Unspoken Agreements: Analysing the Psychological Contract of Faculty in the Context of Bahraini Higher Education

  • Amal Alawadhi

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


The Bahraini higher education sector has been subject to a substantial reform process throughout the past two decades. In this process, the government’s role transformed from being the sole educational service provider to the regulator responsible for protecting the public good. This transformation opened the door for private universities to emerge onto the landscape. A neoliberal orientation, including the privatisation of education, increased the pressure on institutions and individuals to meet international standards and comply with the new market rules. The need for efficiency and lean operations resulted in the rise of part-time (PT) employment. Naturally, the traditional employment relationship between academics and their institutions also changed. The purpose of this thesis is to analyse this employment from the perspective of both full-time (FT) and PT faculty. The notion of the Psychological Contract (PC) is deployed as a conceptual lens to facilitate the investigation. The PC refers to the implicit and sometimes unspoken aspects of the agreement between employees and employers. The study examines the content and nature of the PC of academic staff based on the framework discussed by Rousseau (1995).
Adopting a qualitative approach, ten faculty members (five males and five females) working at different higher educational institutions in Bahrain were interviewed. The participants were from both public and private institutions. The data were analysed using the thematic analysis technique. The analysis revealed six key themes and 15 sub-themes, addressing the issues of obligations, expectations, promises, and reciprocity. The results suggest that FT faculty differ from their PT counterparts in their expectations of institutions and how they relate to them. FT faculty reported a significant increase in the administrative burden associated with their role. Quality assurance (QA) and accreditation reviews expanded the scope of their job, compromising their feeling of autonomy. Despite marginalisation and unequal pay, PT faculty enjoy the luxury of choosing work assignments and the ability to evade QA reviews, giving them a feeling of contentment to a certain extent. The results also suggest that PT faculty experience a unique type of PC that seems to be neglected in the literature. Overall, the study shows that the psychological experience of academics is characterised by conflicting feelings and values. There is a need for institutions and regulators to assess the academic workload and evaluate the real added value of neoliberal practices in the HE sector.
Date of Award27 Apr 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorSam Carr (Supervisor) & Ioannis Costas Batlle (Supervisor)


  • Psychological Contract; Higher Education; Neoliberalism; Emotional Dissonance

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