On academic precarity

A recent article by Rebecca Atwood in the Times Higher Education reports that new research has found that young academics in the UK experience high levels of anxiety over their ability to “perform.” Louise Archer, the reader in education policy studies who conducted the research, concludes that young academics worry about the pressure to publish and obtain grants, as well as their temporary positions:

Contract researchers described the insecurity of their positions and felt that they were seen as being of lower status than permanent staff. “If you are a contract researcher you are never part of the team – people don’t remember your name […] You are just here to fill a function,” one said.

Dutch young academics are not immune to these anxieties either, as Intermediair reported only a day earlier (in Dutch). Their article states that in The Netherlands and many other European countries, the system of temporary full-time research appointments after the PhD is a trap in which most young, enthusiastic researchers get caught. After piling short-term contract on contract, seventy percent of these researchers do not get tenured.

According to Intermediair, in 1999 fifty-four percent of all academic faculty had a permanent position; in 2006 that number fell to 44 percent. I am very happy working here at the Vrije Universiteit – where I am not treated as contingent at all, quite the contrary – but I do find these numbers worrying. Although the situation with regard to teaching assistants is perhaps not as serious here as it is in America, these figures do resonate with the growing numbers of contingent faculty that Marc Bousquet describes at How the University Works.

See also:

  • Aik Kramer’s film on the position of temporary lecturers [‘flexwerkers’] at the University of Amsterdam: I love UvA [in Dutch].

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