Smart choices

Posted on | November 24, 2009 | 9 Comments

Thanks so much to New Matilda for publishing this piece just before the conference. I tried to crystallize some of the things mentioned here in recent days and months.

See you on Thursday, I hope!


9 Responses to “Smart choices”

  1. Miriam Lyons
    November 24th, 2009 @ 3:50 pm

    Great piece Mel! Lots of inspiration for my 5-minute talk this Friday 🙂

  2. ap
    November 24th, 2009 @ 5:13 pm

    good article mel. i am all subscribed and ready to follow the event via twitter. i am hoping that the conversation and critique of the contemporary academy’s expectations of ercs can be brought into a productive dialogue with the other side of the employment and promotion reality outlined here (

    the need for a doctorate, book, funding and journal articles are minimum standards for employment in some disciplines, while in others people are appointed as senior lecturers based on their industry experience (then promoted to ass prof.) – no doctorates, no books to be seen. these disparities are another component of the state of the academy which need closer scrutiny and debate.

  3. melgregg
    November 24th, 2009 @ 5:44 pm

    Hi Miriam and Anna! It’s a special day to have you both commenting on the same blog post! Looking forward to seeing you this week, M.

    The industry experience/ no PhD / strategic promotion side of things is truly a whole other can of worms. Thanks so much for raising it Anna. It’s particularly pertinent because, if my sources are right, and the OVER-supply of academic positions is slated to begin in haste in 2012, this also means that all those people who weren’t good enough to be employable over the past decade will increasingly watch similarly qualified candidates snap up jobs. In each case, it’s a huge recipe for killing morale in a profession premised on the idea of meritocracy.

    Does this mean you aren’t coming to the conf A? Boo hoo

  4. ap
    November 24th, 2009 @ 5:48 pm

    yes my apologies; i am not coming. fate is against me!

  5. glen
    November 25th, 2009 @ 6:30 am

    ‘good enough’?

    Is this what you think, Mel? Maybe you were tired or something when you wrote that comment. It is complete bullshit, however.

    What about:

    – Didn’t have mentoring support from supervisors and/or other senior academics?
    – Didn’t do a PhD on a topic that easily plugs into the existing ‘expertise holes’ of current university departments?
    – Does not have an ethic of self-promotion to package one’s self to fit in with or fawn over other academics?

    Think about the logic of ‘good enough’:

    – Postgrads and fresh PhD graduates are ‘good enough’ to teach at a university as a casual, but not ‘good enough’ to teach there fulltime?
    – Research outputs?

    Universities are hiring people who will reproduce the myth that it is a function of being ‘good enough’ while not doing anything about the structural conditions. It fools postgrads into a way of thinking that makes them subservient surplus labour, like if they just publish one more article then they’ll have a chance. They do not have a chance.

  6. MC
    November 25th, 2009 @ 6:48 am

    Of course I don’t think that! Why do you think the conference is happening? It is precisely to create a public discussion about the structural conditions. Maybe I should have been more obvious by writing “good enough” (?) In any case, I was pointing to the consequences of the abrupt shift in hiring practices that most people in real positions of power keep claiming is imminent.

  7. Rachel
    November 25th, 2009 @ 8:41 am

    Conference sounds like it will be fascinating, Mel. Wish I could be there!

    I’m not sure giving senior lecturer positions to people who have industry experience is necessarily a bad thing though, depending on the discipline. In somewhat vocational fields such as media, marketing, fine arts and so on, it’s highly beneficial for students to learn from people who have recent experience in the fields they want to work with.

    As fantastic as my undergrad was (and it was pretty fantastic), I’m consistently amazed by how little of the real world practicalities of working in the media were covered. My impression, having mentored a lot of undergrads in an informal capacity, is that this is an issue at most universities.

    Without underplaying the workplace issues facing academics specifically, I wonder how to what extent the failure of a degree – even one as hardgoing and rigorous as a PhD – to give forth the professional rewards students hope for (like, say, ongoing employment), echoes the frustrations a lot of undergraduates have when they enter the workforce. They can’t get jobs without a barrage of additional achievements under their belt either – and from what I recall when my friends and I graduated (across various disciplines), even with those things it was bloody hard.

    So is this something that universities should be addressing in the way they nurture their students – research or otherwise – or is it an unfortunate reality of a competitive capitalist economy?

    The oversupply of academic jobs set to hit in 2012 does sound promising, though. 😉

  8. Agnes
    November 25th, 2009 @ 8:41 am

    Mel, thanks for the article. I’ve posted a link on Macquarie’s Learning and Teaching blog –

    I read “good enough” in exactly that way, but appreciate the points Glen raises. But “they don’t have a chance” – rather grim and final. Can’t we leave the window of opportunity slightly open?

    See you at the conference!

  9. From here to there : home cooked theory
    March 8th, 2013 @ 1:25 am

    […] a personal level, I have wanted to try something different for a long time. I have been uncomfortable with the competitive and elitist dimensions that seem to […]

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