Changing Psychological Contracts of Academics: A South African Case Study

Friday, 20 July 2018: 17:43
Oral Presentation
Shaun RUGGUNAN, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
In recent years, the psychological contract in higher education has become more complex and challenging. In an attempt to understand the ways in which new policies shape the psychological contracts in the higher education context, I set out in a qualitative study to gather data on how new managerial practices influence academics. The psychological contract deals with implicit reciprocal promises and obligations; there has been what can be described as a dualistic approach in the literature over which parties (employees and/or managers) should be included under the analytical rubric of the psychological contract. Given the rapidly changing nature of work and management at South African universities, the case study provides an opportunity to explore the ways in which a new managerial context influences the psychological contract of academics at a Durban based institution of higher education. New managerialism refers to the establishment of a managerial system that overrides the autonomy and expertise of employees including highly skilled professionals such as academics. It is designed around managerial practices that increases performativity in an uncritical way, usually by deskilling employees through scientific management principles. Managers rather than employees become the core of the organisation. In the higher education context, new managerial principles have been imported from the private sector to increase performativity levels of academics. It has fundamentally reshaped the education sector including the reshaping of the professional identity of academics and their role in the psychological contract. Key findings are articulated in four themes: Adapting to shifts in the nature of the employment relationship, Self- monitoring through performance management systems, Construction of students as clients (and academics as service providers) and the creation of Managerial Elites.