Grant Hunting in Corporatized Universities: Experiences from Canada and Finland

Friday, 20 July 2018: 18:09
Oral Presentation
Sandra ACKER, University of Toronto, Canada
Oili-Helena YLIJOKI, University of Tampere, Finland
Across the globe, contemporary universities are subject to forces of neoliberalism, including corporatization. These macro influences trickle down to find expression at meso (institutional) and micro (experiential) levels. It is increasingly becoming imperative that academics apply for and obtain external research funding. The two authors have independently done extensive research on changing academic work practices. Recently, each of us found herself involved in making a funding bid to the main social science research council in Canada and Finland respectively. We began to compare notes about our latest efforts at “grant hunting.” This paper draws on our individual experiences, our knowledge of Canadian and Finnish universities, relevant literature, and insights from our prior research on academic work. We sense that much of the literature on the corporatized university, especially some of the more dramatic accounts, fails to recognize important divergences as well as convergences from country to country. We believe that it is important to bring into the discussion countries outside of the UK, US, and Australia. Canada and Finland provide interesting variations on the overall theme.

The paper begins by sketching the research funding and institutional landscapes typical of each country. It then focuses on the detail of the application process each of us recently experienced, including peer review, collaboration, budget constraints, institutional support, communication of results, and the subjective impact of “success” or “failure.” In general, this alteration of academic reward practices means investing extensive unpaid time and energy into the invisible work required to prepare applications; intensifies the tiering and stratification between have and have-not groups; and heightens the emotional politics of academic work, including pride, shame, and envy. We consider whether exposing these experiences to the light of day might lead to ideas for reform.