UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Tackling Complex Social Challenges within Neoliberal Constraints : The Context Shaping ‘Intellectual Quality of Life’ (iQoL) in a Canadian University Context Huot, Suzanne; McKay, Jocelyn; Barbic, Skye; Wylie, Alison; Weis, Dominique; Bean Sherman, Sarah; Holsti, Liisa


The contemporary academic environment in Canada has undergone reorganization based on neoliberal principles, and has increased attention focused on the importance of supporting interdisciplinary initiatives to address complex problems affecting global society. The purpose of our study was to examine the experience of people participating in a specific university-funded interdisciplinary research initiative. As there is a strong emphasis within this program on reporting on the outcomes of the funding that supports interdisciplinary collaboration, our aim was to explore how participation may shape one’s intellectual quality of life (iQoL) and how one’s iQoL could be conceptualized and understood. Using a pragmatic constructivist case study, focus group and individual interviews were undertaken with 30 participants involved with university-funded interdisciplinary research teams. Findings illustrate that their iQoL was shaped by their capacity to engage in and achieve what they viewed as their core work and its outcomes. Related sub-themes addressed the social and relational climate, institutional environment and structure, and expectations and resources. We argue that further development of iQoL as a unique construct is required to adequately measure the full range of people’s experiences in academia, particularly when aiming to address ‘wicked’ social and global problems within a predominantly neoliberal context.

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