowing no background about the communities they are entering and the content relevant to them, is only justified if the teacher is reduced to an instrument of standardized information transmission. And if teachers are just such instruments, why not search the global market for the cheapest, most malleable ones possible? […]for corporate recruiters and their district clients, finding the right match for a school is not about teacher quality or experience, but rather cost and expendability.  The phenomenon of teacher trafficking, then, doesn’t rest entirely on recruiters’ mercenary tendencies or districts’ drive to cheapen their labor. It also rests on the larger neoliberal conception of workers. In this case, teachers become moveable parts, switched out in accordance with the iron laws of supply and demand in order to more efficiently output successful test scores, whose value comes to represent students themselves.

There is, however, something that worries me in the article. It also talks of “Teach For the Philippines” and its mother scheme, Teach for America, as a “global empire”. Although I can see how this scheme is part of the same complex of problems – not enough teachers in poorer countries, exacerbated by richer countries “poaching” teachers from poor countries – the disparaging analysis of “Teach for X” took me aback. I know only very good things about a similar scheme in Bulgaria. I would like to read more – if you read this and want to recommend me something to read about “Teach for X”, please do.

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Arlene Stein on “Intellectual craftsmanship as refusal”

“Today, market values and “fast capitalism” increasingly permeate academia, leading to ever higher expectations of output (read: publication), and higher productivity for productivity’s sake—accumulating more and more lines for one’s cv instead of contributing work that really makes a difference to oneself, and to others.”

The full article is on Arlene Stein’s blog

(see on The Sociological Imagination)

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