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Whether employee unions have a role to play in Universities (and what that role might be) has always been troubling, with views ranging from philosophical antipathy to wholesale endorsement. In some jurisdictions, levels of membership and support also have varied in response to such external factors as statutory changes to governance structures of universities, voluntary unionism, changes to the direct role of unions in furthering the statutory responsibilities of employers such as in promotion of health and safety in the workplace, and such internal factors as casualisation, centralisation of power and decision making and policies of workforce flexibility via redundancy and other strategies. An emerging “threat” that is garnering increasing levels of concern is that of disruptive automation in the higher education sphere, not only in ancillary functions such as learning management systems, information processing and provision of student support services, but also going to the root of the academic function—the education experience. This development will have fundamental implications for higher education, as for other service industries, and poses essential challenges for employee unions in terms of their relevance, governance and leadership, particularly where that automation threatens job security and careers. This paper will explore those challenges by reference to analogous developments such as MOOCs, “cookie-cutter” courses and programs, casualisation and the growth in on-line, flexible and blended delivery modes. As a review and commentary, the exploration will focus on the Australian context but to ensure broader relevance, will be grounded in political economy, reflecting the tensions that emerge between the funders of universities, both public and private, who seek higher profits, control and power, and those who see universities as a fundamental social institution. Arguably, it is in the space created by such tensions that the future for unions is located. It is a matter of determining what that future looks like. This approach permits both contextualisation of the discussion and provides opportunities for international comparisons, thereby providing a basis for future research within the context of academic leadership.
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- Governance and leadership implications for academic professionals in the era of technological disruption
- Springer US
- Journal of Management & Governance
Print ISSN: 1385-3457
Elektronische ISSN: 1572-963X
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