/ University staff on strike?

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malk - on 06 Nov 2013

have you seen what they get paid?
In reply to malk: Who is going to debate the existence of God on UKC while they're manning the picket lines?
LakesWinter on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to malk: Most of them are on short term low security contracts and they are involved in pushing forward our understanding of many useful and important (as well as some silly) things. I think it's fair enough - we can't expect world class innovation without decent investment in the system.
malk - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to Submit to Gravity: that they have so much time to rant on forums is another matter, but who are they to spout their shite at the taxpayers expense??
lithos on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to malk:

how much should they be paid ?
and whats this about tax payers expense ?
the students pay (via the loans co) the majority ...
malk - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to lithos: not 30k+ and posting on forums..
dsh - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to malk:

A lot of post doctorate researchers get very little money and poor contracts. Academics until very senior are not well paid considering their qualifications and expertise. They have to do more education with very low funding and then don't get much more than a graduate salary in many other jobs to start. If anyone deserves more pay it's them, plus they benefit society as a whole much more than most.
wilkie14c - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to dsh:
> (In reply to malk)
>
>Academics until very senior are not well paid considering their qualifications and expertise.

what like dumbledor?
Choss on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to Submit to Gravity:
> (In reply to malk) Who is going to debate the existence of God on UKC while they're manning the picket lines?

Shhh!

That ones Drifted off. Dont fire it up again.
Morty - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to wilkie14c:
> (In reply to dsh)
> [...]
> >Academics until very senior are not well paid considering their qualifications and expertise.
>
> what like dumbledor?

Now you are being ridiculous - he is a head master - not a senior lecturer...
gethin_allen on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to malk:
Did it take you 6 days to write this?
Enlighten us on what you think university staff get paid and those who actually know from first-hand experience what these people get paid can correct you.
malk - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to dsh: must be a hard life being a researcher- forgive me if i don't weep when your salary falls below 30K..
Jim C - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to malk:
> i mean WTF?
> have you seen what they get paid?

Yes, my daughter is working for the uni having recently graduated.

She is looking for a better paid job elsewhere so she can save up for a mortgage , so that perhaps indicates that not all staff think they are well paid.
malk - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to Jim C: good luck..
malk - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to LakesWinter:
> (In reply to malk) Most of them are on short term low security contracts and they are involved in pushing forward our understanding of many useful and important (as well as some silly) things. I think it's fair enough - we can't expect world class innovation without decent investment in the system.

oh really? any evidence? please expand..

Jim C - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to malk:
> (In reply to Jim C) good luck..

It is a bit of a shame Malk, it would be better for everyone all round if she was not tempted away to better paid jobs in finance.
( or houses/mortgages were more affordable, and she could do a job that she prefers to do. )

malk - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to Jim C: sad that people still think there is a future in finance;(

gethin_allen on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to malk:
> (In reply to LakesWinter)
> [...]
>
> oh really? any evidence? please expand..

If you have a look on any scientific recruitment site you will see that most jobs and contracts of a year or two ntil you get to the point of getting a lectureship or a professorial chair. You normally need a degree, a PhD a few post docs and then quite a few years of finding your own cash through applying for grants before you have any chance of getting a lectureship and another 10-20 years experience until you have a good chance of getting a professorship.
I won't say that we are paid poorly but neither am I going to say that I am paid well.
I've spent thousands of pounds and 10 years to get to my position and know many people who didn't go to uni and now earn more than me.
Are you just jealous? Did you do a degree in arse scratching at the university of nowhere and now expect to find a job or are you a " university of lifer"?
Ridge - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to malk:

Never mind that, we need another outrage thread about student fancy dress..
paul__in_sheffield - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to dsh: my PostDoc researchers are on 35k which is par for the course on EPSRC research contracts
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Tim Chappell - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to anyone who cares:

My first job had a salary of £0. My second job had a salary of £5000 (1993 values), rising to £8000 when the college upgraded me from a one-year to a three-year contract.

Anyone who wants to see what a professor gets paid can google it. In the mean time, I can tell you that I don't know anyone who's in academia for the money, unless s/he is a VC...

As to this wasting-time-on-the-internet canard, my job is defined by a task-list, not by hours. (That's not me making it up; it says that in my contract.) When I'm not getting through my task-list, you won't see me on UKC.

And anyway, I'm a professional philosopher. If there are philosophical discussions on UKC, why shouldn't I join in?
Skol on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to paul__in_sheffield:
Good for them. They've clearly applied themselves.:-)
Coel Hellier - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to malk:

> ... have you seen what they get paid?

Yep, sure have. Are they underpaid? Well, the answer to that is that some are and some aren't. Generally they are paid much less than accountants, lawyers and GPs and such. Some, however, are overpaid for what they actually do. One problem is that there are national pay scales for these things, so that people get paid according to where they are on the scale, not what they themselves are actually worth.

[By the way, I'm not a member of any of the unions that went on strike and have never gone on strike myself.]
gethin_allen on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to paul__in_sheffield:
> (In reply to dsh) my PostDoc researchers are on 35k which is par for the course on EPSRC research contracts

Got any jobs going for a molecular psychologist?
I'm guessing your post docs are grade 8, I'm just a lowly grade 7 and get nowhere near 35k.
gethin_allen on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to gethin_allen:
Make that mycologist not psychologist. Bloody Android phone.
paul__in_sheffield - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to gethin_allen: I upped it to grade 8 to try and attract and employ some home UK researchers, but mostly no luck. Most of my researchers come from overseas, most of whom would have worked for grade 7. Can't win.
Ridge - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to anyone who cares)
>
> As to this wasting-time-on-the-internet canard, my job is defined by a task-list, not by hours.

Is that what we uneducated types refer to as 'Job and Knock'?
IainRUK - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to malk: You are taking the piss.. constant bouts of unemployment or at least the threat of it.. short term contracts, lots of moving..

I think the wage is OK situation depending.. but for all the education and debts its certainly not great.
IainRUK - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to paul__in_sheffield:
> (In reply to dsh) my PostDoc researchers are on 35k which is par for the course on EPSRC research contracts

Really I'm a biology rerearch fellow, Max Planck, on 24,000 euros (tax free)..
gethin_allen on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to paul__in_sheffield:
So what do you do? I've got 2 years left on a contract down here in Swansea but IanRUK sounds like he'd quite like £35k in Sheffield.
mbh - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to malk:

I had six years on 4 short term post-doc contracts, the last of them on about £12k in the late 90s. The world is open to you, which is exciting, but constantly having to find a new job and move takes its toll and is difficult to do if you have a family.
IainRUK - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to mbh: It all changed after that.. I started my PhD on 12k + 1k case.. my mates started on 7 maybe 8 max... made some difference.
Tim Chappell - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to Ridge:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
> [...]
>
> Is that what we uneducated types refer to as 'Job and Knock'?


