Professional knowledge workers: Tensions and binaries

Andrea Simpson, Tanya Fitzgerald

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The pressures of fiscal constraints, increased competition, and rapidly developing information technology have resulted in the modern university adopting business models of operation. As a consequence, teaching and learning have become products and students have become consumers. The net effect of these changes has been the expansion of specialist administrative and management work in universities: work that is undertaken by both professional staff and manager-academics. Arguably, it is these managerial practices that now drive the research and knowledge functions of the university, rather than the other way around. Typically, professional staff members, also known as "general," "non-academic," or "administrative" staff, now comprise the majority of the modern university workforce across Australia, Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The changing roles and importance of these professional staff members is explored by describing their number, function, roles, and gender breakdown across higher education providers. In this chapter, the authors examine the growing influence of professional staff in the university's binary organizational structure of the "non-academic" versus the academic. The tensions this binary system creates in the perceptions of the relative status of one type of work and workers in higher education over another are interrogated with particular regard to staff diversity. The blurring of the binary is highlighted as academics move into managerial roles and the work of professional staff cuts across academic and administrative domains.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvancing Knowledge in Higher Education
Subtitle of host publicationUniversities in Turbulent Times
EditorsTanya Fitzgerald
PublisherIGI Global
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781466662032
ISBN (Print)1466662026, 9781466662025
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameAdvances in higher education and professional development (AHEPD) book series.


Dive into the research topics of 'Professional knowledge workers: Tensions and binaries'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this