Holding True or Caving in? Academics’ Values, Emotions, and Behaviors in Response to Higher Education Reforms

Abstract

Higher education (HE) in many countries has been characterized by increased marketization, external accountability, and managerialism. This article examines how academics feel about and respond to HE reforms in Cyprus, a country whose HE sector is heavily commercialized and affected by austerity measures. We analyzed interviews with twenty-three Cypriot academics in four universities, who had been working in business schools from 3 to 29 years. Interviewees described experiences of being an academic in Cyprus, highlighting contextual factors that triggered emotional events in their day-to-day lives. Integrating previous literature, we present six different behavioral responses to the events they described, including compliance, resistance, and flight. We explain how academics chose different responses at different times based on their interpretations of value congruence/incongruence, their felt emotions, and the need to comply with emotional display rules. Considering these elements together highlighted the emotional labor associated with various behavioral responses. The study contributes theoretically by showing how values, perceived emotional demands within particular events, and emotions influence behavior, including different types of emotional labor. We suggest that further research on academics’ responses to HE reforms should focus on particular events and on particular contested academic values, such as autonomy or collegiality.

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Correspondence to Marilena Antoniadou.

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Antoniadou, M., Quinlan, K.M. Holding True or Caving in? Academics’ Values, Emotions, and Behaviors in Response to Higher Education Reforms. High Educ Policy (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41307-021-00225-1

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Keywords

  • Emotions
  • Emotional labor
  • Values
  • Faculty
  • Marketization