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Politics of rhythm and crisis in the slow death of higher education: implications for academic work and student support

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Robert Shaw, Dr Matej BlazekORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


This paper explores the role that conflicting rhythms of academic life and crisis have on the ability of academics to meet their commitments, such as providing support to students. Drawing from our experience in UK higher education, we argue that contemporary academic life can be seen as a constant process of being taken over by different crises. These crises tend to follow a rhythm of brief periods as emergencies subsequently operationalised into forms of ongoing, unresolved crisis. In turn, these crisis rhythms intersect with contrasting rhythms of different actors in university life, specifically that of academics, the institution itself, and students. Drawing from Lefebvre’s vocabulary of rhythmanalysis, we argue that the arrhythmia between these different groups in the university is a key part in the failure of higher education to do more than proliferate crisis. Illustrated by our experiences in student-support focused roles during the height of COVID-19 lockdowns, we explore how this particular crisis imposed itself as emergency but was then absorbed into the group of ongoing crises which impact on academic life. The paper concludes with suggestions of alternative approaches to university workload for staff and students alike, which might render university life more eurhythmic and equitable.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Shaw R, Blazek M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Critical Studies in Education

Year: 2023

Pages: epub ahead of print

Online publication date: 05/10/2023

Acceptance date: 20/09/2023

Date deposited: 03/10/2023

ISSN (print): 1750-8487

ISSN (electronic): 1750-8495

Publisher: Taylor and Francis


DOI: 10.1080/17508487.2023.2263048


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