Academic Freedom and the Disciplinary Regime in the Neoliberal University

  • Liz MorrishEmail author


The ideology of neoliberal market competition in UK universities has been given added impetus by a recent Higher Education and Research Act (2017) and driven by institutional anxieties about league tables and rankings. In this context, universities have been increasingly concerned with reputation and the creation of conformist academic subjects. There have been considerable incentives for managers to disregard the evident stress on academics that the audit culture associated with the Research Excellence Framework and the Teaching Excellence Framework has produced. Universities have turned to close monitoring of tightly delimited academic performance metrics for their staff. The disciplinary apparatus has been strengthened, thus ensuring the compliance of employees and deterring criticism of management. Drawing upon the experiences of the author, who found herself facing allegations of misconduct for taking issue with the appalling pressure this working environment has brought about, this chapter argues that university managers are hostile to academic freedom and operate with very low thresholds of tolerance for critics of higher education policy and practice. In an era of managerial unaccountability, we speculate about the possibility of working within the new discipline of critical university studies.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Visiting FellowYork St John UniversityYorkUK

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