The Academic Labour Market - a mug's game

When I finished my PhD ten years ago my supervisor told me that there was no future in academic jobs, things had changed since he entered it in the 1970s. "You could have told me this a little early" I thought. 

Here are three useful posts on the academic labour market 

1. How Academia Resembles a Drug Gang

Shows how academia has not just a dual labour market, of insiders with job tenure and career progression and outsiders, trapped on temporary contracts, but also details the different ways in which this market operates in the UK, Germany and the US. Bottom line is most outsiders, stay outside.


2. Casualisation of Labour in the Irish University 

That post prompted the question, how do things fare in Ireland. This post provides a partial answer. "Permanent jobs increasingly disappear in favour of low-paid, temporary employment. Such work comes without security, proper remuneration or benefits, and renders invisible the precarious workers whose labour the university relies on to function. These workers often teach core modules in departments or are the face of vital research projects yet they are denied recognition within the institution. From the perspective of the administration, these citizens of the university are not part of the staff compliment but merely temporary contracts to be “suppressed” upon expiration."


3. Mentors verus sponsors in Labour Markets 

And related a very interesting post, on how it is not mentorship that matters, but sponsors "So I think there should be a lot of sympathy for  recent research showing that mentorship (communicating with more advanced people) does not have an effect on career advancement but sponsors (people who pick you, push you, and get benefit from it) do have an effect." 

It concludes with " So, if you care about women or minorities advancing in some career track (like academia), then forget the nice lunches. Administrators should double down on matching people with power players."

A lovely sentiment, but instead senior administrators within Irish Universities have spent 5.8 million on legal feels, on cases relating to staffing matters. Many of these cases related to the Protection of Fixed Term Workers Act which states that employees may not be employed on a series of fixed-term contracts indefinitely, that is keep the outsiders out.


Picture: CC NC BY aacarroll