(Un)realistic research expectations and the ‘superstar’ academic


To speak of the increasing workloads, increasing expectations, or the ‘publish or perish’ logics of contemporary academy is not to speak of something new. Rather, the expectations and demands on academics – and early career researchers (ECRs) in particular – have been steadily rising for years. In more recent years, however, these rising demands have combined with the (interrelated) pressures of the increasing marketization of higher education, growing reliance on contract/precarious/zero-hours academics for teaching provision, and uncertainties surrounding both Brexit and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, to produce a set circumstances whereby ECRs, or those on precarious contracts, are effectively forced to meet increasingly unrealistic research expectations and embody the position of the ‘superstar academic’. Job adverts for lecturer/assistant professor positions now regularly state ‘world-leading research’, innovative teaching techniques, and ‘impact’ as ‘essential criteria’ for applicants, with these positions emerging in an industry already structured by gendered, racialised, heteronormative, ableist and classed inequalities.

Unfortunately, solutions or the ability to enact transformative change is likely beyond the scope of this BISA event. However, this roundtable does offer the opportunity for a number of scholars, at differing stages of their careers, to reflect on this present moment; consider the negotiations and compromises they have made during their time in academia; and offer solidarity, support and practical advice to those who either wish to make, or continue, a career in higher education. The event will broadly take the format of a conversation between participants and the chair, with viewers encouraged to contribute through questions, comments and their own experiences.


Dr Jasmine Gani (University of St Andrews)

Prof Roberta Guerrina (University of Bristol)

Prof Richard Beardsworth (University of Leeds, Head of School) 

Dr Toni Haastrup (University of Stirling) 

Dr Martin Coward (University of Manchester) 

Prof Kimberly Hutchings (Queen Mary University of London, Head of School)

Prof Ruth Blakeley (University of Sheffield, Head of Department)


Julia Welland (University of Warwick)

Registration will close 2 hours before the event is due to start.

    • 2:00 PM 3:30 PM
      Panel Discussion