Collegiality and performativity in a competitive academic culture
Wednesday, 18 May 2016 | Admin
by Bruce Macfarlane (University of Southampton)
Collegiality is one of the most symbolically significant concepts of higher education and continues to be widely espoused as a core value by members of the academic profession. However, the highly competitive and performative nature of modern higher education means that the conventional values and behaviours associated with collegiality, such as mentoring and consensual decision-making, are coming under increasing pressure. The paper reports on a questionnaire survey of academics within a Faculty of a leading research university in Hong Kong designed to understand perceptions of structural, cultural and behavioural collegiality. These perceptions vary considerably by academic rank and gender with power vested in a mainly male professorial oligarchy. Collegiality appears to be most weakly formed as a behavioural norm and, linked to this finding, the study further indicates how ventriloquizing the values of collegiality has become a performative riff in academic life which, in practice, is increasingly characterised by isolation and individualised competition.