Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Precarious Professionals: Non-Tenure-Track Faculty in Southern Ontario Universities

Document type Thesis
Author Birdsell Bauer, Louise
Degree Ph.D., Sociology
Publisher University of Toronto; Toronto
Date 2018
Pages 207 pages


While precarious work is a phenomenon often associated with non-professional workers, the emerging case of non-tenure-track faculty (NTTF) calls for a new framework building on scholarship on both precarious work and the professions. An in-depth case study of NTTF in southern Ontario shows how a new phenomenon of ‘precarious professionals’ is emerging. Drawing on sixty semi-structured interviews with faculty members, university administrators and union representatives across southern Ontario, I analyze workers’ experiences in temporary contract work in the academic profession, and their views on the way certain types of professional work are valued. Building off previous literature on precarious work, gender and work, and professional work, this thesis defines precarious professionals as highly skilled workers who do professional work that is valued and devalued along lines of gender. Their experiences in temporary contract work marginalize them economically and professionally in complex and compounding ways that trap them between identifying as precarious workers and as professionals. Union organizers and activists draw on a two-pronged approach that addresses both dimensions of precarious worker and professional identities. This thesis shows variation in workers’ experiences, suggesting that not all temporary contract workers become precarious professionals, and shows how that variation can be explained.