What does collegiality really mean in the contemporary HE workplace?
For centuries, collegiality has been critical to the development of ideas and the culture of universities.
While difficult to precisely define, the motivation, relationships and achievements of academic staff have frequently been linked to connection with peers. An expert on transdisciplinary research, UTS’s Dr Giedre Kligyte has written a paper examining the impact of changes in the nature of collegial connection, as a result of remote working, workforce casualisation and the corporatisation of universities.
Drawing on interviews with academic staff, Kilgyte found not one big happy family, but rather that existing collegial conventions excluded some staff – for example casual staff who felt unable to speak up without jeopardising their employment. In addition, the need for attunement, being seen to act and think in similar ways to colleagues, tended to stifle diversity and individuality.
Prompted by awareness that casuals could be excluded from full participation in the academy by the precarious nature of their employment, combined with the collective expectations and accepted perspectives of those in more powerful roles in the academic environment, Kilgyte’s paper indicates that alternative models of collegiality could improve inclusion and diversity.
In a sector devoted to inspiration and discovery, the paper is a useful reminder of the many options available to enhance academic productivity – moving away from work cultures that trend toward groupthink and an intellectual monoculture dominated by the powerful and/or loud to a richer and broader level of thinking in the workplace.