Exactly two years ago, Liz Morrish had the unenviable task of explaining to a group of undergraduates why their favourite lecturer could no longer teach them.
There was no question of resorting to half-truths. Her absent colleague, who was on sick leave for stress, had briefed Morrish to talk about the relentless pressure on academic staff at universities.
“I told the students that there are research expectations – including things like ‘grant capture’ – with very low probabilities and yet real consequences for scholars who don’t meet them for whatever reason,” she recalls. “That’s not to mention other expectations like teaching load, marking and the rapidity of feedback,” she adds.
The students were “horrified” to learn that the work of lecturers was being judged by what Morrish calls “a totalising and de-contextualised set of metrics”, which made academics feel more like “players in some academic version of The Hunger Games , where capricious gamemakers change the rules all the time”.