1st Edition

Vulnerability and the Organisation of Academic Labour

Edited By Graham Ferris, Martha Albertson Fineman Copyright 2025
    114 Pages
    by Routledge

    Vulnerability theory identifies structural and institutional factors that build or undermine the resilience of individuals and organisations. This volume uses vulnerability theory to explore how the organisation of the teaching and research activities of universities impact the resilience of academics and also how these activities themselves are impacted by contemporary developments in universities and educational policy.

    The starting point of enquiry is that neither academics nor universities are invulnerable, and that urgent attention is needed to reverse developments that undermine their resilience. The contributions focus on universities in the US and UK, legal education in the UK, criminal justice in the UK, Brazilian legal education, research in deprived communities, and the ethics of medical professionals. This broad range of subjects is connected by use of vulnerability theory to interrogate academic practices and universities as organisations which should build resilience in their workforce and communities and in so doing secure their own resilience, but which far too often fail to do so, and actually undermine resilience. It is argued this is not due to malefic intentions but to institutional features of the sector and society. 

    Of immediate interest to anyone who works in, studies at, or relies upon the research mission of universities, and to those involved in the management of universities, this book will also be relevant to policy analysts and policymakers, who will find value in the reframing of vital issues in higher education policy by vulnerability theory, allowing a more realistic and productive policy environment to develop. This book was originally published as a special issue of The Law Teacher.


    Graham Ferris and Martha Albertson Fineman


    1. Vulnerability theory and higher education

    Risa L. Lieberwitz

    2. Undermining resilience: how the modern UK university manufactures heightened vulnerability in legal academics and what is to be done

    Graham Ferris

    3. Rethinking the neoliberal university: embracing vulnerability in English law schools?

    Doug Morrison and Jessica Guth

    4. Vulnerability, the future of the criminal defence profession, and the implications for teaching and learning

    Nicola Harris, Roxanna Dehaghani and Daniel Newman


    5. Vulnerability theory as a tool against a banking model of legal education

    Fabrizia Serafim

    6. The positive and negative roles of grant funding as mechanisms for societal transformation and the development of community resilience

    M. Joan Wilson and W.R. Sexson

    7. The university’s fragile role in fostering societal resilience by facilitating the development of community-engaged professionalism

    W.R. Sexson and M.J. Wilson



    Graham Ferris is a retired Associate Professor who still teaches legal theory at Nottingham Trent University. He has published on property law, legal history, legal theory, ethics, and legal education. He has three adult children and hopes to continue research using vulnerability theory in the future.

     Martha Albertson Fineman is Robet W Woodruff Professor of Law at Emory University.  She is the Founding Director of the Vulnerability and the Human Condition Initiative. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science and recipient of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award, she has received numerous awards for her interdisciplinary scholarship on vulnerability, dependency, care, and the legal regulation of intimacy.