Researchers
July 30, 2020

Understanding the Prestige Economy in Academics

Higher education institutions are often under fire for considering “prestige” in their hiring and promotion practices. This has quickly become coined the “prestige economy,” in which an institution’s overall beliefs, values, and behaviors demonstrate their preferred requirements. Judging a potential promotion or job placement because of these preferred factors makes it difficult to get ahead in some institutions, making it essential for academics to understand the prestige economy and how it can help or hinder them.
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Prestige has a role to play in every industry and ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. Instead, this “prestige economy” must be understood in order to counter it, particularly in the ultra-competitive world of academics.

While traditional methods of hiring and promotion practices are supposed to be equal, backed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and grounded in multiple other laws and acts, in academics, the prestige economy means that those who are considered “esteemed” in the field more easily get the cushy positions and grant funding.

The consideration of what denotes someone as esteemed is usually based on the institution’s value system, beliefs, and behaviors, but typically includes work and character traits that are in alignment with the university’s academic mission. The problem isn’t that the institution prefers esteemed individuals. The problem is that to receive those indicators of esteem, there’s a disconnect between genders and other demographics.

Factors That Make Up the “Prestige Economy”

Studies have shown that individuals in higher education settings often complain of high stress levels, increased depression and other mental health concerns, and decreased motivation that all may lead to scholar fatigue or academic burnout. These symptoms are part of the effect of ever-increasing expectations and global competition in a field where prestige is often the only way to get out of the vicious cycle of hard work and increasingly high standards.

Academic scholars graduate knowing the expectation is on them to make sure they continue to engage in research and publish their findings regularly, but juggling the many hats of a position in academics is hectic. From there, the concern becomes that the light at the end of the tunnel becomes farther and farther away as indicators of esteem become things like publication rates, invitations to be keynote speakers, and other citation indicators that are difficult to obtain while working and spread thin. Even more research shows that women, in particular, find it difficult to meet those factors that push them into the prestige economy, showing that men have an easier time getting hired and promoted, netting them advantages such as:

●      An easier road to tenure

●      More promotions

●      Merit pay

●      Payment for incidents, travel expenses, and other professional fees

●      Special privileges denied to others

When scholars can’t get the grants that are going to those in the “prestige economy,” it’s harder to do the research, and therefore, harder to get published, make an impact, and enter the realm of the prestigious in academia.

Coming Face-to-Face With Academic Challenges

After obtaining the coveted higher-education degree, newly graduated individuals quickly find themselves inundated with heavy workloads and high expectations as they learn their new roles. Most of these graduates enter the teaching career path as they juggle researching, both of which are full-time work in themselves.

These academic challenges are also laced with the problems that come along with mixing people together with different cultures, ethnicities, languages, disabilities, genders, and socioeconomic statuses. Adding in the “prestige economy,” it’s no wonder so many scholars are overwhelmed, overworked, and feel underappreciated.

Creating a Balance Between Values, Ethics, and Prestige

With the pressures of having a family, social life, and high status as a scholar, it’s often hard to create a balance between all of these crucial roles.

The key factor that brings an easier balance is to find work in an institution that values what you also value. If the university’s pride of place is on money, and your focus is on making a good income, then your priorities align. If your focus is on family first, though, it may be hard to make these two disparate goals come to an equal footing.

The prestige economy creates a difficult and vicious cycle that is not always fair or ethical. But when you recognize it in play, you can do your part to help yourself excel in your career. Keep your priorities in sight at all times and be sure you’re balancing your own values and ethics with what your institution considers to be the preferred facets of a scholar.

Impactio is a Common Factor Regardless of Prestige

Academics may find it difficult to balance all their priorities with the expectations of their work, but Impactio helps temper these stresses down when it comes to putting together research. Impactio is an all-in-one platform that takes scholars from start to publication and beyond.

Impactio’s easy-to-use program lets you input your information into pre-made templates, turn your citation and publication data into charts, tables, and graphs, and then finalize your profile in PDF documents and web pages. From there, you can watch your prestige grow as Impactio’s citation indicators help you gauge your work’s impact.

Juggling all your roles is important. Let Impactio do the hard work of getting your research ready for publication so you can concentrate on all the other tasks you need to do instead.

Tags Prestige Research Prestige Economy
Jason Collins
Writer
Jason is a writer for many niche brands with experience “bringing stories to life” for both startups and corporate partners.

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