Managerialist control in post-pandemic business schools: the tragedy of the new normal and a new hope

Jon Billsberry, Véronique Ambrosini, Lisa Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


As neoliberalism gained a hold in the 1980s, universities mirrored this societal change and implemented managerialist forms of control. By the time the COVID-19 pandemic struck, business schools had become bastions of managerialism. In Australia, this dominant paradigm was challenged through three phases of the pandemic. In the first, managerialist controls were greatly loosened, with positive results. In the second, Australian business schools' leaders reintroduced managerialist control and embedded this in the third phase, the "new normal,"revealing how pernicious they are. First, we question why leaders missed an opportunity to build on themotivational benefits of the first phase when academics demonstrated their capacity to self-manage and adapt quickly. Second, we question why academics did not capitalize on the loosening of control they experienced early in the pandemic and failed to assert themselves as the pandemic subsided. By exposing the differences between current leaders and academics in their ability to overhaul the managerialist paradigm, we theorize how managerialism might be unseated. We clarify the mechanisms through which this can occur: infiltrating the system and collective action. Recognizing the interdependence of academics, business schools, and society, such action can erode managerialist control and hasten the arrival of a sustainability-oriented future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439-458
Number of pages20
JournalAcademy of Management Learning and Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023

Cite this