I am a full-time CEO of a boutique IT consultancy & a part-time academic. When COVID hit universities hard, many (myself included) were concerned that in the light of the consequent reduction of work opportunities, there would be an irreversible exodus of industry practitioners.

At the time, I cited lack of both available jobs and career certainty for those industry professionals who were working at universities, while many professional firms appeared to be riding the wave of COVID without suffering visible harm. Further, many IT & Business professionals were cashing on the digital transformation-fuelled opportunities to grow their businesses and careers.

Now that almost two and a half years have passed and many universities are doing well enough to be hiring rather than firing and with more students on the way , can we expect industry professionals to start targeting university jobs on a part-time basis?

Unfortunately, there tends to be a significant dissonance between the proclaimed goal of  attracting more established professionals into academia and creating adequate niches for them.

Moves towards casualisation that are perceived negatively by many academics & academics-to-be may be acceptable to people who can earn outside universities. There are also other motifs such as recognition and opportunities for social impact.

For established professionals who are used to performing senior corporate roles, expectations of having their ‘’seniority’’ acknowledged through positions and duties assigned by the universities could be more than reasonable. However, even a suitably qualified (e.g. PhD, and able to fulfill a job’s requirements)) CEO, senior lawyer, IT manager or accounting firm partner,  may struggle to find an entry point to an ‘’academic family’’ on a part-time basis, but at an adequately high level. Should they opt for senior academic roles on a part-time basis, the search for a suitable workplace and position could prove to be quite lengthy and problematic.

I looked at roles advertised in Australia throughout last year. Overall, part-time and contract roles stand consistently around 30 per cent mark throughout the year with even higher demand around teaching semester starting times. However, the lion’s share of those roles are lower-level (such as tutoring and lecturing roles that are limited to subject delivery, rather that management of the programmes) let alone higher level opportunities. Furthermore, while the overall number of contract/casual/part-time opportunities within particular faculties (such as schools and faculties delivering Information Technology and Business programmes) and at certain campuses (usually campuses other than the main one) is evidently higher, in some cases over 50 per cent – senior part-time academic roles are nevertheless still few and far between.

It is arguable that senior academic appointments entail management tasks that require ‘full-time dedication. But in this age of flexible workplaces, universities can surely consider reshuffling traditional workflow management arrangements more creatively to cater for those industry professionals who would be happy to share their oceans of knowledge and experience given an opportunity.

Likewise, for those who have been out of academia for a while and want to mastermind a part-time comeback tailored to their work/life balance requirements (e. g. parental or carer duties), availability of a sufficient number of senior (such as for instance Level D+) academic roles could prove to be a true blessing.

As a part-time academic & and a full-time business owner – I would love to know that there are more career advancement opportunities to come – even if am going to remain a part-time academic.

Michael Baron is full-time CEO of a boutique IT consultancy and a part-time academic



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