Alan recalls interviews for academic jobs, his doubts about his eligibility for Oxbridge posts, and his early experiences in his current role as a college lecturer there.
Steven remembers his views of where a PhD might lead and his supervisor’s role in helping him look beyond an academic career.
Debbie: Something I would like to say is I would like to see perhaps the nature of academia perhaps defined more widely in the more general culture. I think one of my pet things is I think there should be more routes into academia partly because as we all know it’s really hard to get into academia; it feels like a closed door to a lot of people. And I think perhaps even with these kind of academic skills the different academic rules could be made a bit more explicit maybe. I might decry that the division that has been research and teaching seems to be taking hold in some universities now I think perhaps if academia as a field was defined more widely then there might be space for more people within it and so we would actually have less of an issue.
Ross: I think you make a very good point there in talking about the different roles that are in academia now ‘I want to become an academic, well what do you need for that?’ Well for academics there are teaching only roles now in some universities. There are research only roles in some universities. And they require different skills and I think to say ‘I’m going to be in academia’ well, what do you mean by that?
Debbie: Yeah, you need to be quite clear ‘what do you mean by that’ because if a certain area of academia is placed to your particular skills then that’s great. Or you might feel that only following one area of academia, it doesn’t actually fulfil you in some way; you might feel if you were only researching that you wouldn’t feel that that was valuable to you as a person that you were neglecting other areas of your personal development.
Ross: And I think it is important that people who are looking for a career in academia realise that for a lot of them it is going to mean short-term contracts in the first instance. That it’s not goingto the tenure, you get your job and there you are at that university for the rest of your life it is going to be three year contracts. Which might mean at the end of it there might not be anymore money for that, which means you might have to go and find a job at another university, you might have to start shopping around. Which of course has implications of the sort of skills you are going to need, the way you can adapt, it is going to be an implication of how you develop your sort of research and teaching portfolio. But also how are you going to live your life because at any one time in your role in your area there maybe one or two or three jobs coming up a year and you maybe working in the