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Cain explores role of academic unions in book chapter

Transformations Cover

Professor Timothy R. Cain considers the role of labor unions in higher education in a book chapter published in the Research Handbook on the Transformation of Higher Education (Edward Elgar, 2023). Grounded in the concept of union voice, Cain argues that academic unions can both promote positive change in higher education organizations and can challenge the widespread attacks on workers’ rights and higher education more broadly. In so doing, he draws on examples from across the globe while emphasizing the importance of national context in both the challenges facing higher education and the possible responses.

In the piece, he contends that centering academic unions in considerations of the neoliberal transformations of higher education is crucial for many reasons, including because of who is bearing the brunt of many of the ongoing changes. He writes, “The changes in work, autonomy, and accountability most detrimentally affect those who are performing work and the students who are experiencing it, not those who are managing it. So, too, do the stripping of public money and the marketization of education. The pervasive casualization of labor is not just career changing and work changing, it is life changing. And it directly implicates the members and work of unions.”

The volume, edited by Liudvika Leišytė, Jay Dee, and Barend J. R. van der Meulen, seeks to “identif[y] the drivers, actors, developments, and outcomes of transformational processes” influencing higher education around the world. In addition to Cain’s chapter on unions, the book considers education technology, economics, globalization, organization and governance, equity and access, and performance tracking.

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Professor of Higher Education

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