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The horizontal and vertical fragmentation of academic work and the challenge for academic governance and leadership

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Academic work has become increasingly fragmented. The horizontal fragmentation of the profession into disciplinary tribes has been accompanied by the increasing participation of student affairs and educational development professionals located outside the academic units but are actively engaged in academic work, such as supporting teaching and student learning. An increasing vertical fragmentation of academic work has recently occurred within academic units with the increasing employment of contract university teachers and research assistants. In Canada, horizontal and vertical fragmentations have occurred while universities and strong faculty unions have protected the “traditional” tenure-stream professoriate. Drawing on recent research, the author argues that these Canadian full-time faculties have high levels of job satisfaction and are well-remunerated, productive scholars. Maintaining the status and the supportive working conditions of the full-time, tenure-stream professoriate has largely been accomplished through labor cost efficiencies created by the increasing use of part-time, contractual university teachers, now frequently represented by labor unions that are distinct from their full-time peers. This article discusses the challenges for academic governance and leadership associated with this increasing fragmentation of academic work in the context of the “global” university.

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Fig. 1


  1. For a thoughtful analysis of these differences in the case of France, Germany, and the United States, see Musselin 2010.

  2. Although the president is appointed by the board at most Canadian universities, a number of French-language universities in Quebec elect the rector.

  3. Not any cause can be used as a ground; the circumstances leading to dismissal have to involve quite extreme forms of misconduct.

  4. The Canadian research team was led by Amy Metcalfe and included Donald Fisher, Yves Gingras, Glen A. Jones, and Kjell Rubenson. Additional information on the methodology employed in the Canadian component can be found in Metcalfe et al. (2011).

  5. The strike at York University in 2008–2009 is a good example. The Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3,903, representing the interests of 3,000 contract faculty, teaching assistants, and research assistants, went on strike in November 2008. The University canceled almost all courses during this 85-day labor dispute. The strike ended when the Government of Ontario passed a legislation forcing employees to return to work.


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Correspondence to Glen A. Jones.

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Jones, G.A. The horizontal and vertical fragmentation of academic work and the challenge for academic governance and leadership. Asia Pacific Educ. Rev. 14, 75–83 (2013).

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