Managing Australian universities is far more complex than in the past. Universities now have to deal with a massified student body, competition for students and funding, government pressures to diversify their funding base and demands for accountability. In the modern world, universities have sought to be attractive to students, improve their operations, develop and protect their brand, and optimize their place in world university league tables.
The number of equivalent full time students at Australian universities doubled between 1990 and 2010. However, the number of teachers increased by only 44 per cent, and nearly 60 per cent of that growth comprised staff employed on short-term casual contracts. Casual teachers now represent a quarter of all academic teachers. In this paper, it is argued that the nature of change in the higher education system has created a situation in which the staffing blend is less than optimal. Too few resources go into funding permanent teaching posts, and too many resources must be used to administer an increasingly bureaucratic and layered system. This situation has arisen for a number of reasons, including fundamental changes to the structure of ‘work’ within universities. However, more than 20 years of under-funding, poor government policies in general and acquiescence by universities to those policies have exacerbated the situation.