I have no idea what you self-described uneducated types refer to as "Job and Knock".

Two things I do know, first that today I worked from 10am to 10pm, and secondly that I have absolutely no need to justify my work patterns to anyone other than my line manager.

Are you my line manager?

No, thought not.
IainRUK - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Ridge)
> [...]
>
>
> I have no idea what you self-described uneducated types refer to as "Job and Knock".
>
> Two things I do know, first that today I worked from 10am to 10pm, and secondly that I have absolutely no need to justify my work patterns to anyone other than my line manager.
>
> Are you my line manager?
>
> No, thought not.

Aye some days.. I don't do much.. some days I'll work 16 hour days and basically barely be able to sleep as I can't switch off. Its stranely note easy writing papers.. you can write 75% of a paper in a day, I did today, then spend a week on 6 lines in the discussion as all you do is read journal articles and chase dead ends.. then suddenly bang and its all done..
Tim Chappell - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to IainRUK:

It's like that in philosophy too, when you're writing. Some days you're casting around, reading things, taking notes, wandering up and down scratching your head, going for bike rides to try and sort out what it is that you're trying to say... other days you know what you're trying to do and it's all consuming.

Right now I'm busy not for that reason, unfortunately, but because I have a mountain of admin roles to get through.

I help edit a journal, too, which can be entertaining. You get to be capable of adjudicating (accept vs reject vs revise and resubmit) on 30 10,000-word papers in 2 hours...
dsh - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to malk:
> (In reply to dsh) must be a hard life being a researcher- forgive me if i don't weep when your salary falls below 30K..

I'm not a researcher and I wouldn't want to be one.

Sounds like you have a chip on your shoulder about people who've worked their arse off everyday for no money for 7-8 years getting a decent salary when what they do benefits society and the world. If you're jealous maybe you should have tried harder in school eh?
Boar of Badenoch - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to malk:

I think the situation regarding this strike is a very complex one. First thing to get clear is this. The strike action does not have a mandate from the membership. Only a narrow majority was in favour (about 60%) and the turnout was abysmal. Unite - 28%, UCU - 35%, Unison - turnout so poor they're refusing to disclose it. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-24549616 I think it is fair to say that, if someone can't be bothered to return their ballot paper that means they are not supportive of the strike. So, it seems that only about 20% of Union members wanted to strike.

Most likely this is the reason why the UCEA have refused to come to the negotiating table with the Unions - they know full well that the industrial action does not have a mandate from the members and is therefore going to fall flat on its face. The unions are stupid enough to go ahead without a mandate from their members.

The Unions are demanding an above-inflation payrise for everyone, to start to redress the real-terms pay cut in recent years. I feel there are 2 problems with the Union claim.

Firstly, there can be little doubt that those at the bottom end of the University pay scale (cleaners, caterers, security guards) are really struggling to make ends meet and are paid quite poorly. I am all in favour of getting a better deal for these people, but the Unions are also claiming the above-inflation pay rise for senior academic staff already earning £50k+! So it is hard to take seriously the Union claim that they are sticking up for the interests of the poorly-paid people in society.

Secondly, the Union's claim that their pay demand is affordable is, I feel, dubious. They claim that the University sector is running a surplus so can afford it but, in actual fact, the surplus is only a few per cent of University income, i.e. the kind of surplus that a responsible organisation ought to run to save for capital investment and save for a rainy day. Also, not all Universities are running a surplus.

Personally, I feel that the salaries paid to academic and research staff are about right as they stand. Not excessive, not too little. So we deserve a pay rise at inflation. One can quite legitimately ask why Universities cannot find the money to reward their staff with a pay rise at inflation, when the students are paying £9k each? Surely the Universities should all be rolling in cash?

I think the answer to this question lies in the fact that most Universities are very poorly run. A glimpse through the phone books for my current and previous employers reveals that there are as many administrative staff as there are academic staff. Universities are addicted to red tape and administration, and this costs money. Of course, we're never going to hear the trade Unions demanding that Universities slash red tape and administration as that is what keeps a significant proportion of their members in a job! A related issue to this is the work ethic of University staff. Many University staff (not just academic staff) go above and beyond the call of duty and work hours comparable to junior doctors. On the other hand there is a big problem in Universities with poorly performing staff. Sacking staff who are lazy and/or incompetent is just not the done thing. So very often you see 2 people doing a job which could be done by one person, which of course increases costs. And is another thing you are not going to find Unions complaining about.

Please accept my apologies for posting using my anonymous trolling profile, it is just that I don't want "Dr. ... at the University of ... says...." all over a newspaper.
JoshOvki on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to malk:

I know 4 people in academia, 3 in South Wales and 1 in York, all earning above £36k.

Job security is pretty bad, but wage is pretty good.
IainRUK - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to Boar of Badenoch: I broadly agree.. I earn less than most but Max Plancks don't pay well.. they have a 'you are at a max planck' attitude.. luckily im at the cheapest city in germany, in Munich life would be much much harder.

I am not a fan of our union at Bangor though, too militant, and the only time I wanted help they basically said not interested..
IainRUK - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to JoshOvki: I just applied for a lecturship.. In Maine.. $44,000 thats not great at all..
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Hardonicus - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to malk: Hey Malk. I was on strike. Do you know what I was doing? I was at home writing lab sheets and filling in project reporting paperwork. I can't afford the time to take the day off but I wanted to be counted.

Speaking as academic staff I don't think we should be facing a real terms pay cut when we are being put upon to do more and more. I would be happy with an at inflation pay deal personally.

Salaries might be OK, but they reflect a professional occupation with a large amount of training. I don't know many successful academics putting in less than 50 a week on average.
IainRUK - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to Hardonicus: Thing is even if you do strike.. you are still expected to work.. our head of school gave a speach on work life balance.. and that our weekdays weren't for grant writing or papers.. that was research or teaching time.. the weekends were for that.. I almost walked out..
Hardonicus - on 06 Nov 2013
In reply to IainRUK: That's the general attitude - even if it's not put quite so overtly as that.

Factor in all the other bullshit that you are required to achieve - Chartered status (in my field), courses to get membership of the FHEA and free time starts looking thin on the ground.

