The Admirable Demonstration of Dan Tehan And Other…

Apparently, Dan Tehan was on QandA last night. I only know this…

Condensed Fun Facts, Dates, Myths/Misconceptions

By Richard Whitington Fun Referendum Facts Fun Referendum Facts #1: The ballot paper for…

Cannabis: We can shut up, toe the line,…

When President Obama commented that he thought cannabis was likely less dangerous…

Corruption suspicions hang over secret PNG refugee contracts

Refugee Action Coalition Media Release AUSTALIA’S SECRET PNG DEAL MUST BE INVESTIGATED Refugee advocates…

Dianne Feinstein: National Security State Diva

The tributes for the late Democratic Senator from California, Dianne Feinstein, heaped…

Media Alert - Refugees Say "Fair Go, Albo"

A protest vigil will be held for 4 days at the electoral…

The Voice reveals the urgent need for truth…

The fact that Elon Musk has just halved his election integrity team…

Desperate refugees hold their ground

In Melbourne, there have been rolling protests by refugees outside the electoral…


Forget the University: Gift Cards, Professionalism and the Australian Academy

Dear future students wishing to come to Australia and study: don’t. The gurgling, decaying system is, on a regular basis, being exposed for what it is. If it is not students being exploited, it’s academics being manipulated to the point of ruinous ill-health. True, not all universities are equally rotten in the constellation of corporate manipulation, but each one is rotten in a slightly different way.

The nature of the rot starts at the top – a conventional wisdom. And that rot features workloads of an unrealistic nature (too many classes; unrecognised grading efforts; questionable budgets), all padding for the bloated managerial class that guiltlessly loots. It helps, as well, that most Australian universities have Human Resources departments larger than most academic departments. They are the stormtroopers for the managerial gauleiters, ensuring that dissenters are kept quiet, and anyone wishing to challenge the status quo kept in straitjacket and check.

Much has already been made of the enormous casualisation of the academic workforce in Australia. (One figure suggests that 70% of university workers in the sector are on casual or fixed term contracts.) They are the precariat, the equivalent of altar children whose bottoms, bodies and minds are passed around from course to course to be used by the relevant coordinator, program manager and associate dean for a finite duration.

The nature of such sessionalisation has seen an interesting twist of late. The hand-to-mouth precariat are not wanted – at least in certain institutions. Universities suddenly claim to have no money in the kitty to pay modest sums to sessional workers they have sadistically abused for years. This is despite huge financial windfalls that arose even as the global pandemic was raging. In the post-COVID landscape, the assumption is that ongoing academics (tenure is not a concept of any worth down under) will take charge, seize the reins, and teach themselves into the ground.

But as departments, schools and university sections are racketeering enterprises, those wishing to cosy up to obese, overly remunerated managers may be rewarded for their flabby morals. (Arse-crawling really ought to be a degree, but why theorise it, when the praxis is sorted out?) The crawlers can avoid teaching. They can assume administrative posts and discuss administration with others in similar administrative posts. They can dream, fiddle and fondle spreadsheets, conjuring up miracles from the ether. Their minds devoid of cerebration, they are the perfect adjutants and servants for the managerial institution.

As for research, this only matters if it can be pegged to the industrial grant making complex, which is only useful in producing more grants. The cosmos of receiving such awards is only relevant, not from the actual material it produces in terms of what knowledge, but for the process of gaining the award. Money can then go back into undeserving pockets, with recipient academics, to use a popular and atrocious term “buying themselves out” of teaching duties. As one Dean of no stature or relevance insisted with dull conviction, “It does not matter how many papers you write, or how many books you author – your work allocation is the same as the next one.”

A half-wit sloth with one publication authored with several other dunces deserves the same academic praise as the single author of numerous pieces, with a profile that is somewhat larger than the standard 200 metre radius worshipped in insular towers. The die, it would seem, is cast, before you realise an awful reality: the Dean wants you to be on her level, that of the spreadsheeting numbed wonder who draws in a fortnightly salary with minimal cognition – except to justify the dictates of the satanic college she serves.

Amidst this messy state of affairs, Australian universities continue engaging in that practice most heinous: the underpayment of staff, notably those on temporary contracts. The payment rates for casual academics – and, in some cases, ongoing staff – is nothing short of scandalous. In March 2022, the Senate Standing Committee on Economics noted that 21 out of Australia’s 40 universities had been guilty of underpaying staff.

So why express horror or surprise at the latest revelation that gift cards are being used to pay academic staff? An investigation by the Australian publication Crikey, using Freedom of Information, found this to be particularly evident at the University of Technology Sydney.

