Dear Universities UK
In Britain, there are many thousands of PhD-qualified researchers who struggle to find suitable employment, let alone careers, and their number grows daily. Indeed, the oversupply of researchers has probably never been greater than it is today.
Enticed into academic research – sometimes with misleading assurances of a ‘research career’ or ‘academic career’ -, they eventually find their qualification and experience all-but worthless, inside and outside of academia.
Many toil for years in junior research roles (is there any other kind?), helping to build the reputations of institutions and advance the careers of professors, only to arrive at a dead end, with little option but to start again from square one elsewhere.
Denied access to a career path or seniority in their own field of expertise, many are forced into low-grade jobs, often subordinate to people who had the sense and foresight never to get involved in academic research.
From a researcher’s viewpoint, this state of affairs seems unsustainable. Therefore it is my intention to make a case to government for a fundamental review of the present, failing system, with the aim to bring it properly into line with researchers’ needs and aspirations.
Before doing so, however, I would be grateful if you would respond to the following specific questions:
1. Do you agree that it is irresponsible, nay unethical, for universities to continue expanding PhD programmes knowing that jobs and careers in research are so sparse that only a small number of qualified researchers can expect to deploy their skills professionally for long?
2. Is it not a criminal waste of talent and resources that most researchers are put out to grass after only a few years of productive work?
3. Do you agree that terms such as ‘research career’ and ‘researcher career path’ are misleading, create unrealizable expectations, and should be excised from academic communications?
4. May we admit that ‘career development’ initiatives on behalf of UK academic researchers have been mostly cosmetic and ineffectual?
5. Recruitment to institutional research support roles generally gives little heed to research qualifications and experience, such that a great proportion of senior support staff possess neither. How do universities justify this? And how can they expect external employers to value research qualifications and experience when they themselves dismiss them?
6. Would you agree that political screening of job applicants has no place in any publicly funded institution?
7. Following from this, would you agree also that the Left’s stranglehold on higher education is limiting free and open inquiry?
8. Finally, would you concur that the present PhD system is essentially a scam configured to fill university coffers and to enhance professorial reputations and careers at the expense of researchers? That the present system should scrapped and replaced by something that restores balance of supply and demand, and works for the people who actually sustain it?
I look forward to your reply.