Discussion and new ideas

This is the place to put any substantive comments about specific points, or new ideas you have for things that could be done but aren’t included in the reports on this site. Please don’t put general endorsements here; use the home page for that. This will allow people to find what they’re looking for more easily.

Alternatively, you can share ideas on Facebook, at https://www.facebook.com/Hortensii

4 thoughts on “Discussion and new ideas

  1. Hello,

    My name is Shawn Warren. I am a Canadian expat living in Washington state with a PhD in philosophy and a decade of experience as an adjunct. I have developed an alternative model for the provision of higher education that qualifies as a “new idea” and might be of interest to the Hortensii group.

    My blog (http://bit.ly/LUNqyK) explores and explains various aspects of the model. For initiation I direct you to the following posts:

    1) http://bit.ly/1iWdCEU – A substantive overview of the model that might be called the professional model vs the institutional model we now all struggle under and which is composed of universities/colleges, public funding and union labour representation.

    2) http://bit.ly/1j9BOl2 – An article published at The Evolllution.com that explains how academics can better operate as vendors for institutions (universities and colleges).

    3) http://bit.ly/1mmph2S – An account of how union, professional and co-operative association can be combined to improve labour conditions for academics while HE is simultaneously moved from the capitalist to the social economy.

    4) http://bit.ly/1kauLgT – A post that explores the connection between the #alt-ac and #post-ac movements in North America and the professional model.

    I hope you find this work of some use. I do it out of professional and civil duty.

    If I can help or clarify in any way please let me know.

    Shawn Warren

  2. Hello all

    I think you are overly pessimistic in your analysis of the job opportunities for people with PhDs outside academia. I went into doing my PhD with at best a 50:50 view of whether I wanted a career in academia, and by the end of it was pretty convinced I did not. But I was also positive that having a PhD was not going to be a disadvantage, and potentially an asset, in looking for a job outside academia.

    To put this in context, my PhD was broadly in the field of international development (from a Geography Department). I have now worked for 12 years in different roles for a UK-based development charity- currently serving as a senior policy adviser. I have various peers both with and without PhDs who do work in similar types of jobs for other charities and research institutions (outside a formal university setting).

    I think the way to help PhD students who think this might be the path for them is to help ensure they are able to make contact with potential employers during their PhD and even see if they can get pieces of consultancy work during their studies as a way of broadening their experience before they start looking for jobs.

    Hope that’s some help.
    Best wishes to you all! Lucy

  3. I earned my PhD in Ancient History just as the economy fell at the end of 2007. By the 2008 market season there were no tenure track jobs for ancient historians, schools either really wanted a Medievalist or didn’t frankly know what they wanted (not any uncommon practice I know). By 2009 there wasn’t a single tenure track job out there that I could even pretend were for ancient history. There continued to be a handful of non-tenure track positions but given that I had a family, a house, a partner with a career, my leaving to teach from year to year or worse semester to semester wasn’t feasible for us.

    I had a career to follow outside of academia — writing and I’ve done decently at it but as is the case with 99% of all authors, I need either family or another job to support that career. I miss teaching, the one thing I really enjoyed about academia, so I volunteer at the university museum to do educational tours and that helps but again no pay.

    One thing I noticed on the job market during interviews and the campus visits were unrealistic expectations for new facility. 4-4 teaching load, plus putting out a new monograph (not your dissertation published) in five years when the school’s library is barely larger than my own with almost no funding for research. Toss into that committee requirement and sometimes summer teaching and it all seemed rather naîve of the school. Of course to meet those demands forget having kids, staying close with your spouse, taking care of your health, or even doing meaningful research that anyone and one small academic publisher other than you will want to read.

    I’m a big believer in the idea that teacher should be the primary focus on faculty and while more and more school give lip service to that idea, even requiring pedagogical classes for professors or far more oversight by the department, we all know that it means next to nothing when it comes to getting tenure if you have a shot at tenure at all.

    As a scholarly community we have allowed the big business mentality of more for less and doing as little as you can get away with for employees (that’s us by the way) team up with the Ivy Tower ideals that often don’t reflect reality. We are driving some of the best teachers and most brilliant minds from our midst just as advances in science could help us discover new evidence and greater connectivity could offer us greater perspectives on how to think about that all of our evidence.

    As someone who will always think of herself as an ancient historian no matter if she’d helping 9th through the Greek collections at the museum or writing the next series, all of this makes me very sad and worry that I’ve damaged my family’s future by investing so many years and money in my PhD.

  4. If I can comment as an interloper (from medicine) I’d make two suggestions.

    1. The current system of grant applications means senior academics are incentivised to acquire PhD students (either by grants or otherwise), who may end up working on subjects which will advance their supervisors’ careers, but which will ensure no career longevity for the student. Because new knowledge is being created, this can never be known for certain, but, for grant applications at least, the likely impact of the work is assessed. It seems reasonable to expect granting bodies to assess the likelihood of PhD students to be able to continue, as those that do will be working on the most valuable ideas.
    2. We still pay insufficient attention to cross-disciplinary contribution. In psychiatry, my branch of medicine, Bill Fulford and colleagues have very skilfully introduced philosophical ethics into psychiatry as “values-based practice”, informing key skills which psychiatrists need to obtain. Indeed, a philosopher (Carl Hempel) was instrumental in creating the whole categorisation system which my profession uses. This makes the point that humanities education can be of enormous value outside its own specific profession, but my impression is that the humanities do much less of this kind of work than the sciences, despite there being enormous potential. For example, history routinely makes use of data that statisticians would regard as unusable.

    As can be seen, these suggestions are really for the humanities’ seniors to take up, if considered viable. I, for one, feel that the current trough in the humanities’ power and influence is harming society in general, and really hope it revives.

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