Academic superheroes?

I’ve had a paper sitting on my desk for a while that I’ve been meaning to read.  It’s an analysis of academic job adverts at Australian universities and asks the question ‘What do academic employers really want from the PhD now?’


I’m just going to copy below a paragraph from the paper which for me seems to capture some of the changes in expectations of the academic job role over the last decade or more.

The academic super-hero conforms to university strategic priorities (including in directing their research focus and undertaking pastoral care for students and colleagues) and is always alert, if not alarmed.  At any moment our hero must be ready to deal with the multiple uncertainties that beset the higher education sector in Australia, all the while collecting business cards for that next round of student placements, soothing hurt feelings and smiling graciously at the crowds of prospective students at Open Day while publishing prodigiously and creating innovative learning opportunities for their students across multiple media. 1

It’s obviously reporting on data from the Australian academic job market but there are probably similarities with the UK and possibly other parts of the world in this global academic market.   I’d be interested to hear what you think.  Is this really reflecting the academic job role?

  1. Academic superheroes? A critical analysis of academic job descriptions. Rachel Pitt and Inger Mewburn. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 2016. Vol. 38, No. 1, 88-101
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