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From research student to academic:
thinking about and preparing for
academic work
Dr. Joss Winn
School of Education
July 2...
Chosen texts for discussion
• Afonso, A. (2013) How academia resembles a drug gang.
• Ball, S. (2015) Accounting for a soc...
How academia resembles a drug gang
• Members of drug gangs “get rich or die trying”
• ‘Dualisation’ – The divide between s...
Afonso, A. (2013) How academia resembles a drug gang – figure 4.
Academic Career Paths of Social
Science PhD Graduates
• Survey (43 UK/USA), interviews and focus groups
• Key findings
– M...
Nuernberg and Thompson (2008) Table 1.
Be pro-active
• Networking, publishing, and going to conferences (on
top of teaching) are crucial both in the job market a...
Impact of the ‘Research Excellent
Framework’ (RAE/REF)
• Increased number of posts advertised in the year
before and after...
Recommendations for PhD students
considering an academic career in the social
sciences
1. Be clear about what you want and...
Becoming a university academic
• 40% of Reading students gain a ‘permanent’
(‘open’) academic position after a few years
•...
‘Post-doc’
• Fixed term research position on a grant-
funded project, led by a more senior academic
• Individual ‘fellowsh...
‘Lecturer’
• Research and teaching or teaching only?
• Combination of research, teaching and
administration (‘service’)
• ...
A Job Description
• Lecturer duties (Grade 7)
– To work with colleagues on curriculum development
and the advancement of r...
What are universities looking for?
• Demonstrate that they can work, and be
successful, as an independent researcher.
• 2-...
The impact of the poor academic job market on
PhD graduates: What can academics do about it?
• We could try to make life b...
Career tracking of doctorate holders
• In Europe, little mobility across sectors in the
economy
• Geographical mobility te...
Highlights from research findings…
• 499 respondents to questionnaire + focus groups
• The employment level of respondent ...
Recommendations
• The system of temporary contracts that prevails is not of benefit to science nor to
society and needs to...
Gill and Ball articles
• Rosalind Gill’s book chapter is highly cited and
helped turn attention to issues around the
emoti...
Gill - context
1. literature about the transformation of work, writing
about which shades into social theory more generall...
Gill - themes
• Precarious lives
• Fast academia: the intensification (time) and extensification (space) of
work:
– A larg...
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From research student to academic: thinking about and preparing for academic work

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Preparing for academic life (or not). See also: http://josswinn.org/2015/07/from-research-student-to-academic-thinking-about-and-preparing-for-academic-work/

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From research student to academic: thinking about and preparing for academic work

  1. 1. From research student to academic: thinking about and preparing for academic work Dr. Joss Winn School of Education July 2015 Study School
  2. 2. Chosen texts for discussion • Afonso, A. (2013) How academia resembles a drug gang. • Ball, S. (2015) Accounting for a sociological life: influences and experiences on the road from welfarism to neoliberalism. • Berry, D. (2012) Becoming a university academic. • Dickey, E. (2014) The impact of the poor academic job market on PhD graduates and what we individual academics can do about it. • European Science Foundation (2014) Career tracking of doctorate holders. • Gill, R. (2009) Breaking the silence: The hidden injuries of neo- liberal academia. • Nuernberg and Thompson (2008) Academic Career Paths of Social Science PhD Graduates.
  3. 3. How academia resembles a drug gang • Members of drug gangs “get rich or die trying” • ‘Dualisation’ – The divide between secure, stable employment of insiders and precarious, fixed- term employment of outsiders. • Outsiders willing to forgo wages and employment security for the prospect of insider rewards. • More people with PhDs: +5%/year since 2000 in OECD. • The ‘core’ (insiders) is shrinking, the ‘periphery’ (outsiders) is expanding, and the core is increasingly dependent on the periphery.
  4. 4. Afonso, A. (2013) How academia resembles a drug gang – figure 4.
