ICS Seminar - 11 May 2023

Explaining the Rise of 'Sludge Work' in the Neoliberal University

Presenter: Peter Fleming

Discussant: Ned Rossiter

Chair: Denis Byrne


A common gripe among academics in the neoliberal university today concerns the proliferation of bureaucratic 'form filling'. Much of this paperwork feels incidental to the real purpose of our jobs yet seemingly unavoidable. Some analysts refer to this as sludge work, which aptly captures the phenomenological morass it can induce. How can we explain this sudden growth of sludge work in academia today? Applying a sociology of work framework, I suggest that it reflects a major shift in the composition of the non-academic workforce in universities. Having presented this explanation, I then reflect on some possible solutions in the context of contemporary higher education.


Peter Fleming is Professor of Organization Studies at UTS Business School, University of Technology Sydney. He has previously held positions at Cambridge University and the University of London. He is the author of several books including The Death of Homo Economicus (Pluto Books, 2017) and Sugar Daddy Capitalism (Polit Press, 2018). His latest book is called Dark Academia: How Universities Die (Pluto Books, 2021).

Event Details

Date & Time: Thursday, 11 May 2023, 11:30 am – 1:00 pm

Venue: Female Orphan School, EZ.G.23, Parramatta South Campus