Traditionally, academics with high levels of intellectual capital were at the apex of the professional hierarchy, deriving their power from the social legitimacy of their mission and their exclusive ability to apply expert knowledge acquired through training. Substantial control over their own work and conduct, relative freedom from lay supervision, high levels of trust and protection against unqualified competition contributed to their status. However, a growing body of literature has charted the weakening of academic power as a result of intensifying control over academic work through self-amplifying audit mechanisms and the neo-liberal marketization of higher education. Two key actors have emerged in this scenario: students who have been repositioned as consumers, and a new group of professional administrators who derive their legitimacy and positional status partly from audit and market pressures and whose positions have been relatively recently institutionalised. Drawing on an exploratory study, the presentation examines how academics experience these emerging coalitions between student-consumers and the new professional administrators as either an amplification of control over academic work and a disruption of professional integrity and genuine quality, or as liberatory and an opportunity for career progress. The presentation concludes by outlining further avenues for research and important implications for the future sustainability of academic work.
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