Thursday, September 22, 2011

Academic frustration

In 1991 when I finished my undergraduate degree at RMIT I believed the hype that if I undertook postgraduate study I would be qualified to teach in a University, so I undertook a postgraduate diploma and then I was told I needed a higher degree to teach, so I did a Master of Arts. I was then told that there were only casual tutoring positions and those were mostly given to students undertaking a PhD, so I enrolled in a PhD and in second year began to tutor on a very casual basis. When I completed my PhD at the end of 2004 I had already applied for one postdoctoral grant and was placed in the top ten percentile of applications at my University, but was unsuccessful in receiving a research grant. I applied another three times, each time I was unsuccessful. There were very few tenured positions available in any of the Universities in Melbourne by that stage and some of the lecturers and some of the peers in my department had already left Australia to find better, more fulfilling positions at overseas universities. The article in yesterday's Australian newspaper appears to hit the nail on the head. It describes the horrible state of affairs that exists in Universities at the moment and confirms that I am not the only individual finding it frustrating that after a decade or so of study we form part of a workforce that is forced to accept the little amount of teaching work offered and are expected to be grateful for it, if you don't mind! We have become fodder, to be used and abused. There is no job security - most contracts state that the hours are not guaranteed and if you figure in the amount of administrative duties required for each hour of tutoring you are being paid at an extremely low rate for your academic qualifications and experience. However, like most workers afraid of loosing the little piece of work handed to them, most will not speak up for fear of the backlash of being overlooked next time work is being handed out. We all know that if we won't do it for that amount of money that there are 67,000 other academics who can replace us. So, the academic factory churns on and people get more and more frustrated with what appears to be a failing system.


  1. You might like this article on the conversation

  2. Intellectuals, Academics and Artists are always the first to be lined up against the wall during fascist regimes. Just because we live relatively
    comfortably, and appear to have a democracy, doesn't mean we aren't also kept disabled and silent. On that point, the sedition laws brought in by the Howard Govt are still operational I believe. Why hasn't the Labor Govt repealed them is all I'm asking? Time for a few phone calls to my senators....

    Kyriaki Maragozidis

  3. Here is a follow up comment from Kyriaki:

    "....just called Senator Nick Xenophon's office asking about sedition laws...they were brought in in 2005 as an amendment to the federal crimes
    act 1914. In 2008 the Fed Govt introduced a Bill to repeal the Sedition is still waiting to be brought to light 3 years later, which according to the woman I spoke to is an unusually long time....She is calling me back with more info".

  4. Moira Corby said:

    'And the machine grinds on.Those who have Tenure cling onto their posts like like barnacles at high-tide. Jobs for mates, or political affiliation. It's not so much about the love of facilitating learning and research, contributing to projects, etc.It's a life of political intrigue, power plays, protecting oneself via
    grants and conferencing.Lecturing at uni offers a rich and varied life, but one must deploy a smart strategic game, also'.

  5. Steve, the article in your link is so right, although I wouldn't want to generalize. I think what grates on me is that students, who are lazy, uninterested in their study and who treat University like it's a holiday camp are the very ones who will give tutors a less than worthy assessment if that tutor does not make concessions for their inappropriate behavior and lack of real engagement with course material. Of course, then the tutor who receives a 'bad mark' from their students is assessed by administrative staff who do the employing as unworthy of teaching. The system is fracked!