Classically Inclined

August 17, 2012

Employment for next year

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 9:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

September is creeping ever closer, and so I’m delighted to share that my contract as a Teaching Fellow in Latin Literature at Birmingham has been extended for another year.

In personal terms, this is a very promising step, as it means I’ll be in a familiar environment and won’t have to learn the administrative processes all over again – which, in turn, translates into more time, which (if I’m careful) I’ll be able to use to work on revising the book manuscript. There’s also a chance I’ll get to teach something directly related to the book, but as that’s still a bit up in the air I’ll say no more just yet. (Plus I don’t have to move. This is worth its weight in gold.)

However, this feels like a very simple solution to an extremely long-running and frustrating problem. Those who follow me on Twitter know that I have been submitting job and fellowship applications here, there and everywhere – twenty-eight at the last count, which is a lot for a field as small as Classics. Very few of those have progressed to interviews, and the ones that have have been teaching-focused rather than research-based. I have the very strong suspicion that’s because I don’t currently have a book contract under my belt. There’s been a bit of a build-up of researchers at my level over the last few years, so I’m competing against people with not just one but sometimes two or three books – and in the current REF-driven environment, that effectively means I don’t stand a chance. The hiring system doesn’t have a way to take into account that I am the earliest of early career researchers, and thus only need to submit one output to the assessment panels (although I’ve been working on ways to flag this fact up more clearly, as it’s not the sort of information that’s immediately obvious to people looking over applications). The requirements of the REF really do seem to be pushing hiring panels towards the bird in the hand, as it were, instead of thinking about how to nurture potential excellence – and, in fairness to the panels, they can do that because they have such a large pool of good people three or four years ahead of me in their careers to pick from.

I am looking forward to staying at Birmingham – I’ve really enjoyed working with my colleagues this year, I’m delighted that I get to see current students again and that I get to meet the new intake, and the coming year is going to have some interesting opportunities in it. But this year’s job hunt has made it inexorably clear that if I want to get any further next year, it’s all about getting that book contract nailed down.


  1. I have a book contract, but have failed to get work because I don’t have firm enough plans for the next book/research project, despite the fact a) all the interviews were for 1-year (at most 2) contracts and I only need one output for the REF, so the book should be enough and b) I have not been *paid* to do research since my PhD funding stopped 3 years ago. So far, I haven’t been able to fund a way that it’s physically possible to do the amount of research required to get a job in the first place while making enough money to buy food and pay rent. Which is why I can only get part-time employment at teaching-focused institutions.

    Comment by Juliette — August 17, 2012 @ 3:47 pm | Reply

    • The issue of being paid to do research is another thing I should have addressed in my post (and have sounded off about on Twitter). The expectation seems to be that you take a teaching-only position to pay you to do enough research to prove you deserve a research position, whilst at the same time being squeezed by the institution to take on teaching responsibilities so the staff who are on research and teaching contracts have time to do their research. It’s an absolutely insane system, and is completely back to front from the early career researcher perspective.

      Comment by lizgloyn — August 17, 2012 @ 4:08 pm | Reply

      • It’s fairly nonsensical. I suppose it might just about work if you had a full-time teaching position, which allowed enough spare hours to do a bit of research – though it still seems like an insane expectation that no other field of work would dream of insisting on (except maybe some creative arts…) But if you’re working part-time, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do enough teaching to make enough money to live on *and* do research.

        Comment by Juliette — August 17, 2012 @ 4:15 pm | Reply

  2. My worry is that with so many Classics/Ancient History/Archaeology-department-wielding universities (e.g. Southampton, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham etc) advertising 5 year fellowships to start this autumn, they’re not only recruiting with this REF in mind, but also the next one, which means fewer opportunities for everyone not lucky enough to land one of these over the next few years.

    Comment by Jane — August 19, 2012 @ 2:18 pm | Reply

    • I have to admit that I’ve not been quite so worried about this, because the five year fellowship programs appear to be competitions across all university subjects, and I doubt that every Classics/Ancient History/Arch department in the relevant places will end up with a fellow. I agree that there’s a risk there about long-term effects, but I suspect it will be spread across a broad enough field to not necessarily have a disproportionate effect on our field. She types, optimistically.

      Comment by lizgloyn — August 20, 2012 @ 4:45 pm | Reply

  3. delighted that you are employed for next year, and I agree that you should be able to get more research done without a new system to learn. But these jobs still mean too much ‘going the extra mile’ in an attempt to hang on to another year of doing a lot of teaching and admin rather like the previous year… The teaching fellowship system can be pretty disgraceful. Although compared to the USA… !

    Comment by Heeln — August 25, 2012 @ 9:22 pm | Reply

    • I suspect that, given the upcoming change in life circumstances, that another teaching fellowship contract will have to be pretty darn attractive to pull me in – but we’ll see what this year’s job market brings around and whether the system can be gamed to my advantage. It may mean a bit of lateral thinking – but these days, what doesn’t?

      Comment by lizgloyn — August 27, 2012 @ 9:42 pm | Reply

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