Women academics in the world of neoliberal, managerial higher education

Margaret Sims

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In my last years in academia, I have experienced the intimidating impact of pettybureaucracy and top-down micromanagement that typify managerialism in higher education today. In this paper I use my own experiences to reflect on why this is happening, attempting to gain understanding that can support others still working in the sector to survive and ultimately thrive. I argue that neoliberalism operates as an ideology, shaping the way we perceive and act in the world. In higher education, it is enacted through managerialism, together creating a social imaginary that defines what is expected of managers and what is expected of workers. Women are particularly vulnerable in this social imaginary given that the challenges they face in the workforce are attributed to their own shortcomings rather than any systemic barriers. Women face choices as to how to operate in this social imaginary, but all choices have consequences that need to be understood and managed. Ultimately, systemic disadvantage will not change without significant action taken by collectives of women who have a clear vision of better alternatives.
Original languageEnglish
Article number25
Number of pages7
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • higher education
  • gender
  • neoliberalism
  • managerialism


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