Compulsive Working, ‘Hyperprofessionality’ and the Unseen Pleasures of Academic Work



The paper applies Hoyle's notion of ‘extended’ professionality to modern higher education working. It begins with some of the policy contexts and theoretical perspectives around the structural and professional change experienced by academic staff: changes that have been documented in systematic studies of university life from the 1970s onwards. However, the realisation for academic staff that, at 45 per cent of the workforce, they were no longer the majority group in the sector, has added impetus to debates about work, the workplace and the role of change in scholarly life (Gornall, 2009). The Working Lives team has been gathering qualitative data on academic experiences of everyday work between 2007 and 2010, using life history and ethnographic methods. This paper draws on in-depth interviews with 24 academics and participants in four focus groups, to consider the propensity in an ‘always-on’ environment for staff to rarely ‘switch off’. This is explored alongside a set of ‘emic’ notions of working practices and places that characterise the ‘hyperprofessional’ academic.