According to the report, “one faculty debated the use of gift cards as payment for academics as recently as last year.” A Microsoft Teams message from a human resources official also stated in October last year, with some agitation, that the faculty of health wanted “to have another run at the gift card idea.”

The UTS public relations team was immediately stung into action. “Gift cards are used at UTS, as they are at any other organisations, as a token of appreciation for non-employees who volunteer their time at the university, for example, as research participants, or as members of events panels or as one-off guest speakers,” reasoned one spokesperson.

The Senate Standing Committee similarly found that various “casual academic staff have been paid in gift certificates, instead of the wages, loadings, leave and superannuation to which they are entitled.” Dr Hayley Singer, a member of the University of Melbourne Casuals’ Network, told the committee that she had “contested this at the time because I know I can’t pay rent, pay for transport or pay for medical bills with gift cards. This is how casual and insecurely employed academics are treated when we bring our professionalism and our expertise onto campus and into the classroom”.

If only Singer realised that the whole function of the modern managerial university is to eschew and excoriate professionalism of any sort, notably in the areas that give education its greatest worth. To be professional is to be subversive, thereby making that individual dispensable. Best join the spread sheeters.


Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.

You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969

Donate Button


Login here Register here
  1. OldWomBat

    Universities have just become another corporate enterprise, with bloated overheads that deliver substantially nothing to the role, or what was once the role of universities, as educators and research leaders. The endless, yearly round of applying for diminishing research grants, the lack of certainty, the continual overloading with administration while trying to deliver what one is supposed to do, seeing jobs outsourced to other external organisation with little knowledge of the courses they “prepare” but with really slick “product”, the constant pressure to pass students who clearly don’t deserve to pass, the enrolling of students who supposedly speak english but all too often have very limited ability, and all the while the corporate wastrels have unlimited tenure to milk the honey pot. No wonder the serfs are complaining, and perhaps even revolting, at the heartfelt thanks of %50 gift card as the VC’s drive away in their no doubt fancy car, possibly chauffeur driven, and grumble how poor their $1M+ salary doesn’t doesn’t reflect their importance. Boo-hho.

  2. RomeoCharlie

    Just a reflection of what is happening in education generally, undervalued teachers given more and more administrative work in the service of claims that parents want more information about their child’s progress. Yes parents want to know but not if it means the actual process of teaching is subordinated to the paperwork. So many teachers reportedly leaving the profession because the administrative demands are taking over from actual instruction. Schools being forced to run as businesses, employing and exploiting neophyte teachers because they are cheaper than those with experience. And, as is well known, the public school sector grossly underfunded in comparison with private schools thanks to ten years of neoliberal rule.

  3. Kerri

    Don’t hold back there Dr Kampmark. But seriously you are absolutely correct on all counts. What will it take to counteract the popular belief that academics are “elites” trying to subvert humanity and that the managerial class are the true leaders. Even when they are robbing you blind and abusing your human rights. We once held an esteemed position in the world educational ether but today we are well beyond the worst. Gough must be spinning like a top.

  4. K

    Ahhh…. The old Almer Mater! It’s not the academics that are the problem. Without Socrates, Plato, Pythagoras etc etc, modern society would not exist… People who continue to contribute to educating (with or without a degree) the public are just another “resource”…. Where do they think the title “human resources” came from? Good point, well made…. Nicely written.

  5. New England Cocky

    An excellent article exposing the consequences of the Dawkins Report from about 30 years ago that declined to recommend the salary levels for Vice Chancellors, which salary packages have mushroomed over that period beyond belief.
    As in all organisations, jobs expand to fill the pyramid available, and work efficiency declines because the many appointed bureaucrats are more interested in producing the paperwork that they pass among colleagues rather than the principal reason for the university (in this case) which is research and teaching … in that order.
    It would be a brave school teacher who encouraged a capable intelligent interested kid to attend university for anything but a professional qualification like medicine, when at the moment the future for post-Doctoral graduates is a 12 month casual contract that ignores their 10 years of study and requires continuous filling out of endless paper warfare for the bureaucrats to ignore in their on-going game of ”pass the paper”.
    We were promised that computers would reduce administrative paperwork, however the reality is exactly the opposite. What we must remember is that:

  6. Harry Lime

    After perusing the article and the comments,I feel obliged to ring Lifeline.Will I need a referral?

  7. Clakka

    Excellent article. I’ve experienced it first-hand, and escaped by the skin of my teeth. Many of my fav supervisors and tutors have also escaped. I wonder where they are, and wish them well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 2 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here

Return to home page
%d bloggers like this: