Is an academic research career possible?

mfmpiAKHmmm, having left Manchester saying I was never going to work in a University again, never move so far north again … and after time with LICC, that I was clearly destined for secular work…

There is a “significant credibility gap” between researchers’ expectations and the likelihood of their forging long-term careers in higher education, a survey has found.

More than three-quarters of research staff responding to the Careers in Research Online Survey 2013 said they aspired to a career in higher education and around two-thirds said they expected to achieve this.

But it was “unrealistic to expect” that this number of research staff, or even half of those in the early stages of their career, would be able to secure a long-term research role in higher education, says the report, based on the survey produced by Vitae, the careers organisation for researchers.

“Anecdotally we expect that probably fewer than half are, in reality, going to make it into academic careers,” said Robin Mellors-Bourne, director of research and intelligence at Vitae and the report’s co-author.

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Cleaning up the workplace?

Image Credit: RGB Stock

Image Credit: RGB Stock

I took on a range of roles to support my studies at all levels, an interesting piece on work to support a PhD:

James, formerly a PhD student at a Russell Group university in the North of England, also approached his institution for help to find a job while he completed his studies.

While carrying out a number of administrative roles, he said, he experienced a “deeply ingrained negative attitude towards postgraduate students working in non-academic roles”.

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Can (women) have it all?

Interesting article re: whether women (or anyone) can have it all in a culture which is “always on”:

Last month, a predictable storm erupted in response to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s confessional in Atlanticmagazine. “Women Still Can’t Have It All,” she declared, explaining why she had given up her dream job in the State Department to spend more time with her family. The gruelling demands of the Washington work culture – known, apparently, as “Obama time” – had taken their toll. “Juggling high-level government work with the needs of two teenage boys”, she’d realised, “was not possible.”

Many feminists were outraged, regarding her decision as a betrayal. A similar reaction greeted the announcement a few years ago by journalist Allison Pearson that she was giving up her Daily Mail column because conflicting responsibilities had triggered her depression. “We always suspected there would be a price for Having It All, and we were happy to pay it; but we didn’t know the cost would be our mental health,” she wrote.

 Read full story.

Academic Career or Plan B?

Story in Times Higher Education this week has attracted MANY comments already… it starts:

Universities benefit from the large pool of cheap labour provided by PhD students and postdocs, but there aren’t enough academic jobs to go around, so young scholars should prepare for the possibility of a future outside the academy, one postdoc advises

Not everyone who completes a PhD gets an academic job. I knew that. But still I thought that my prospects were good.

I have degrees from some of the best universities in the world, in the UK and the US, and currently hold a postdoctoral position. I have had no problems securing funding for my research, and am close to publishing some of the results.

This year, however, I have had some interviews but no job offers. I may be able to find an academic position next year, but it now seems unlikely.

On a good day, I feel confident about my research and believe I have something to contribute to my discipline and to wider society. But increasingly I wonder: if others do not value my research enough to pay me to do it, what else can I do to make a living?

Read full story, the editorial, and content from UCU conference.

Interesting comment:

As another commenter has said, the only reason to do a PhD is because you love your subject, and realise that this may be the last and only chance to do research in it. That, incidentally, is what gets people jobs: a true passion for the subject always shows (I speak as someone who’s been part of numerous interview panels). So please listen potential and current PhDs, this is the truth: you probabaly won’t get an academic job, so if that’s the only reason why you are doing it, give up the idea right now and go and do something else instead.

I tend to have a low boredom threshold, but I still get excited every time I see a new poster, or a variation on Keep Calm and Carry On… and I’m clearing my backlog to get around to publishing my PhD!

Academics: Needing to be Careless?

In an article largely focused on the difficulties of couples involved in academic work, and the need to live miles (sometimes continents) apart … which indicates that to truly be an ‘exceptional academic’ there may be a need to be without dependents:

In 2010, Kathleen Lynch, professor of equality studies at University College Dublin, wrote a powerful article in the Arts and Humanities in Higher Education journal, titled “Carelessness: a hidden doxa of higher education”. Although there are now global opportunities for some academics, she argued, performance expectations are likely to be so demanding that “only a care-less worker can fully satisfy [them]”.

“Given the gendered order of caring, senior managerial appointments and senior academic posts are most available to those who are ‘care-less’, those who have no primary care responsibilities, and these are likely to be very particular types of men (disproportionately) and women,” she wrote.

Lynch believes that “the carelessness of education” (and a consequent distortion of research agendas) has its origins in a “classical Cartesian” determination to keep emotion out of scholarly work, and in “positivist norms” based on “the separation between fact and value”, but thinks the trend is being greatly intensified by the “new managerialism”. Today’s “idealized worker”, as a result, is “one that is available 24/7 without ties or responsibilities that will hinder her or his productive capacities. She or he is unencumbered and on-call, even if not ‘at work’.”

Read full story, and the editorial.

Learning and Teaching Excellence Centres: Any Value?

Hmmm, I work in the Learning and Teaching Development Unit. I wonder how much impact we’ve had…. The Times Higher Education doesn’t feel much over the past few years:

Negotiations and consultations with a powerful, self-regarding sector led to a different outcome altogether. The universities lobby succeeded in transforming the idea of extra payments to excellent teaching departments into money for quasi-research units that would “recognise” teaching. They would really have liked the cash without any strings at all, but they settled for the next best thing.

So universities got funds for “research and development” in teaching rather than a reward for employing good practice and attracting the best students. “Pedagogic research” is, in my experience, work that would only rarely be admissible for the research assessment exercise or research excellence framework.

Read full story, another story, and editor’s view.

Can we take the creative industries seriously?

Working in the creative industries… where most of us work because “we love it”, but end up with long houses, poor pay, lack of benefits, ‘sacrificial ethos’ … recognising that. Here Professor Rosalind Gill calls for a more sustainable model:

Society needs to look beyond the images of “cool”, “unconventional” creative workers and find better ways for them, and for academics, to lead “liveable lives”, a speaker at the British Academy argued last week.

Rosalind Gill, professor of social and cultural analysis at King’s College London, was taking part in the second of three discussions comprising The Creative Process: A Multidisciplinary Examination. The series was organised in partnership with the Culture Capital Exchange, a network of universities that aims to forge links between higher education and the creative industries.

Beatriz Garcia, head of research at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Cultural Capital, spoke on the “cultural turn” in worldwide policymaking, with creative industries increasingly seen as a replacement for lost manufacturing activity.

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