Chapter 29: The university as Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft: early career academics on competition, collaboration, and performance requirements
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This chapter uses Tönnies' twin concepts of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft to analyse the experiences of early career academics (ECA) who were recruited as assistant professors with the perspective of gaining tenure. Based on nineteen semi-structured interviews from a research-intensive university in Sweden, the chapter discusses the socialisation of these recruits in several areas, including relationships, networking, job performance, and CV building. The results show that Tönnies' famous distinction helps shed light on the challenges and tensions involved in establishing an academic career. On the one hand, early career academics are expected to demonstrate independence and individual excellence, and their individual performance is measured on various scales. On the other hand, they depend heavily on senior colleagues who act as gatekeepers and 'clan leaders' for entry into the academic community, are expected to take part in collegial activities such as the co-supervision of PhD students, and to play key roles in large grant applications. The findings also indicate differences between those who have a background at the case university as students or employees, and those who were externally recruited with no prior work history there. There are also gender differences. Men with previous links to the university are significantly less critical and more content with their work situation.

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