I don't feel like I'm making a fortune for the effort I'm putting in - you can't ever really put the job down.

Dan_S - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to malk:

I work as a technician, regulalry doing 60+ hr weeks, fail to take minimum statutory holiday each year due to work commitments, and earn much less than £30k a year.

I need the knowledge gained during my degree to do my job, and I'm doing postdoc level research as well as technical support.

Over the past few years pension contributions have gone up, the cost of living has gone up. I think the number being batted about is a 13% real terms cut. Additionally the number of support staff has gone down increasing the workload.

I don't think its entirely unreasonable that support staff protest about the current situation.
malk - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> no worries bro- what with your book and that..
IainRUK - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Hardonicus:
> (In reply to IainRUK) That's the general attitude - even if it's not put quite so overtly as that.
>

I'm ok with working weekends.. when I want to... being told to changed the game..
awaddie - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Hardonicus:
> (In reply to malk) Hey Malk. I was on strike. Do you know what I was doing? I was at home writing lab sheets and filling in project reporting paperwork. I can't afford the time to take the day off but I wanted to be counted.
>

That does seem to be a common refrain - certainly I spent the day at home working on Labview code to control my next experiment and putting together the first draft of a project report.

But one positive of the strike was that there was a lot less pointless emailing from the administration requiring my "immediate" attention.





The New NickB - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to malk:

Do you want salt and vinegar on that chip, Sub!
timjones - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to dsh:
> (In reply to malk)
>
> If anyone deserves more pay it's them, plus they benefit society as a whole much more than most.

In terms of real physical usefulness to society I'd suggest that they are outranked by nurses, the police, the fire service, farmers, fruit pickers, everyone else who works in the food sector, postmen, binmen, street sweepers, builders, plumbers, heating engineers........

The list of people who provide great benefit society by doing essential physical tasks is endless!
IainRUK - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to timjones: And you type this on a computer.. maybe using wifi? ever had medication?

Also funding of science is well know to be directly related to GDP.. the more science the more successful a country is..
Dan_S - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to timjones:
> (In reply to dsh)
> [...]
>
> In terms of real physical usefulness to society I'd suggest that they are outranked by nurses, the police, the fire service, farmers, fruit pickers, everyone else who works in the food sector, postmen, binmen, street sweepers, builders, plumbers, heating engineers........


Whilst I'm not disagreeing with you its probably worth thinking about the academic research that gives these people the tools with which they can do their jobs.
teflonpete - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Dan_S:
> (In reply to timjones)
> [...]
>
>
> Whilst I'm not disagreeing with you its probably worth thinking about the academic research that gives these people the tools with which they can do their jobs.

But without farmers they wouldn't be there to do academic research. Also, as an example, farming is an evolution of a craft that existed long before science assisted it to improve yields and disease resistance. I'm not saying that science and academia doesn't add value to our lives, of course it does, but it's easy to get blinkered into thinking yours is the only field of employment that matters when you're on the inside.
GrahamD - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to malk:

You are, presumably, trying to be ironic here ? the most qualified, the best thinkers, the people who may just provide a sustainable future for industry in the UK are paid on a par with someone who pushes the stop/start button on a tube train and substantially less than people who juggle imaginary money and you think they are overpaid ?
SCrossley on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to malk:
It`s all perceptions, if not in that world it`s easy to think of Academics as people who have never left school in some kind of LaLa land of 20 week holidays, retiring at 55 and not doing very much in between. I`m sure thats not the case but it`s a perception that they would do well to address.
It`s also interesting that a Academia which I would guess things it self pretty ethical trumpets this with pride http://www3.open.ac.uk/media/fullstory.aspx?id=26540&filter=general when maybe they should be asking with shame why they did not do it years ago.
IainRUK - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to teflonpete:
> (In reply to Dan_S)
> [...]
>
> But without farmers they wouldn't be there to do academic research. Also, as an example, farming is an evolution of a craft that existed long before science assisted it to improve yields and disease resistance. I'm not saying that science and academia doesn't add value to our lives, of course it does, but it's easy to get blinkered into thinking yours is the only field of employment that matters when you're on the inside.

I don't know anyone who thinks that way.. I think we are paid a fair wage, we have far more job insecurity than most.. and the more experienced you get it almost becomes harder as jobs become rarer.

Of the people I started science with maybe 1% are still in.. of the people I did a PhD with maybe 20% are still in..
David Martin - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Boar of Badenoch:

> I think the answer to this question lies in the fact that most Universities are very poorly run. A glimpse through the phone books for my current and previous employers reveals that there are as many administrative staff as there are academic staff. Universities are addicted to red tape and administration, and this costs money. Of course, we're never going to hear the trade Unions demanding that Universities slash red tape and administration as that is what keeps a significant proportion of their members in a job! A related issue to this is the work ethic of University staff. Many University staff (not just academic staff) go above and beyond the call of duty and work hours comparable to junior doctors. On the other hand there is a big problem in Universities with poorly performing staff. Sacking staff who are lazy and/or incompetent is just not the done thing. So very often you see 2 people doing a job which could be done by one person, which of course increases costs. And is another thing you are not going to find Unions complaining about.

Excuse the mass cut and paste, but that mirrors my first hand experience 100%. Especially the last few sentences.
Tim Chappell - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to timjones:
> (In reply to dsh)
> [...]
>
> In terms of real physical usefulness to society I'd suggest that they are outranked by nurses, the police, the fire service, farmers, fruit pickers, everyone else who works in the food sector, postmen, binmen, street sweepers, builders, plumbers, heating engineers........
>
> The list of people who provide great benefit society by doing essential physical tasks is endless!


Well, you know what? Maybe different people make different contributions, which are all valuable in, y'know, different ways.

Here's a technical question for the moderators: am I allowed to say that Mr Jones's attitudes remind me a tad of Pol Pot's without that being an indirect fulfilment of Godwin?

:-)

MG - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to IainRUK:
> (In reply to teflonpete)
> [...]
>
> I don't know anyone who thinks that way.. I think we are paid a fair wage, we have far more job insecurity than most..

That depends. Academics on permanent contracts have excellent security. RAs and the like tend to have terrible security, particularly given the investment they have made to get to that point of their careers. The unions would have more support if they worked on this sort of problem rather than making entirely unreasonable pay demands.
Tim Chappell - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Boar of Badenoch:


I agreed a lot with your analysis. Broadly, my attitude to my union is that they don't impress me very much; but on the other hand, they're the only union I've got...

Basically, UCU frustrate me because they don't seem to listen very well to university staff. They seem to pay much more attention to what other public-sector unions are asking them to do, than to what academics are asking them to do.

