Gender, Learning and Teaching in Conditions of Precarity in HE

Gender, Learning and Teaching in Conditions of Precarity in HE

We are seeking abstracts on this theme for a proposed Special Issue of Learning and Teaching: the International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences. Despite widespread concern about the impacts of precarity in higher education, the casualisation of academic staff involved in teaching continues apace in many International contexts.

This includes a growing reliance on staff on temporary contracts to deliver learning and teaching. This has a variety of intersecting implications for equity: the U.K.’s Equality Challenge Unit’s (2016) analysis found that women, under-35s, academics with disabilities, and black and minority ethnic academics are more likely to be on temporary and/or ‘teaching-only’ contracts in the academy. Research (Leathwood and Read, 2020; Read and Leathwood, 2020) indicates that precarity potentially profoundly impacts on learning and teaching in numerous ways, affecting pedagogical relationships; curriculum development; preparation; delivery; continuity of academic and pastoral support and undermining research-informed teaching contracts.

Moreover it has detrimental impacts on everyday lived experiences of academia for those working on these contracts in terms of access to resources, power, status, esteem and development opportunities alongside insecurity (O'Keefe and Courtois, 2019). This may interact with gendered and intersectional positionalities and can be felt in embodied, affected ways, often as shame (Read and Leathwood, 2020). Due to an insidious deprofessionalisation of academic teaching, staff can find themselves overloaded with little space and time for their work, isolated, marginalised and trapped in dead-end jobs with little prospect for career progression (Courtois and O'Keefe, 2015).

Segmentation of tasks in terms of preparing, delivery and marking can often be divided between groups of casualised academics in an institution, meaning they may not be involved in the whole teaching cycle potentially creating new forms of disconnection and alienation. Yet, simultaneously, new teaching metrics and requirements for quality and ‘excellence’ add weight to customer service-like student evaluations, placing further performance pressures and (gendered) emotional labour on these academics whose livelihoods may depend on good feedback. This is likely to constrain experimentation, risk-taking and introducing topics deemed ‘controversial’, including feminism and gender, in learning settings (Read and Leathwood, 2020; Morris et al., 2021).

In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic may have brought additional challenges, insecurities, forms of alienation and impacts on learning and teaching delivery in universities. In an article last year in the THES (Buckee et al., 2020), a group of 35 women scientists working on Covid-19 research stated that “even […] lifelong battles for a place in science have left us unprepared for the gendered and racial inequalities we have experienced in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic” – citing for example that women and BME scientists chosen far less often to speak to media and being brought in as experts; and childcare and other caring responsibilities falling disproportionately on women over the lockdowns leading to what is being called as ‘the productivity divide’ (Kitchener, 2020) – with journal editors reporting far fewer articles being submitted to academic journals from women since the start of the pandemic.

This special issue will aim to address these problematics across multiple contexts, explore experiences of those engaged in these roles, identify impacts and implications for learning and teaching, with a particular emphasis on gendered and intersectional dimensions, and finally, will consider ways of surviving and resisting casualisation. Please send your abstract of up to 250 words to Charlotte Morris: [email protected] by Monday 20th September. The following questions may form a guide:

  • What are the gendered, racialised, classed, ableised, heteronormative, ageist and intersectional consequences of casualisation for teaching staff and their students?
  • What are the implications of casualisation for learning and teaching in universities in different contexts?
  • What are the impacts of casualisation on student experiences of higher education and in what ways are these gendered, classed, ableised and racialised?
  • How does precarity shape everyday working conditions, practices and experiences of academia?
  • What are the impacts of casual / temporary contracts and precarity on feminised, racialised and non-binary teaching staff, including their wellbeing, their ability to do their jobs effectively and their ability to develop careers?
  • What forms of alienation might university teaching staff experience as a consequence of temporary employment and in what ways are these gendered?
  • What are the implications of casualisation for being able to address challenging, controversial or social justice related issues such as feminism and decolonisation in teaching?
  • In what ways has the covid-19 pandemic affected learning and teaching experiences and outcomes for casualised, feminised and racialised teaching staff and their students?
  • What possibilities are available for resistance, subversion and survivance?


Special Issue of LATISS Call for paper abstracts: Gender, Learning and Teaching in Conditions of Precarity in HE: subversions, strategies, survival

Editors: Dr Barbara Read, Dr Charlotte Morris, Dr Katalin Tardos, Veronika Paksi and Dr Lotta Snickare

Working Group: ‘Gender and Precarity in European Academia’, part of the European Universities – Critical Futures project, funded by the Danish Research Council


See below for further information...


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CR&DALL Themes: