Changing working conditions at European universities are studied in a recent book ‘Academic Work and Careers in Europe – Trends, Challenges, Perspectives’, edited by Tatiana Fumasoli, Gaële Goastellec and Barbara Kehm. In this post, Tatiana Fumasoli tells about the main findings presented in the book.
What have been the rationales and origins of this book?
The book explores the impact of changes in governance, work and careers in European higher education. It observes empirically how and to what extent a European higher education profession is emerging through convergence, standardization and formalization of academic careers. The book is an output of the project EuroAC – The Academic Profession in Europe: Responses to Societal Challenges, funded by the European Science Foundations and national research councils coordinated by University of Kassel (Germany). It originates from the qualitative data gathered in 8 European countries (Austria, Germany, Finland, Croatia, Ireland, Poland, Romania and Switzerland) by the 8 national partners. Around 500 interviews were conducted with university leaders, administrators and academics.
What are the main common trends in academic work and careers in Europe?
Standardization and formalization of recruitment, promotion and evaluation, as well as of PhD supervision is everywhere apparent and an international dimension is nowadays – at least ideally – integrated in European universities, for instance in hiring, conducting research, teaching.
Competition for academic positions, research grants, publications is increasing at all levels and takes place within and across universities and countries. Such competitive pressures shape increasing differences between global players (countries, universities, academics) and regional players. Thus elite universities, research groups and academics are connecting more among themselves and less within their institutional and national settings.
What are the main differences between the eight European countries you analyze in the book?
In general the increasing institutional autonomy of universities across Europe has shaped complex dynamics that are not completely under the control of states. The stagnating or shrinking public funding has created unequal distribution of resources among universities, which hold different adaptive capacities.
Concretely, national and local practices are still important in the organization of academic careers. In this sense, the landscape of a European academic profession is still rather fragmented. The recent financial crisis has affected European countries quite differently.
Are the main policies on academic careers made at national and institutional levels or does the European Union also play a role?