The proletarianisation of academic labour in Australia

Greg McCarthy, Xianlin Song, Kanishka Jayasuriya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Web of Science)


Australian universities over the last 25 years have been unified, internationalised, corporatised and become mass educational providers. This process is replicated globally as a response to rapid mass enrolments and marketisation. In the light of these changes, a corporate and managerial model has been identified, which has been the subject of growing discontent within the academic workforce. However, from a political economy perspective there is a lack of understanding on how and by what means academic labour has been commodified in this process. This paper, using Australia as its case study, argues that the managerial culture has alienated academics from their labour. This has resulted in them losing control over their skills and thus becoming disassociated from the educational purposes of their work. Higher education has been subjected to systemic regulatory governance that has fundamentally transformed the nature of academic labour. We contend that the regulatory state has reached so deep down into the university that academics have effectively become a de-professionalised and proletarianised labour force.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1017-1030
Number of pages14
JournalHigher Education Research & Development
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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