Producing Knowledge in Precarity: research, universities and labour insecurity

Project: Research

Project Details


Recent data shows that up to sixty percent of academic staff at Australian universities are employed in casual and fixed-term appointments. There is a growing scholarly literature on the social and professional experience of academics in precarious work. In the Australian context, this literature has led to a better understanding of the experience of academic workers in insecure work (casual and fixed-term), particularly those employed in teaching on casual contracts.

However, far less has been written about the contribution of academics in insecure work to knowledge production at universities. Historically, the creation of research-based knowledge has been central to the work that universities do. The production of research-based knowledge has been a a central feature of academic professional identity, determining jurisdiction, autonomy and legitimacy for fields of expertise. It has also partially determined, along with teaching practice, codes of ethical conduct for the academic professions.

While academics in insecure work contribute to knowledge production and research outputs, they do so from a position of labour insecurity. This project will study how changes in employment practices at universities have impacted professional identity formation, the intellectual labour process and the production of research-based knowledge more broadly.  

The research questions that the project will address are: 

•How do academics in precarious work contribute to research-based knowledge production at universities?

•How does labour insecurity impact the contribution of academics in precarious work, and how does it shape professional identity formation for this cohort of academic workers? 

•What are the personal, social and institutional impacts of insecure work on knowledge production and research outputs at universities? 

•How does labour insecurity affect professional identity formation, within the university context and outside of it?

•How does labour insecurity affect the knowledge production process and the creation of research-based knowledge?

Key findings

Research Plan:

•Online Survey – open November 2019 to December 2019
•Individual interviews – April/May 2020
•Final Report – October 2020

Short titleProducing Knowledge in Precarity
Effective start/end date10/09/19 → …