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Casual Friday: a #securework chat

Between 1998 and 2006, the number of PhDs awarded in the OECD countries increased by some 40%, prompting discussion of PhD bubbles, academic inflation, diminution in quality and concerns that an expensively educated group would not find suitable careers and displace others in posts that traditionally did not require a PhD

 Job security for early career researchers is a significant factor in helping research make an impact, The Impact Blog, The London School of Economics and Political Science, 30th June 2015

Almost all respondents were employed, with 90 per cent in research posts. But only a third of these had tenured positions … The main reason for leaving research – given by those who had left – was the difficulty of building a career in the field…. Insecure employment causes “considerable dissatisfaction and stress” in the postdoctoral population…

Too many PhDs, not enough tenured positions Times Higher Education, 28th May 2015.

We’ve got into the habit here at CASA of reading every line of every conference announcement in higher education, across research, teaching, administration, policy, equity and diversity, looking for any mention of the higher education workforce who are employed by the hour.

When we do come across something – usually a lone speaker on a panel or one paper in a session, but once an entire summit – we find casualisation is typically presented as a thorny issue to be grappled with by those focused on teaching in higher education.

But casualisation is a sector-wide issue with implications for those working on the other side of the research-teaching nexus. So what then for casual and short-term researchers working in universities? The research assistants with/without/working on PhDs, the 6-month research contractors, the 2 year post-doc positions, those stepping from one year research fellowships to another?

What about the competitive grant funding that budgets for RA hiring at the lowest possible salary step? What about all the hourly paid lower level RA tasks that so many of our academic casuals use to top up their income from teaching?

Higher education likes a diagram. What if we could visualise the proportion of Australia’s total research productivity that depended on casual researchers getting the fieldwork, data collection, experiments, literature reviewing, and project management done—while the lead CI’s name is on the publications and the lead institution is in The Conversation for having nurtured the project?

This Friday, we’re participating in a #securework conversation on Twitter organised by the NTEU. The focus will be on all aspects of working in universities; teaching, research, administration, and the factors that are contributing to people staying in and getting out.Secure Work logo

We know that the complex issues that are driving the casualisation of Australia’s universities aren’t going to be addressed in a single hour on Twitter, but we’re really glad to join this initiative and commit to helping keep it going in the future. Australia has a very small higher education sector relative to other places, and our experience at CASA has taught us that there is a warm, collegial and constructive community of thinkers concerned with this issue.

So anything that will help make this community visible to those who are making decisions about staffing in Australia’s universities gets a cheer from us.

Friends of CASA, please come and join us in the chat on Twitter, this Friday 17 July 2015, at 11am AEDT. Use the hashtag #securework.

More info: http://securework.org.au/

Kate & Karina


About Karina

Living and working in the Sydney, Australia suburbs.


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