Yes, we CAN do something!

Hortensii, the group dedicated to improving the situation for PhDs without permanent academic jobs, has registered its first success: the University of Manchester held a conference at which the organizer produced name tags without institutional affiliations out of consideration for the feelings of unaffiliated attendees. He informs us that he did this as a result of our survey. No-one reported having difficulties with those name tags, perhaps in part because a complete list of attendees’ e-mail addresses was included in the conference pack and therefore affiliations were not necessary for contact purposes. Thank you Nigel Vincent!

Now we would be the first to admit that as successes go this one is small. But it’s a step in the right direction, and every step counts: the only way we can make big changes is via lots of little changes. So we look forward to hearing about the next success: when you change something about academia, even a little thing, do tell us, so we can tell the world that change is possible and thereby encourage others to make more changes.

In other news, we have two more documents on this site, one a list of things employed academics can do to help and one an information sheet for prospective PhD students. We know the latter document is appalling, and we apologize for that, but we felt we had to do it because of the strong support for making sure that prospective PhD students know the truth about the job market. We also, ahem, have made some corrections to the original documents, which contained a few mistakes. Many apologies to all about those mistakes, and MANY thanks to the people who pointed them out! Please keep the corrections coming if you spot more mistakes: we know that having incorrect information on this site is highly undesirable, and we’ve made a big effort to get things right, so we really welcome help in that direction.

And we have lots of volunteers, which is great — but we could definitely use more! If you have volunteered and not yet heard from us with a specific assignment, don’t worry: we’ll be in touch soon with a possibility that we hope will match who and where you are. If you haven’t yet volunteered, please do! And if you have a good idea, please put it on our ‘Discussion and new ideas’ page for everyone to see — thank you!

We’ve also found a site that you might want to check out if you are having feelings of failure and/or considering leaving academia but worried that this might look like failure. It’s and has some good posts confronting the ‘failure narrative’ and suggesting what we can do about it, as well as practical advice for getting non-academic jobs. In the latter area, of course, we still also recommend

In less cheerful news, we have heard from a significant number of people in the ‘precariat’ who support the Hortensii initiative but are afraid to say so in public because they fear being fired for speaking up. Is this really what academia should be like? Can we do anything to restore basic freedom of speech to our disciplines?

Keep up the good work, everyone! And on behalf of all the people who are afraid to say anything, let me say thank you to those who are not afraid to do something — we’re looking forward to the next success!

Let’s do something!

Hortensii is a group of people inside and outside academia who want to alleviate the difficulties facing PhDs without permanent academic jobs. We take our name from the Roman Quintus Hortensius, who in c. 287 BC sponsored the Lex Hortensia giving civil rights to Roman plebeians.

We think that despite the current unpleasant realities facing academia many positive steps could be taken; see ‘What to do and why’ (or, if you are really brave, ‘Full report’) for exactly what these are, but to oversimplify grossly our goals are both to reduce the oversupply of disappointed would-be academics by making it easier to leave academia, and to make life better for PhDs who choose to remain in academia without a permanent job. We welcome anyone who shares these goals and is in broad agreement with our proposed actions to join us and help implement them (see ‘Please join us’ and leave an endorsement on this page if you can), and we ask people with other agendas to respect ours and leave us to it.

We are not fighting against anyone or anything and are not affiliated with any movement, political party, or country. Nor are we trying to help individuals gain employment or to interfere in any way with decisions on who should get the limited number of academic jobs available; as we have different subjects and different views on what constitutes good academic work in our fields, we wish to avoid internal dissension by remaining strictly neutral in such matters so we can work together to make life better for a group that badly needs such help.