  5. 5. Academic Career Paths of Social Science PhD Graduates • Survey (43 UK/USA), interviews and focus groups • Key findings – Mismatch between skills and experience during PhD to what was actually required in hindsight – Teaching experience necessary but not sufficient – Need to be pro-active during PhD and post-doc – Difficult to identify ‘career paths’ – lots of uncertainty – may take 5 years to obtain permanent position – Required attributes: dedication, passion, resilience, confidence, tolerance
  6. 6. Nuernberg and Thompson (2008) Table 1.
  7. 7. Be pro-active • Networking, publishing, and going to conferences (on top of teaching) are crucial both in the job market and for subsequent career development. – Build up a network of peers, informal mentors, colleagues – Practice and develop presentations skills – Get yourself known via conferences – Organise conferences, seminar papers – Get involved with academic associations or journals – Become a good communicator who is able to disseminate one’s findings • “working systematically on one’s professional development” c.f. ‘performativity’ Nuernberg and Thompson (2008) Figure 1.
  8. 8. Impact of the ‘Research Excellent Framework’ (RAE/REF) • Increased number of posts advertised in the year before and after the REF ?? • Publications more important as deadline approaches. • Look at last REF data for the School you are applying to, as well as existing structures, research groups, centres, institutes, staff profiles. • 30% of all survey participants started their first job at the institution where they had completed their PhD
  9. 9. Recommendations for PhD students considering an academic career in the social sciences 1. Be clear about what you want and explore your motivations 2. If you are unsure about pursuing an academic career, consider the alternatives 3. If you are clear that academia is the place where you want to be, consider the following frustrations and pressures 4. Don’t just have a plan, have an action plan and sharpen your profile 5. Become savvy on the academic landscape as a job market 6. Find a way of networking that suits you 7. As you prepare for the job search, decide about your priorities and the sacrifices you are willing or not willing to make 8. Develop patience, resilience and confidence Nuernberg and Thompson (2008) pp.10-12
  10. 10. Becoming a university academic • 40% of Reading students gain a ‘permanent’ (‘open’) academic position after a few years • “the life of a university academic is very different today from what it was 10, 20, or more years ago...many academics now work under, and feel, much more pressure than was once the case, often finding that the boundary between work and home life becomes increasingly blurred.”
  11. 11. ‘Post-doc’ • Fixed term research position on a grant- funded project, led by a more senior academic • Individual ‘fellowship’ grants • Requires mobility, flexibility, planning due to lack of job security and the difficulty in predicting when and where jobs will arise. • Gain research, publishing and grant application experience (Co-I)
  12. 12. ‘Lecturer’ • Research and teaching or teaching only? • Combination of research, teaching and administration (‘service’) • ‘Probationary’ period (first 12 months, though up to 3 years in UK) • Need to have or have plan to gain PGCE (HE) • Lecturer > Snr. Lecturer > Reader > Professor
  13. 13. A Job Description • Lecturer duties (Grade 7) – To work with colleagues on curriculum development and the advancement of relevant discipline areas within the university. – To deliver teaching over a range of modules. – To undertake student tutoring and support. – To contribute to the research profile of the School. – To carry out a limited number of additional activities in support of the academic work of the School.
