Session on endangered researchers and precarity in higher education

When: 22 June 2020 at 5 PM CEST (Brussels time)
Registration: Fill out this registration form!
This event is part of the Edgeryders Online Summit on Resilient Livelihoods
Curated by: Asli Telli, diverse_precarious community list, dissent in higher education group

Session summary

This session wants to bring together knowledge workers and policy makers in higher ed, also allying with unions and rights defenders, with their histories of mobility, migration and refuge. We would like to discuss and reflect on the intersection between precarious labour conditions and the neoliberal surge on higher education in the last two decades. The best we can do is to come together and learn from each other in order to arrive at a better analysis of the various challenges faced. We would like to exchange experiences and knowledges over struggles for academic freedoms and labour conditions in different contexts. We would like to take the opportunity to learn, exchange and collaborate with/through the framework of critical learning, decent labor and networks of sharing and caring. All participants are invited to zoom in to position the question of labour in academia within broader societal struggles in their own contexts and zoom out to link it up to related struggles in other geographies. As the first step towards concrete action in solidarity, participants are invited to reflect on the following 2 questions:

  1. What are the structural agencies, practices and grammars involved in the precaritization of knowledge workers in the last two decades?

  2. What are the realities and calculated logics of diversity, of structural inequalities and possibly discrimination?

  3. How can we collaborate with intermediary policy makers for boosting up critical learning and better conditions in higher education setting?

Who is participating?

This list will be updated continuously with the people who are invited and confirm attendance.

  • Dissent in Higher Ed group reps from France, Italy, Germany, Netherlands and the UK
  • Learning and teaching groups in edgeryders community…
  • NGA-Wiss (Decent Labor in Academia Network in Germany)
  • ArteZ initiative on Crisis Ed Critical Ed - see link below for details
  • Union reps from Turkey, UK and the US
  • Policy makers/agents in the EU, UNESCO…

Format and practical information

Depending on interest, this could be a series of online meetings to get prepared. Then a moderated discussion with speakers from diff initiatives/institutions/responsibilities that could address the issue from diverse perspectives. This would rather be an online workshop model that brings together knowledge and experience to form collaborations and multiply impact.

  • An online meeting. You register in advance to reserve your spot, and you will receive a link and password to join (this will be sent the day before the event): Registrations are open here.
  • A moderated discussion. A moderator will give the floor to people who want to contribute something. Some have already volunteered (see list above, updated continuously). If you want to share your point of view, use the call’s chat to let us know, and the moderator will give you the floor. If you have a question to ask the speaker, ask it in the chat (better) or let us know you want to ask a question. Questions are taken before we move on to the next speaker.
  • We commit to doing a proper writeup of the result (aka “documentation, or it didn’t happen”). Edgeryders also deploys its team of ethnographers for participant observation and note-taking.
  • Everyone welcome. Below there is a list of the people who have agreed to participate. If you are coming too, we are happy to put you on it. If you prefer not to be on the list, that’s OK too.
  • Please note we aim to publish the content of the conversation as public knowledge, available to activist and scholars. However, this will happen through writeups by people in Edgeryders. While we will record the event, participants are welcome to sign up under aliases and keep their video shut off. Also, the writeups will not mention any names.


Ahead of the event, take some time to go through the materials below. We summarize them and link to the full resource:

  1. Many organisations and higher education institutions are opening up about the problems of pay, inequality and precarity in the field - these are articles from March/April 2020.

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dear interested @edgeryders! note that this is a draft that is open to discussion. any thoughts, suggestions on names and content are welcome. excited to be a part of the online summit in these trying times. hope to expand the conversation here, all best- Asli

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The Facebook event is up! Asli, add me on fb please (Noemi Salantiu) so I can make you a co-host and you can make changes? Also, let me know in private msg if you need me to make modifications to the banner.

@amelia @Jirka_Kocian @MariaAlinaAsavei do you know anyone studying this topic who would be interested to join?

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@atelli have a look at this new organisation mentioned by @shajara:
I propose we invite them to join, some of the members might have a focused interest on mental health and precarity,

Hi @atelli if there is interest in having someone from the Global Consortium for Academic Mental Health join this session I can post directly in the slack group, and connect you with whoever might be interested & available!

Excited to see such an important topic getting covered!

Yes, let’s join forces dear @shajara. Mental health is a topic of priority, not well-tackled in our community. Sharing on slack is a good idea and how about yourself? Would you be available to join as well? Thanks @noemi for connecting:)


@atelli I’d be happy to join! I also sent out a message to the consortium and will update with what they come back with!


I have further plans in mind on academic mental health community and how we could work together on training, P2P mentoring and the like. Already checked your website:) Once you receive feedback from the slack group, I’d like to get in touch with you and possibly other interested fellows in your community. Thanks and glad to have you join:)

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Hi! Few words on what I could share with you from my previous and actual experience in academia:

Concerning the DIVERSITY point:

  • As the initiator of a program for the integration of refugee students at the University of Geneva (called now that it has been institutionalized “Horizon acadĂ©mique”:, I could share some experiences in what it is, how it works, what is the aim, etc.

Concerning the WORK CONDITIONS in academia:

  • As a scholar in French (since 2017) I could give you information about how things are going on in French academia: the dramatic increase of precariousness, the law that has been thought by the French government last fall and the strikes that occured in France until the lockdown partially stopped them. Some info here:

  • As a former precarious scholar in Switzerland I could as well give some information…

I would be happy to discuss these issues with you.
Cristina Del Biaggio


welcome @cdb77:) just emailed you on the process while you were posting here. nice coincidence! I think starting from refugee students problems and concerns is a good idea. With focus on “Horizon académique” , we can open such a window. Your other suggestions are also very relevant. It would also be worthwhile to have policy maker/practitioner/rapporteur working in the field of knowledge labor and higher education in the conversation. Just ping me @everyone if you have any ideas or connections in that regard.

Looking at your mission and participants, my 10 years on the faculty at 3 institutions in the United States may not be useful. But I’m interested in the discussion and let me know if I can help.

  • I was adjunct at the International Academy of Design and Technology in Chicago and Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey; associate at the Illinois Institute of Art
  • I participated in union organization at the Illinois Institute of Art. When it came to a vote, we lost.
  • I am currently an independent researcher that still publishes in an academic capacity and attends academic conferences.

Either way, I have registered to attend.

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Dear @schmudde, happy to hear you are interested in the session. Checked your website, you have an interdisciplinary take on ICT, art and knowledge systems and plenty of international experience in higher education. We will definitely gain a lot from your experience and insight into new precarities and pressure on critical thinking as well is diversity. Welcome:) We’ll stay in touch and hopefully expand from here. Thanks:)

Great. Thanks for taking the time! I’m looking forward to the discussion.

I’ll add one other dimension to consider: conferences. I believe conferences have been vital to the exchange of ideas in academia for centuries (I use the term academia literally as I use the word conference loosely).

I have always enjoyed conferences even while recognizing that they are generally exclusionary and the requisite travel is part of the climate problem.

The pandemic has already had a tremendous impact here. Organizers are not only scrambling to create a digital proxy, but also attempting to define the value of a conference in digital space. In my experience, registration prices have largely been waived in this transition period - a welcome change for an independent researcher like myself; I rarely have rarely had institutional support.

These meetings have been greener as well. Conversely, the social aspect has been far less gratifying.