Precarity in the Ivory Cage: Neoliberalism and Casualisation of Work in the Irish Higher Education Sector

Aline Courtois, Theresa O'Keefe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Citations (SciVal)
48 Downloads (Pure)


The higher education sector in Ireland has undergone major changes under the effect of neoliberalism including severe budget cuts, transfer of research funding to external agencies, reduction in permanent contracts and increased reliance on part-time, temporary staff for teaching and research roles. The neoliberalisation of the university, as in other countries, has dramatically changed the nature of work undertaken on behalf of the institution. Permanent jobs increasingly disappear in favour of low-paid, temporary employment. Such work comes without security, proper remuneration or benefits, and renders invisible the precarious workers whose labour the university relies on to function. Based on the results of an outreach project on casual academic labour practices, this paper reports on the discernible patterns in the work of the precariat in Irish higher education. Our results indicate that casualisation in the Irish context is systemic, gendered, and not the preserve of junior academics. We also suggest it predates austerity and has become so endemic that there are now few exit points out of precarious work and as such, many are now trapped in a hamster wheel of precarity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-66
Number of pages24
JournalJournal for Critical Education Policy Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2015


  • higher education
  • casualisation
  • neoliberalism
  • Ireland
  • academic work
  • gender inequality in higher education


Dive into the research topics of 'Precarity in the Ivory Cage: Neoliberalism and Casualisation of Work in the Irish Higher Education Sector'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this