  14. 14. What are universities looking for? • Demonstrate that they can work, and be successful, as an independent researcher. • 2-3 high quality publications • Some experience of applying for and gaining external funding • Strategy for future research, including funding • Willingness to collaborate • Teaching experience
  15. 15. The impact of the poor academic job market on PhD graduates: What can academics do about it? • We could try to make life better for PhDs who remain in academia without (immediately) getting permanent jobs: – Better recognition within departments – help develop public profile of individuals; – discounts/free conference attendance; • We could try to reduce the number of such people. Really substantial improvement in their treatment and working conditions can never be effected as long as there is such an excess of supply over demand: – De-stigmatize non-academic career paths; – keep in touch with alumni wherever they go to; – offer practical advice for non-academic employment; – talk about the reality of academic life; – promote PhDs for related professions (teaching, publishing, etc.) – promote the work of doctoral students – find avenues for publishing, blogging, etc. (Dickey, 2014)
  16. 16. Career tracking of doctorate holders • In Europe, little mobility across sectors in the economy • Geographical mobility tends to be from Southern to Northern Europe • Those on permanent contracts are more productive and satisfied with their working environments • Job insecurity militates against research as a desirable career and produces poorer results
  17. 17. Highlights from research findings… • 499 respondents to questionnaire + focus groups • The employment level of respondent doctorate holders is very high (99%) with the majority in full-time employment (89%), but with a minority in tenured posts (35%). Men were no more likely than women to be in tenured posts. • Only 27% of those under 40 years of age had permanent full-time contracts compared to 73% of those over 40 years of age. • The vast majority of respondents work as researchers (88%), mainly in public sector institutions (82%) followed by non-profit organisations (7%), the private sector (5%) and others including public-private partnerships (5%). • A high proportion is clearly willing to travel for career and academic progression purposes. Few (just 10%) had not worked or studied in another country, some 50% had worked in one country besides their home country and 40% had worked in multiple countries. • The aspects of their working environment respondents were most satisfied with were firstly the prestige of the organisation for which they work, followed by the scientific environment, the contribution they feel they are making to society and, equally, the research infrastructure of the organisation in which they work.
  18. 18. Recommendations • The system of temporary contracts that prevails is not of benefit to science nor to society and needs to be examined. • The preference of doctorate holders is usually a career in academia despite the challenges involved in securing a tenured position. This preference is not sustainable in the context of ever-increasing numbers of doctorate holders seeking employment in a sector that is already oversupplied. • Address the information asymmetries about alternative career choices and the perceived lack of attractiveness of employment in the private sector, • Universities should ensure that mobility is not a perceived or real precondition for funding or advancement. • The academic career expectations of doctorate candidates need to be managed in ways that recognise that only a tiny proportion of those who undertake PhDs will progress into a career in academia. More should be done to develop greater awareness of, and knowledge about, relevant careers outside of academia in consultancy, industry, government and elsewhere. • Universities should examine how well they prepare PhD students and post- doctorates for employment outside academia and make necessary improvements/adjustments to training.
  19. 19. Gill and Ball articles • Rosalind Gill’s book chapter is highly cited and helped turn attention to issues around the emotional and psychological impact of academic labour in the UK. • Stephen Ball’s article is a recent reflection by a senior academic in education. He is well known for, among other things, writing about ‘performativity’, which he himself has not escaped from. • Both ‘auto-ethnographic’ (to different extents).
  20. 20. Gill - context 1. literature about the transformation of work, writing about which shades into social theory more generally 2. literature about structural transformations in higher education, which highlights the increasing corporatisation and privatisation of the University, and the impacts of this 3. scholarship concerned with the micro-politics of power in the Academy 4. Foucaultian inspired writing about neoliberalism represents another important source for thinking about contemporary working life in the academy
  21. 21. Gill - themes • Precarious lives • Fast academia: the intensification (time) and extensification (space) of work: – A large proportion were working hours in excess of the European Working Time Directive, and 42% said that they regularly worked evenings and weekends in order to cope with the demands of their job. The reason given was very simple: the volume of work demanded of them. This is like an ‘open secret’. – ‘Always on: academia without walls’. “Paradoxically, as University lecturers have increasingly reported that noise, open plan offices, interruptions and student demands mean that 'you can't work at work' everywhere else has opened up as a potential site for academic labour!” • Toxic shame: “I'm a fraud, I'm useless, I'm nothing. It is (of course) deeply gendered, racialised and classed, connected to biographies that produce very different degrees of ‘entitlement’ (or not).” • The promise of pleasure in ‘my work’. Self-expression and self- exploitation.

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