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What is an Academic Worth ? The Ambiguous Link between Salaries and Quality on Academic Labor Markets
lundi 29 juin 2015

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Conférence de Christine Musselin lors du colloque "Pricing, Practices, Ranking" organisé par le département de Sciences Sociales et le département d’Économie.

Seconde session. What is Work Worth?

What is an Academic Worth ? The Ambiguous Link between Salaries and Quality on Academic Labor Markets

There is quite a huge literature dealing with academic recruitments. One of the main issues addressed by this literature is about scientific judgment and the problems raised by assessing the quality of a future colleague. But there is almost nothing about the process leading from the ranking of candidates to the hiring of one of these and the negotiation that in many countries takes place one this ranking is produced about the conditions at which the first ranked candidate would come, or the second of the first refuses, etc. Under “conditions”, things as different as salaries, starting found, housing or job for the spouse can be found and I will argue that they constitute what can be called the “price” of the candidate. There is much less literature on the pricing mechanism of academics probably because the two mechanisms (quality assessment and negotiation with the candidate) are different: they are lead separately, the second after the first, and involve different actors. But it seems very relevant to look at both mechanisms with the same interest if one argues, as I will, that this two-phase process is typical for an “economy of qualities”, as Lucien Karpik described it first in his seminal article of 1989. It then raises new questions that will be addressed in my talk: if the “price” is not set through the match between offer and demand, how is it fixed? What is the link, or is there any relationship, between the quality assessment process and the pricing process? In other words, does the price just reflect the assessed quality of the candidate? And if not, what is this price for?In order to answer these questions, I will rely on a qualitative study led in Germany and in the USA for which I conducted interviews with the people involved in the pricing processes of recruited academics in 6 departments of mathematics and 6 of history (each time 4 in Germany and 2 in the US). I will finally draw on this analysis to develop some larger considerations on markets and competition within higher education.

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Christine Musselin
Sciences Po
Directrice scientifique de Sciences Po

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Depuis plusieurs années, Christine Musselin dirige au sein du Centre de Sociologie des Organisations (unité mixte de recherche rattachée à Sciences Po) un programme de recherche comparatif sur les systèmes d’enseignement supérieur.
Au fil du temps, trois grandes perspectives ont été successivement développées. Chacune de ces perspectives s’inscrit dans une orientation théorique privilégiée :
- le gouvernement des universités s’insère dans une réflexion sur les théories de l'organisation et de la décision ;
- le pilotage des systèmes d’enseignement supérieur par les autorités publiques renvoie à l’analyse de l’action publique ;
- l’étude des marchés du travail universitaires rejoint les problématiques de l’économie et de la sociologie du travail, mais aussi celles du jugement.

Christine Musselin a débuté sa carrière d'enseignante à l'École supérieure des sciences économiques et commerciales (ESSEC) de 1983 à 1986, avant d'enseigner à l'École nationale des ponts et chaussées de 1988 à 1990, puis au Conservatoire national des arts et métiers (CNAM) de 1990 à 1993.
À partir de 1990, elle développe plusieurs enseignements à l'institut d'études politiques de Paris.

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Dernière mise à jour : 06/11/2015