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Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Change just one thing! Campaign to improve the condition of ‘The Precariat’ in Australian universities

The term ‘the precariat,’ coined by The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) combines precarious and proletariat to refer to the large and growing section of Australia’s academic community who are employed on casual and short-term contracts. 

TASA reports that 49% of all academic staff and 53% of all teaching and research staff are employed on ‘contingent contracts’ compared to a national workforce average of 24%. These ‘flexible work’ positions can no longer be seen as an academic career entry point or a source of supplementary income for doctoral students, but as an ongoing underclass of academic employees. Noting the challenges to career stability, financial security and exclusion from academic collegiality that such position holders experience, the report recommends a number of actions that can, and should, be taken to improve their inclusion in academic life. They include: More equitable and efficient employment processes; improved communication processes and providing staff development.

As a footnote TASA notes: “You may not be able to advocate for or implement all of the suggestions in this document. However, inspired by the writers at the CASA [Casual, Adjunct, Sessional staff and Allies in Australian Higher Education] website, we encourage TASA members to commit to changing just one thing in how we or our institution work with contingent academics” . 

Given the number of casual/ sessional academic appointments in creative arts, schools may wish to join TASA’s campaign to make even just one change to improve things for the creative precariat.

The report can be downloaded from: https://www.tasa.org.au/tasa-working-document-responses-contingent-labour-academia/

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