And they pick the wrong battles. Academics have, relatively speaking, a very good pensions deal. UCU strike over pensions, on which we have zero public sympathy... and do nothing at all about the two biggest issues facing universities in recent years, namely fees and the REF.
wintertree - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to sjc:

> some kind of LaLa land of 20 week holidays

Are you from another [swear word] planet? You do realise that when the undergraduates go home over the summer holiday things get busier, as it's the only time left to concentrate on all the other aspects of the job.

> I`m sure thats not the case but it`s a perception that they would do well to address.

If someone's perceptions are that off I wouldn't know where to start.
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wintertree - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Boar of Badenoch:

> Secondly, the Union's claim that their pay demand is affordable is, I feel, dubious. They claim that the University sector is running a surplus so can afford it but, in actual fact, the surplus is only a few per cent of University income, i.e. the kind of surplus that a responsible organisation ought to run to save for capital investment and save for a rainy day. Also, not all Universities are running a surplus.

This is the issue for me - I would rather see the surplus used for capital investment that will facilitate better research and teaching, thereby giving me a better environment for a successful career. From a personal perspective, this would pay off far better than the pay rise the unions are after, and more generally it would strengthen the sector internationally with obvious benefits for the whole country.

> Surely the Universities should all be rolling in cash?

Vanity projects trump capital investment. That and some other areas you identified.
Hardonicus - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to sjc: 20 week holidays! You have got to be fecking joking. I insist on taking 4 weeks (like I would in any other line of work). There's pressure on me not to take that much in the sense of my supervisor tutting when I bring her the form... She takes about 3 days off a year.

University holidays are for catching up on research.
Coel Hellier - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to sjc:

> if not in that world it`s easy to think of Academics as people who have never left school in some
> kind of LaLa land of 20 week holidays, retiring at 55 and not doing very much in between. I`m sure
> thats not the case but it`s a perception that they would do well to address.

The trouble is that it's not easy to address it because, as a whole, the public doesn't really know about or understand scientific research. Thus the public thinks that universities are primarily about teaching undergrads, when actually the majority of PhD-level people in universities are doing scientific research, which is a full-time job in addition to whatever teaching goes on. Absolutely no-one doing scientific research could get away with "20 week holidays" (and, anyhow, most PDRA contracts are for about 6 weeks holiday, though few PDRAs take their full entitlement if they actually want a career in science).
ericinbristol - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to sjc:
> It`s all perceptions, if not in that world it`s easy to think of Academics as people who have never left school in some kind of LaLa land of 20 week holidays, retiring at 55 and not doing very much in between. I`m sure thats not the case but it`s a perception that they would do well to address.
>

It is easy to think this if you take a lazy prejudiced attitude. I am too busy working like crazy to have much time to address these prejudiced (and before you say 'what are you posting on here for?', I started work yesterday 6.30 am, worked flat out through to 1.30 this morning, started again 6.30 this morning.
tlm - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to malk:

I thought pay rises had been below inflation for quite a number of years?

Here is a university payscale, which ranges from £13,486 to £59,898

In a university, with a typical pyramid shape of employment structure, there will be very few people at that top level (1-3)
There will be a great big heap of people at that bottom level. Many people will be part time and/or on temporary contracts.

The picture is very different for different people, not the same for everyone.
victim of mathematics - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> The trouble is that it's not easy to address it because, as a whole, the public doesn't really know about or understand scientific research.

The media's insistence on referring to all scientists/researchers as 'boffins' doesn't really help on that front...
Tim Chappell - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Hardonicus:
> (In reply to sjc) 20 week holidays! You have got to be fecking joking. I insist on taking 4 weeks (like I would in any other line of work).


I don't even get that far. I've been at the OU for 7 years now; I haven't once yet managed to take my full annual allowance of holiday leave, which is about 25 days, I think. In the job I was in before that, I once got hauled over the coals by my HoD for refusing to come in and work (on a special problem that had come up) on a Saturday. (Not only was it a Saturday; I was on research leave at the time.) He was a twit, but his attitude is far from atypical. Universities only work at all because their managers take advantage of the dedication and willingness of their staff.

Things are particularly exploitative at the bottom end of the scale, which is the most important place of all--it's at entry-point that the profession is renewed. But as Boar of Badenoch remarked, UCU seem to have little grasp of this problem. A rise in salary for me is nice, but I live in a cheap part of Britain and I'm at a senior level. It's the research fellows who really need a rise.
IainRUK - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier:
Absolutely no-one doing scientific research could get away with "20 week holidays" (and, anyhow, most PDRA contracts are for about 6 weeks holiday, though few PDRAs take their full entitlement if they actually want a career in science).

This is what pisses me off.. we are ranked with colleagues regardless of work hours.. so I like to work 50hours.. I have colleagues who will work 70-80 hour weeks, no life, and that is encouraged. We speak about work life balance but its just talk.

I once walked in the staff room at Bangor and had a tan, was asked where I had been, said competing in the world champs in slovenia.. and then was abused for 10 minutes for fat fecks for not working hard enough because I have time to train.. yet most lunches I'd run for 40 mins and they would sit and gossip..
Dan_S - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to wintertree:
> (In reply to Boar of Badenoch)
>
> [...]
>
> This is the issue for me - I would rather see the surplus used for capital investment that will facilitate better research and teaching, thereby giving me a better environment for a successful career.

The argument goes though, that whilst it's nice to have shiny kit and buildings, having folk to operate, and maintain the "stuff" is as, if not more important. Having spent years in a delapidated lab, to move to a shiny new one has not altered my ability to "do science".

A large part of my role as a technician involves running kit academics and post docs don't know how to use, and typically don't have time to learn. I often do the work up of the data for them.

If you want better research and teaching, supporting the foundations on wich academics and post docs conduct their research should be as important as throwing cash at new things.
IainRUK - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Dan_S:
> (In reply to wintertree)
> [...]
>
> The argument goes though, that whilst it's nice to have shiny kit and buildings, having folk to operate, and maintain the "stuff" is as, if not more important. Having spent years in a delapidated lab, to move to a shiny new one has not altered my ability to "do science".
>
> A large part of my role as a technician involves running kit academics and post docs don't know how to use, and typically don't have time to learn. I often do the work up of the data for them.
>
> If you want better research and teaching, supporting the foundations on wich academics and post docs conduct their research should be as important as throwing cash at new things.

