Prof Pauline Ross has recently been conferred another (!) PhD, this one in Higher Education, through the University of Melbourne’s Centre for the Study of Higher Education, for her 99k word thesis “Evolution and resilience of academics in Higher Education ecosystems in Australia”.
Congratulations Prof Ross!
An ecological approach was used to analyse the evolution of the academic role and the resilience of academics in the contemporary higher education ecosystem in Australia which for decades has been facing change and successive challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic. Many posit if higher education is to succeed then there will need to be a transformation of the academic workforce and more teaching and education focussed academic roles. Drawing on quantitative and qualitative data collected including analysis of Enterprise Bargaining Agreements and interviews with a range of academics there were three main findings. First, although academic roles which are evolving most rapidly are those focussed on teaching or education, so are academic roles which are integrative of teaching and research. Second, although all academics are under stress, academics in education focused roles experience a wider range of stressors as a consequence of moving from disciplinary research to teaching because resources available for these roles from the socio-ecological higher education ecosystem are minimal. Third, while all academics undergo adaptive cycles in response to stress, academics in education focused roles are less likely to have resilience and be more vulnerable to loss from the ecosystem. While expectations are that increasing academic workforce diversity within the socio-ecological ecosystem of higher education will increase resilience and adaptive capacity it is not necessarily a given that changes to the academic workforce will deliver on expectations without changes to the ecosystem in which academics operate.