The New Zealand academic profession in transition.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
In relation to the academic profession in New Zealand, this thesis examines the theory that professional occupations unionize because of a deterioration in their class situation. The class situation of academic staff is defined according to two indices: market situation (including salary levels, promotion prospects and job security) and work situation (including issues of autonomy and collegiality). Factors which supported the privileged class situation of academics, as well as historical details about how academics have won organisational advantages are also discussed. The evidence shows that the class situation of academics has clearly deteriorated. Salaries have dropped in absolute terms and in relation to average New Zealand incomes. Promotion prospects also appear to have deteriorated, and tenure or job security appears to be threatened. Since 1982, a secondary labour market of part-time, untenured teaching assistants expanded disproportionately. Organisational advantages have also been eroded. In the late 1980s and ear1y 1990s, the State appears to be undermining the control over university life gained by the academic profession in the 1960s and 1970s. This situation, and recent evidence that points to a tighter relationship between the universities and the market in the near future, suggests that the academic profession could lose control over what is taught and researched in the universities. Despite these trends, the academic profession still retains significant economic and organisational advantages. This is born out in a series of in-depth interviews of academic staff at the University of Canterbury where there appears to be general satisfaction with economic and organisational features of work (other N.Z. universities may be different). The prevention of further erosion of conditions appears to be the main rationale for the widespread support of unionism at this university. Other factors which may limit the deterioration of the class situation of professionals are discussed in the final chapter.