Sadly that just doesn't happen. When I work in well equipped US labs... with technicians.. I can just walk in hand samples and get data 48 hours later.. I got data and wrote 3 papers in 3 weeks at one lab.
wintertree - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Dan_S:
> (In reply to wintertree)
> [...]
>
> The argument goes though, that whilst it's nice to have shiny kit and buildings, having folk to operate, and maintain the "stuff" is as, if not more important. Having spent years in a delapidated lab, to move to a shiny new one has not altered my ability to "do science".

> A large part of my role as a technician involves running kit academics and post docs don't know how to use, and typically don't have time to learn. I often do the work up of the data for them.

This is very area specific - I don't use any maintained or supported equipment in my research in my field, and nor do my current collaborators in another field. Past projects have involved such facilities, and I am much more supportive of changes to pay (and conditions) for those than I am for myself.

> If you want better research and teaching, supporting the foundations on wich academics and post docs conduct their research should be as important as throwing cash at new things.

I think it's horses for courses and different fields have very different requirements.
SCrossley on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to ericinbristol and Hardon and Coel
I get the impression that your all pretty passionate about your work and deserve respect, however you don`t seem to understand that for the outsider looking in it all looks pretty cushy. I have spent some time around Uni`s the last 2 years and it all looks like a great place to be, fine facilities, new buildings going up, everyone walking around with a smile. So maybe you could forgive people for thinking your on a winner.
IainRUK - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to sjc:
> In reply to ericinbristol and Hardon and Coel
> I get the impression that your all pretty passionate about your work and deserve respect, however you don`t seem to understand that for the outsider looking in it all looks pretty cushy. I have spent some time around Uni`s the last 2 years and it all looks like a great place to be, fine facilities, new buildings going up, everyone walking around with a smile. So maybe you could forgive people for thinking your on a winner.

which ones? Most UK universities are in an awful state.
SCrossley on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to IainRUK: Manchester Met, Nottingham, Lancaster, might not seem a lot to you but it`s 3 times as many in the previous 48 years for me and they all looked amazing to me.
victim of mathematics - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to sjc:
> So maybe you could forgive people for thinking your on a winner.

Why should one forgive anybody for ill-informed prejudice and stereotyping? If you're going to make value judgements about my relative worth to society then I reserve the right not to respect your opinion. Or you.
Coel Hellier - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to sjc:

> however you don`t seem to understand that for the outsider looking in it all looks pretty cushy.

First, yes, doing scientific research as a career is indeed a good lifestyle and enjoyable. I don't think it's overpaid (anyone who has the capability to do scientific research at a level that is cutting edge in world terms could earn much more as an accountant, lawyer, GP, or lots of similar professions).

Second, yes, I do think that the recent change to £9K fees has sorted out university finances -- before that they were running teaching programmes at a loss, but now they are ok.

Third, -- and this is a personal opinion -- I do think that universities are massively inefficient. Yes, the academics pursuing world-leading research in their area are doing full-time jobs in addition to teaching, and fully merit what they get. But, there are a lot of academics who "coast", who are not doing much in the way of worthwhile research, and are not doing enough teaching to justify their salaries.

In effect, I think that students paying 9K fees are getting a raw deal and are effectively subsidising playing-at-it "research" by academic that isn't actually worth doing. There are lots of people in the sector who are not bringing in research funding to justify the time that they have in addition to teaching. I think that it's inevitable that universities will have to look harder at this, and start loading such people with more teaching. The main reason this is hard, though, is that there are not students around to teach for half the year. It also needs a whole culture change in universities.

But, anyway, from my personal point of view I do agree that I'm on to a winner, in getting paid a good salary to do that sort of scientific research that I'd want to do anyhow, plus a reasonable amount of teaching and admin tasks. I'm certainly not complaining.
Dan_S - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to wintertree:
> This is very area specific - I don't use any maintained or supported equipment in my research in my field, and nor do my current collaborators in another field.

As part of your research do you make use of the online journal access at your institution, perhaps the library, maybe a vpn to work whilst you're at conferences? Access to your email, collabarative drives, online ordering, and teaching materials all require some form of maintinance from support staff.

I appreciate some institutions pay outside contractors, but a lot directly pay house services to clean and maintain the buildings and outdoor spaces.

Please don't think I'm having a go, I'm not, but (and I realise that I am biased and a bit blinkered about this) the support for support staff just isn't there, and whilst people focus the argument on academics that are earning a good wage, for those further down the food chain, a relatively small percentage increase would have a positive impact on our wallets and moral, yet have a relatively small impact on the surpluses our institutions are generating.
ericinbristol - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to sjc:

I am very aware that there are people like you with a pretty distorted perception of the situation.
SCrossley on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to victim of mathematics:
> (In reply to sjc)
> [...]
>
> Why should one forgive anybody for ill-informed prejudice and stereotyping? If you're going to make value judgements about my relative worth to society then I reserve the right not to respect your opinion. Or you.

So your an academic, so I assume literate, read this, then take your head from your bottom.

It`s all perceptions, if not in that world it`s easy to think of Academics as people who have never left school in some kind of LaLa land of 20 week holidays, retiring at 55 and not doing very much in between. I`m sure thats not the case but it`s a perception that they would do well to address.
wintertree - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Dan_S:
> (In reply to wintertree)
> [...]
>
> As part of your research do you make use of the online journal access at your institution, perhaps the library, maybe a vpn to work whilst you're at conferences? Access to your email, collabarative drives, online ordering, and teaching materials all require some form of maintinance from support staff.

Online ordering? Collaborative drives? VPN? Not got them. Next you'll be telling me that you have Tb scale data storage and backup provided institutionally and that they can do things like keep the boilers running in the winter,

Some of these things would come under the "infrastructure" that I said I would like to see funded - it's not all shiny new science kit, it's support architecture including the staffing etc.

> I appreciate some institutions pay outside contractors, but a lot directly pay house services to clean and maintain the buildings and outdoor spaces.
>
> Please don't think I'm having a go, I'm not, but (and I realise that I am biased and a bit blinkered about this) the support for support staff just isn't there, and whilst people focus the argument on academics that are earning a good wage, for those further down the food chain, a relatively small percentage increase would have a positive impact on our wallets and moral, yet have a relatively small impact on the surpluses our institutions are generating.

I agree - as I said I would rather see investment in the infrastructure than in my salary, and the infrastructure includes all the points you are making as well as new facilities etc. I am also of the opinion that if people were paid according to their actual contribution as opposed to their proximity to a desk, that this wouldn't need much more money.
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In reply to gethin_allen:
> (In reply to gethin_allen)
> Make that mycologist not psychologist. Bloody Android phone.

