A1 Journal article (refereed)
Experiences of arbitrary management among Finnish academics in an era of academic capitalism (2020)

Nikkola, T., & Tervasmäki, T. (2020). Experiences of arbitrary management among Finnish academics in an era of academic capitalism. Journal of Education Policy, Early online. https://doi.org/10.1080/02680939.2020.1854350

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Nikkola, Tiina; Tervasmäki, Tuomas

Journal or series: Journal of Education Policy

ISSN: 0268-0939

eISSN: 1464-5106

Publication year: 2020

Volume: Early online

Publisher: Routledge

Publication country: United Kingdom

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/02680939.2020.1854350

Publication open access: Openly available

Publication channel open access: Partially open access channel

Publication is parallel published (JYX): https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/73021


For the last two decades, Finnish universities have faced the implementation of new systems of control and undergone dramatic changes that have worsened academic working conditions – such as corporatisation and budget cuts. This article explores Finnish academics’ experiences of university reforms with a special focus on the consequences it has had in terms of organisational socio-dynamics. We adapt Glynos and Howarth’s logics of critical explanation and apply this theoretical framework to analyse the interviews of academics who, against their own will, did not have their contracts renewed. This approach describes, explains, and criticises the logics – which are social, political and fantasmatic – behind the existence, continuation, and transformation of practices that are very real. Our research findings suggest that there are situations in which experiences of opaque management may occur at university. Academics often found the decision-making processes to be unpredictable and ambiguous, leading to a precarious working atmosphere. Combining the logics approach with micro-level data analysis, we developed the concept of arbitrary management, offering new perspectives for understanding the mediation between social practices and structural reforms. This micro-political analysis provides a new take on how ideologies operate at university in an era of academic capitalism.

Keywords: system of higher education; institutions of higher education; working life; leadership (activity); management culture; capitalism

Free keywords: academic capitalism; arbitrary management; higher education; logics of critical explanation; university work

Contributing organizations

Ministry reporting: No, publication in press

Preliminary JUFO rating: 3

Last updated on 2021-20-09 at 16:19