4. New/Normal?

Woman looking through a telescope with a question mark on the lens.


The archive material in this NEW/NORMAL? gallery provokes questions of university strategies during the pandemic, the challenges of returning to work and hybrid working and longer-term implications for working practices. In an environment already structured by longstanding social and gender equalities, what new normal might have been envisaged and what ‘new normals’ are evolving in practice? The continuing phenomenon of COVID-19 has undoubtedly made enormous demands on senior management at the mercy of competing agendas and relentless cycles – of academic years, enrolments, REF, NSS …. The result – according to many of the participant accounts in this archive has been an uncomfortable combination of agility, caution and hard-headedness.

A survey of staff experiences conducted in August/September 2021 and reported in WONKHE, found that stories ranged

from unfailing praise of how their institution’s leadership team led during the crisis through to sheer resentment …
the comparison of a designated working space at home with no commute versus an open-plan office environment and unreliable transport was clear. However, not everyone was fortunate to have that home environment, leading to some concern that institutions needed to take care about how hybrid was embedded into organisational culture. (Marsden, 2021)

The accounts in What The University Did document spiralling workloads – and the ever-present corporate reminder to look after well-being. Of mixed messages, great kindness, and blame. Those in The Return? recall deep anxieties about returning to campus, the benefits and challenges of hybrid working, the strangeness of relearning routines. In Future Flexibility there are calls for keeping the good bits and the silver linings alongside a sense of regret about the passing of a teaching moments.

Marsden, S. (2021) Hybrid work to crisis management, staff survey assesses outlook from pandemic. Blog. 2 December. [online]. Available from https://wonkhe.com/blogs/hybrid-work-to-crisis-management-staff-survey-assesses-outlook-from-pandemic/



Participants’ accounts
What the university did
The return
Future flexibility