I was trying to work out what a molecular psychologist would do!
Tim Chappell - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to sjc:
>
if not in that world it`s easy to think of Academics as people who have never left school in some kind of LaLa land of 20 week holidays, retiring at 55 and not doing very much in between. I`m sure thats not the case but it`s a perception that they would do well to address.


But who thinks this? You say you don't. So who?

Society is full of lazy prejudices. Do we have to extirpate them all before we can do anything else?

I think plenty of people understand that academia is very difficult to get into because it's a place where you get to do your own thing, but also a place where no one is particularly rolling in it except for the VCs right at the top of senior management. Who are paid a lot more than me, and therefore are obviously paid too much :-)

Cushy? Not really. Though certainly a lot of us (e.g. me and Coel) are mostly doing exactly what we'd do if we had the financial freedom simply to do what we'd like. I enjoy researching and teaching philosophy; if I were a gentleman of leisure, I'd do what I do because I'm paid to. Only without the admin forms.
Mike Redmayne - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to sjc:
> In reply to ericinbristol and Hardon and Coel
> I get the impression that your all pretty passionate about your work and deserve respect, however you don`t seem to understand that for the outsider looking in it all looks pretty cushy. I have spent some time around Uni`s the last 2 years and it all looks like a great place to be, fine facilities, new buildings going up, everyone walking around with a smile. So maybe you could forgive people for thinking your on a winner.

People walking round with a smile? Jesus, whatever next. I am obviously not succeeding in making my students as miserable as possible.

As I think someone said above, most people don't understand what research is (especially outside the sciences), or understand how we could have any work to do in the holidays. I've given up explaining even to some of my friends when they tell me I am on holiday all summer. If SJC didn't understand what we do after spending so much time round universities recently, I guess it's a lost cause, though not one I am terribly bothered about.

Not that I'm complaining about the job. I get to do stuff that interests me, and thinking about difficult problems counts as work, as does sitting in the garden reading an academic book. Yes it's a chore at times, and I'd probably be earning far more had I gone into the profession, but I wouldn't swap my current job.



In reply to malk: I think this is a complex area. I think all public sector workers feel aggrieved at a personal and collective basis about their financial reimbursement. But I don't think that striking to gain more money is a well considered plan in the current economic environment, and of course any public sector individual or collective who pubicly seek more money are not likely to earn the support of other public sector individuals or collectives who also feel aggrieved about their pay but get on with it without complaining. I also think that the rewards from seeking more pay in a time of financial crisis are going to be less than in a time of prosperity; maybe now isn't the most well thought out time to be complaining.

Just to clarify, I work in two public sector jobs, both underpaid but I din't think the lobbyists for more money in the organisations I work in are playing their cards well at all so even though I would love more money, I distance myself from their campaigns and I wouldn't go on strike.
Welsh Kate - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Following up the various comments on the uncontracted hours academics work, I got sent this link this morning which, if true, reinforces many of the comments made by the academics on this thread (and which mirror my own experiences of the hours I'm expected to work)

http://www.cambrian-news.co.uk/news/i/35784/
Hardonicus - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to sjc:
> I have spent some time around Uni`s the last 2 years and it all looks like a great place to be, fine facilities, new buildings going up, everyone walking around with a smile. So maybe you could forgive people for thinking your on a winner.

We are told we have to smile on Open Days!

Tim Chappell - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Welsh Kate:


UCU's line in my own institution is that any such move by management would be open to legal challenge.
Tim Chappell - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Hardonicus:
> (In reply to sjc)
> [...]
>
> We are told we have to smile on Open Days!


There is this wonderful thing called Being A Student. A period of your life where you get to explore all sorts of unknown territories, to decide what and who you want to be, to become a fully-fledged grown-up, to learn, to make friends you'll have forever, and to become qualified to do something responsible.

It should be one of the happiest periods of anyone's life. It's something that successive governments have been undermining, by a variety of measures which are not only puritanical but also deeply myopic.

They can be annoying little puppies,students, but that comes with the territory. Overall I'm all in favour of the institution of Being A Student. I think it's a key part of the ecology of any healthy society.

But I would say that, wouldn't I?
Sarah G on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Skol:
> (In reply to paul__in_sheffield)
> Good for them. They've clearly applied themselves.:-)

Oh, VERY good!

Sx

victim of mathematics - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to sjc:

I understood what you were saying the first time, thanks. You've misunderstood me. I wasn't accusing you personally of making any value judgements, just referring to those that might.
timjones - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to IainRUK:
> (In reply to timjones) And you type this on a computer.. maybe using wifi? ever had medication?
>
> Also funding of science is well know to be directly related to GDP.. the more science the more successful a country is..

Forget computers, wifi, medicine and GDP. Without the basics of food, water, shelter, heat and light the academics would be nothing.

It's pretty crass to suggest that they make a greater contribution to society than the thousands of people that work to provide the real nedessities of life. I struggle to see why an academic should be worth more than any of the people who work hard to provide these essentials.
IainRUK - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to timjones: When did I say that.. but a banker makes more than them.. a footballer.. a film star.. a singer..

You really do spout nonsense.. why not do one of those bullshit facebook shares about some nurse working away..
IainRUK - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Submit to Gravity:
> (In reply to gethin_allen)
> [...]
>
> I was trying to work out what a molecular psychologist would do!

well theres a chance that theyd actually do some proper science.. :-)
timjones - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to timjones)
> [...]
>
>
> Well, you know what? Maybe different people make different contributions, which are all valuable in, y'know, different ways.

You're perfectly correct and your statement falls in line with my point. Maybe you should address your statement it at whoever made the crass suggestion that academics made a greater contribution to society than most?

> Here's a technical question for the moderators: am I allowed to say that Mr Jones's attitudes remind me a tad of Pol Pot's without that being an indirect fulfilment of Godwin?
>

You're allowed to say whatever you like but maybe you'd be good enough to explain why you would address this statement at someone who pointed out that there were plenty people who made as great a contribution to society as academics?

Tim Chappell - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to timjones:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
> [...]
>
> You're perfectly correct and your statement falls in line with my point.


That's all right then; we agree. Superb!
timjones - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to IainRUK:
> (In reply to timjones) When did I say that.. but a banker makes more than them.. a footballer.. a film star.. a singer..
>
> You really do spout nonsense.. why not do one of those bullshit facebook shares about some nurse working away..

