'Being an academic is not a 9-5 job': Long working hours and the 'ideal worker' in UK academia

Katherine Sang, Abigail Powell, Rebecca Finkel, James Richards

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The deregulation of working time has been occurring over recent decades. Academia is one of the many industries that can be characterised by a long hours work culture and intensification of work. This is significant given the negative effects of such a work culture on the physical and mental health and wellbeing of workers. Using evidence from two UK-based qualitative studies, this paper begins to explore the causes and effects of academic long hours work culture further. It has a particular focus on the extent to which the long hours culture is a result of cultural and structural changes in higher education, which have led to an increased focus on performance and outcome measures. It queries whether this is also shaped by more personal factors, such as the desire to excel and blurred boundaries between work and leisure, whereby the pursuit of knowledge may be a source of leisure for academics. It finds that while individual factors contribute to the long hours culture, these factors are shaped by cultural norms and pressures to cultivate a perception of the 'ideal academic' within an increasingly target-driven and neoliberal environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-249
JournalLabour and Industry: a journal of the social and economic relations of work
Issue number3
Early online date4 Sep 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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