Work and Careers in Australian Universities


This survey is part of an ARC–funded project (Linkage grant 2009–2012) being undertaken by a team of researchers at Griffith University, the University of Queensland, and industry partners UniSuper, Universities Australia (UA) and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU).

The project focuses on the workplace issues that affect the work and careers of all university employees, and on the change that the university sector has undergone in recent years. In light of the changing nature of university employment and university management, this project has international relevance, and its focus on all university staff, including general and professional staff and casual academic staff, allows us to examine the impact of the changing university workplace on all university employees.

The involvement of our Industry Partners means that outcomes from this research can be translated into strategies, policies and practices to improve working conditions and career opportunities for Australian university employees.

Our survey

This is the first survey of its kind since the mid–1990s, and it will allow us to examine the ways in which the sector has changed over the past fifteen years, and to assess the impact of these changes on university employees. Our survey data will build on the data from an earlier survey of Australian universities (Probert et al., Gender Pay Equity in Australian Higher EducationNTEU: Melbourne).

While most studies of university employment focus exclusively on academic staff, we are interested in all university employees. We have designed three different surveys, one for each of the following groups of university staff:

  • General and professional staff
  • Academic staff
  • Casual/sessional teaching staff.

These three surveys are tailored around the specific employment issues that affect these different groups, as well as the overarching issues that affect the sector as a whole. The surveys allow us to engage with the different employment experiences of these different groups of university employees, and the data from these three surveys will provide detailed information about university employment across the sector from three different perspectives.


Data was collected at 19 universities between August 2011 and January 2012 with 21,991 university workers across Australia participating.

Other research outputs

  • Bailey, Janis, Troup, Carolyn and Strachan, Glenda 2017, "Part-time work and advancement: A study of female professional staff in Australian universities", Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, vol. 39, no. 3, pp. 282-295.
  • Bailey, Janis, Peetz, David, Whitehouse, Gillian, Strachan, Glenda and Broadbent, Kaye 2016, "Academic pay loadings and gender in Australian universities", Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 58, no. 5, pp. 647-668.
  • Broadbent, Kaye, Troup, Carolyn and Strachan, Glenda 2013, “Research Staff in Australian Universities: Is There a Career Path?”, Labour and Industry, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 276–295.
  • Farrelly, Brona and Whitehouse, Gillian 2013, “Equality Enabling Parental Leave: Prevalence and Distribution in Australian Universities”, Labour and Industry, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 245–257.
  • May, Robyn, Strachan, Glenda, Broadbent, Kaye and Peetz, David 2011, “The Casual Approach to University Teaching: Time For a Re-think?”, Higher Education Research and Development Studies Association conference, Brisbane, Australia (unrefereed conference paper).
  • May, Robyn, Peetz, David and Strachan, Glenda 2013, “The Casual Academic Workforce and Labour Market Segmentation in Australia”, Labour and Industry, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 258–275.
  • May, Robyn, Strachan, Glenda and Peetz, David 2014, “Australia’s casual approach to university teaching”, Journal of Collective Bargaining in the Academy, vol. 9, pp. 1–9.
  • May, Robyn, Strachan, Glenda and Peetz, David 2013, “Workforce Development and Renewal in Australian Universities and the Management of Casual Academic Staff”, Journal of University Teaching and Practice, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 1–26.
  • Peetz, David, Broadbent Kaye, Bailey, Janis and Strachan, Glenda 2011, “Australian Universities– Where are the Women?”, Association of Industrial Relations Academics Australia and New Zealand, Auckland, New Zealand (unrefereed conference paper).
  • Skinner, Timothy, Peetz, David, Strachan, Glenda, Whitehouse, Gillian, Bailey, Janis and Broadbent, Kaye 2015, ‘Self–reported harassment and bullying in Australian universities: Explaining differences between regional, metropolitan and elite institutions’, Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, vol. 37, no. 5, pp. 558–571.
  • Strachan, Glenda 2013, “The "feminisation’ of universities? The case of Australia”, Equality, Diversity, Inclusion Conference (unrefereed conference paper).
  • Strachan, Glenda, Bailey, Janis, Wallace, Michelle and Troup, Carolyn 2013, “Gender Equity in Professional and General Staff in Australian Universities: the Contemporary Picture”, Labour and Industry, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 215–230.
  • Strachan, Glenda, Broadbent, Kaye, Whitehouse, Gillian, Peetz, David and Bailey, Janis 2011, “Looking for Women in Australian Universities”, Research and Development in Higher Education: Reshaping Higher Education conference, HERDSA, Brisbane, Australia (unrefereed conference paper).

In the media

  • Broadbent, Kaye and Strachan, Glenda 2013, “Women, work and careers”, Agenda, vol. 21, September.
  • Cervini, Erin 2013, “The best schools in the world”, The Age, 13 December.
  • Lucas, Clay 2012, “A precarious life”, The Age, 28 March.
  • May, Robyn, Werth, Shalene and Inwood, Clare 2013, “New perspectives in workplace research”, Griffith News, 12 December.
  • Newman, Gary 2012, “When a casual affair turns sour”, The Age, 17 April.
  • Norrie, Justin 2012, “‘Invisible’ casual staff get little support on campus”, The Conversation, 22 March.
  • Norrie, Justin 2012, “Career prospects are grim, say casuals on campus”, The Conversation, 22 February.
  • O’Grady, Stephen 2012, “Survey shows changing face of university work”, Griffith News, 9 November, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. 1
  • Rowbothom, Jill 2012, “General staff happy in their work, to a point”, The Australian, 21 November.
  • Rowbothom, Jill 2012, “Academics working hard but staying put”, The Australian, 12 November.
  • Rowbothom, Jill 2012, “‘Shady hollows’ a stumbling block gender equity”, The Australian, 7 November.
  • Rowbothom, Jill 2012, “Universities’ staff half casual: new data”, The Australian, 21 August.
  • Rowbothom, Jill 2012, “Casuals carry an increasingly heavy load”, The Australian, 22 February.
  • Rowbothom, Jill 2011, “Casual approach to academic skills”, The Australian, 3 August.
  • Strachan, Glenda and Broadbent, Kaye 2014, “Short contracts undermine research effort”, The Australian, 13 February.
  • They said it”, Campus Review, 26 November 2012.
  • Trounson, Andrew 2014, “NTEU short on full–time target”, The Australian, 26 February.
  • Trounson, Andrew 2012, “Growth in casual academic staff threatening quality”, The Australian, 23 March.
  • Whyte, Sarah 2011, “No one wants to wear the mortarboard”, The Age, 16 January.

Chief investigators

Research Fellow

  • Dr C Troup (Griffith University, Australia)

PhD candidate

  • Robyn May (formerly of Griffith University, Australia)

More information

For more details about our research, get in touch