I'm still struggling to remember exactly when I pissed on your chips you grumpy old git ;)

The statement that academics made a greater contribution than most was nonsense in my opinion. Why take such issue with the fact that I passed comment on it? Don't take things so personally!
timjones - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to timjones)
> [...]
>
>
> That's all right then; we agree. Superb!

Care to explain the Pol Poit jibe then?
Tim Chappell - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to timjones:

"Never apologise; never explain"--DISRAELI
jonny taylor on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to sjc:
> I have spent some time around Uni`s the last 2 years and it all looks like a great place to be, fine facilities, new buildings going up, everyone walking around with a smile.

You have spent some time touring around universities that want to attract your daughter as an undergraduate. It shouldn't come as a great surprise that you walked away with a good impression of them.
IainRUK - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to timjones: Because its nonsense.. society works as a whole.. so the teachers train.. the scientists teach provide innovations.. medicines.. the footballers/film starts provide entertainment.. the farmers provide food and hot air..

Do you honestly think after 6-8 years of education that 30-35,000 a year is excessive..

I'd love some people to try academia.. its f*cking hard. Some days you walk in and you just have no idea where to start. There's time I seriously a crave a task orientated job, just do ABC..

I agree with coel its a great life. I've worked in amazing places, seen amazing things, have a lot of freedom, but my marriage broke down partly due to job insecurity/stress, I have moved more times than I care to remember, I've had periods of unemployment, almost no pension, no job security..
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timjones - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to timjones)
>
> "Never apologise; never explain"--DISRAELI

You sound suspiciously like an academic ;)
ByEek - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> First, yes, doing scientific research as a career is indeed a good lifestyle and enjoyable.

Hey Coel. It isn't all science at uni. Let us not forget those fellows pushing forward human understanding like the chap who sits next to me in the Manchester Chorus doing sterling work discovering some unknown German chap who lived in the 1800s and wrote 3 pieces of classical music. :-)
Tim Chappell - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to timjones:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
> [...]
>
> You sound suspiciously like an academic ;)

Oh good, I'm getting somewhere then; I've been trying for that effect for years.
Tim Chappell - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to ByEek:

Scholarship is a wonderful thing. As Dr Johnson didn't say, a man is never more harmlessly employed than when he is finding stuff out just because it's interesting.
timjones - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to IainRUK:
> (In reply to timjones) Because its nonsense.. society works as a whole.. so the teachers train.. the scientists teach provide innovations.. medicines.. the footballers/film starts provide entertainment.. the farmers provide food and hot air..
>
> Do you honestly think after 6-8 years of education that 30-35,000 a year is excessive..
>
> I'd love some people to try academia.. its f*cking hard. Some days you walk in and you just have no idea where to start. There's time I seriously a crave a task orientated job, just do ABC..
>
> I agree with coel its a great life. I've worked in amazing places, seen amazing things, have a lot of freedom, but my marriage broke down partly due to job insecurity/stress, I have moved more times than I care to remember, I've had periods of unemployment, almost no pension, no job security..

Have I commented on the amount of money that academics earn?

I've merely pointed out that there are plenty of others that do jobs that are just as important and maybe even more important than academics.

As I've already said, don't be so oversensitive.
bradzy_c - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to IainRUK: 'but my marriage broke down partly due to job insecurity/stress, I have moved more times than I care to remember, I've had periods of unemployment, almost no pension, no job security..'

Welcome to the masses.

I think you're not the only one to have these problems.

I agree, 30-35,000 is not excessive after 6-8 years experience/education. Especially with a job as demanding as you say. However I think the arguement is that this should be the same as other jobs as equally important.

:)
SCrossley on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to ByEek)
>
> Scholarship is a wonderful thing. As Dr Johnson didn't say, a man is never more harmlessly employed than when he is finding stuff out just because it's interesting.

Some people may also say.
a man is never more uselessly employed than when he is finding stuff out just because it's interesting. :-p


Tim Chappell - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to sjc:


It's a powerful word, "uselessly".

I wonder if anyone has any idea what they actually mean by it.
ByEek - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Scholarship is a wonderful thing. As Dr Johnson didn't say, a man is never more harmlessly employed than when he is finding stuff out just because it's interesting.

Agreed. Although good manners in this case, is understanding that one's interest in such marginal topics is inversely proportional to everyone else's! :-)
IainRUK - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to timjones: when did I ever post about other professions earning too much...

I think we get a fair wage, depending on location, I think most jobs pay a fair rate..
Tim Chappell - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to ByEek:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> Agreed. Although good manners in this case, is understanding that one's interest in such marginal topics is inversely proportional to everyone else's! :-)



Sure.

But imagine a society where people were greedy for knowledge, in the way they are greedy for money in our society.

It's easy if you try.
Tony Naylor on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to sjc:
> Some people may also say.
> a man is never more uselessly employed than when he is finding stuff out just because it's interesting. :-p

Er.... this is why a lot of scientists do science - because they find it interesting. As reasons for doing something go, doing it because it's interesting is a one of the best.
teflonpete - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to The New NickB:
> (In reply to malk)
>
> Do you want salt and vinegar on that chip, Sub!

Hmmm, I was thinking something a little lower than the Aguille du Vert too...
Tim Chappell - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Tony Naylor:
> As reasons for doing something go, doing it because it's interesting is a one of the best.


Deep within us all, emergent when the noise of other appetites is stilled, there is a drive to know, to understand, to see why, to discover the reason, to find the cause, to explain. Just what is wanted, has many names. In what precisely it consists, is a matter of dispute. But the fact of inquiry is beyond all doubt. It can absorb a man. It can keep him for hours, day after day, year after year, in the narrow prison of his study or his laboratory. It can send him on dangerous voyages of exploration. It can withdraw him from other interests, other pursuits, other pleasures, other achievements. It can fill his waking thoughts, hide from him the world of ordinary affairs, invade the very fabric of his dreams. It can demand endless sacrifices that are made without regret though there is only the hope, never a certain promise, of success. What better symbol could we find for this obscure, exigent, imperious drive than a man, naked, running excitedly, crying, ‘I’ve got it’? (Bernard Lonergan, INSIGHT, 1957: 4)
ByEek - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> But imagine a society where people were greedy for knowledge, in the way they are greedy for money in our society.

Interesting. It is like this in parts of the East like Singapore. Just like capitalism, people will do anything to gain advantage. My old flute teacher used to do examining (Grade 1 - 8) in Singapore and commented that candidates were searched prior to the exam for tape recorders or similar. Just like any idealism, the reality when mixed with human frailty is usually less than desirable.
timjones - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to IainRUK:
> (In reply to timjones) when did I ever post about other professions earning too much...
>
> I think we get a fair wage, depending on location, I think most jobs pay a fair rate..

