Diary of an ECR #10

A little bit of therapy for this diary entry. I am just about to wind up my contract, having worked at my current post for two years. The teaching job I had been doing was transmogrified into a continuing (aka permanent, tenured) position – but only half-time. Research is mostly not provided for in that position. Two similar posts were advertised at the University of Dundee earlier in the year, so I suspect these sorts of things will become more popular. Because, of course, researchers want an affiliation, they will publish unpaid research to the University’s benefit.

But that’s not what I need to work through. Because in any case, I didn’t obtain the new position. Perils of the inside candidate. Although, I did not fall into this mistake, I think. Indeed, everyone who was interviewed for the position was probably an “inside candidate” to some degree. But in the end, I think small things made a difference. No great injustice. It’s just the way it goes – you win some, you lose some.

It means after two years of relative security, I most likely return to precarious work next year. I’ll have to toughen up. But this time, I’m not going to teach so much that I have no time to research. And this leads me to the most galling thing, I think. One of the “small things” that perhaps contributed to the outcome was that I had invested myself in learning and teaching scholarship. But the institutional winds had changed. Reflection on learning & teaching was no longer strategic. There were snide intimations made about the “quality” of such research. This was a deliberate (and even malicious, in some quarters) confusion of issues. But you could see the managers start to adjust: Suddenly, they did not want to be “embarrassed” by certain kinds of research. Oh, we’ll do L&T activities if it nets the department some funding. But we’re not serious about it of course.

This is no longer simply my position, and my security at stake. Teaching, students, and departments are likely all going to be poorer for this. It’s nobody’s fault, really. Just the conditions have changed. And that’s what’s going on at a deep level at the moment. The very idea of a University is up for grabs. In Australia – but elsewhere too. And that makes for interesting, and insecure times for University workers. Especially at the early career stage.

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