Following Jesus in a changing job market
If you’re academic, student or employed at a university, I don’t need to tell you that the Australian University sector has been hit hard by COVID19. A sector heavily reliant on full fee paying international students, the change in the financial situation of international students in Australia has meant that many students cannot continue to pay for their education. This excludes the students who managed to “return home” in time before the borders closed. It's likely they would like to return to Australia, but given public policy, uncertain borders and the tension of vaccine rollouts - its unlikely it will be any time soon.
A recent article from the ABC noted:
The sector has leaned heavily on lucrative international students for years, but those students now find themselves largely unable to enter the country and take up studies (Borys, 3 Feb, 2021).
It was already a difficult sector, as many casual academics and sessional teaching staff were underpaid and relied on unstable contracts, with added pressure to do more work in less time. The pressure to provide a “flipped classroom” as an inexpensive solution to delivering education to larger classes has morphed into a forced online learning model. These changes have given both staff and students greater responsibilities and reduced their sense of belonging in their universities.
Mid last year, the vulnerable casualised workforce in universities suffered a great blow as many universities used the pandemic to cut costs by reducing the number of tutors at the expense of teaching quality:
Labelled as the industry's "dirty secret" by unions, Victoria is the only state where the law compels academic institutions to report casual employment data. It reveals a record 68.74 per cent of staff are employed as casuals or short-term contracts.The ABC understands as many as 5,000 staff at just two Melbourne institutions have no more work — suggesting sector job losses are being significantly under-reported. (Duffy, 17 July 2020).
This change has had an impact on the quality of teaching and learning and increased the responsibilities of the casual and permanent staff who survived the cull. So how can you maintain your hope and purpose and sense of value when you are dispensable to a cashed up, corporate machine?
Find your hope and value in Christ
Regardless of how COVID19 has affected your work, you can take comfort in the fact that you are loved and valued by God and that these troubles you are experiencing are part of a grander story. Although the university sector does not sufficiently value their workers, you are of immense value in God's story.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians, 4:16-18)
Know you’re not alone
Initially it may not be much of a comfort that many academics all over the world are experiencing similar woes. The issues of greater pressure on tutors to teach larger classes, higher expectations on professional staff, greater competition for tenure, as well their Christian worldview clashing with their culture. It is however, a comfort that the apostle Paul shared, knowing that Christians around the world are also suffering (1 Peter: 5:9)
If you need support to help you cope with uncertainty, join one of our Prayer Teams and enjoy meeting weekly with other Christians who will be there for you. If you're facing unemployment, changing roles or even careers, our Transitions group has regular talks on coping with change and draws strength from the stories of others. Or if you need specific academic mentoring, contact Lewis Jones at the Simeon Network and he can match you with a Christian academic as a mentor.