You're possibly right that you get a fair wage but I think you're wrong that most jobs pay a fair rate by comparision. I think we undervalue a great many people that do essential work at the lower end of the payscale. You rarely see those people striking.
Tim Chappell - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to timjones:

They get on their bikes and look for work?

:-)
Hardonicus - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to timjones:

So what's your solution? A race to the bottom for all? We happen to still have an organised union - we're lucky in that sense (although I would agree with some of the grumbles above about the specifics of the UCU). I don't see why I should sit back an take a real terms pay cut just because our capitalist economy and right-shifting trends in employment practice dictate that other low paid workers end up having to? The problem is not the UCU, but the fact that organised labour movements have been all but destroyed in manual working.

In addition, as mentioned above, all university staff are on a pay-scale. So cleaners will benefit in percentage terms in the same way as academic staff from any positve benefits resulting from the pay dispute.

David Martin - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Hardonicus:
> (In reply to timjones)
>
> I don't see why I should sit back an take a real terms pay cut just because our capitalist economy and right-shifting trends in employment practice dictate that other low paid workers end up having to? The problem is not the UCU, but the fact that organised labour movements have been all but destroyed in manual working.

I agree with this. As much as our union makes me want to hurl, not only do they keep management in line (to a degree), but they fight for something that perhaps those in other sectors would have done well to show some spine on.

Unfortunately much of UCU's message gets lost in the chaff of SWP banners and protecting the work-shy.
Tim Chappell - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to David Martin:


I actually think that having generous contracts that allow for academic freedom goes unavoidably with protecting a certain number of work-shy. It's a case of omelettes and breaking eggs.

No doubt I will now get shouted down. I realise how much more up to date it is to insist on tabloid-based witch-hunts. My point is that I suspect it might actually be more efficient to give the majority of researchers the freedom they need, at the price that a minority will take selfish advantage that freedom.

You could probably make a similar case about boardroom bonuses, and then no one would shout you down at all, or at any rate if they did, it would be a different mob shouting.
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timjones - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Hardonicus:
> (In reply to timjones)
>
> So what's your solution? A race to the bottom for all? We happen to still have an organised union - we're lucky in that sense (although I would agree with some of the grumbles above about the specifics of the UCU). I don't see why I should sit back an take a real terms pay cut just because our capitalist economy and right-shifting trends in employment practice dictate that other low paid workers end up having to? The problem is not the UCU, but the fact that organised labour movements have been all but destroyed in manual working.
>
> In addition, as mentioned above, all university staff are on a pay-scale. So cleaners will benefit in percentage terms in the same way as academic staff from any positve benefits resulting from the pay dispute.

A "race to the bottom" appears to be a common catchphrase around here ;)

Do I have to have a solution? I only entered the debate to highlight the fact that there are a great many jobs that make as great or a greater contribution to society as the academics.

The solution would probably be a levelling of the playing field whereby we value those who do the essential manual stuff as highly as those who do the cerebral stuff. I see no need to distinguish between brains and brawn on the payscale.
Coel Hellier - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to timjones:

> I see no need to distinguish between brains and brawn on the payscale.

So you'd have one rate of pay for everyone in the land -- that's a fairly extreme position!

> I only entered the debate to highlight the fact that there are a great many jobs that make as great
> or a greater contribution to society as the academics.

By the way, you seem to have a massive chip on your shoulder on that point. One poster made a comment once, and you've reiterated your reply to it about 7 times so far.
timjones - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to timjones)
>
> [...]
>
> So you'd have one rate of pay for everyone in the land -- that's a fairly extreme position!
>

Is it so extreme? I wouldn't say that we should have one rate of pay but I would suggest that the differentials should be significantly smaller

> By the way, you seem to have a massive chip on your shoulder on that point. One poster made a comment once, and you've reiterated your reply to it about 7 times so far.

Pot calling kettle? I seem to remember you rigorously reiterating your viewpoints in the past ;)

Surely that's the way that debate works? If someone appears to be misunderstanding your point you explain what you really mean.
The New NickB - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to timjones:

You old lefty.
Coel Hellier - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to timjones:

> I wouldn't say that we should have one rate of pay but I would suggest that the differentials should be significantly smaller

So which attributes would lead you to offer a different rate of pay?

> Pot calling kettle? I seem to remember you rigorously reiterating your viewpoints in the past ;)

Only when people disagree with me!

> Surely that's the way that debate works? If someone appears to be misunderstanding your point you explain what you really mean.

I don't think that anyone misunderstood your point. The point you made is trite and obvious. People were then making different comments arising from that. You, however, are just reiterating the original point again and again even though no-one is disagreeing.
David Martin - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell:

No, I do agree with you completely.

But a middle ground would surely be more desirable? Our union, when leaving out the old school Marxist rhetoric, are actually very sharp and understanding. They recognise how frustrating it is to work with wasters and how extra work and striving to better yourself should be rewarded. But, if management and the rumour-mill are to be believed, it is the union that prevents any attempts to more visibly account for people's time, to sack the non-performers, or even to enact any form of performance management.

Our working conditions are good. Ample holiday, flexible conditions (I'm on the net during work time without someone breathing down my neck, but not when I have work to do and more than make up for it in overtime) and a generally positive environment where you are treated as a human rather than simply a cog in the machine. The cost appears to be that those who don't want to work can do so with impunity. The mere mention of cracking down on this culture meets with howls.

I'm still unsure if the cause is crap management or a crap (i.e. overly militant) union. Or if both are simply so antagonistic/petrified of each other that they are either paralysed or too entrenched.
timjones - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to timjones)
>
> [...]
>
> So which attributes would lead you to offer a different rate of pay?
>

Good question. Seeing as you appear to be a greater advocate of pay differentials what would you suggest?

>
> Only when people disagree with me!
>

Ah silly me, how could I have been naive enough to assume that the suggestion that I was talking nonsense was a form of disagreement :)
>
> I don't think that anyone misunderstood your point. The point you made is trite and obvious. People were then making different comments arising from that. You, however, are just reiterating the original point again and again even though no-one is disagreeing.

Bollocks! It was pretty clear that some posters assumed that I was saying that academics should suck it up and accept any changes in pay and conditions that are imposed upon them or that I was saying they didn't contribute anything to society. Surely it has to be worth pointing out that their assumptions are incorrect and clarifying what I was saying?
Coel Hellier - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to David Martin:

> I'm still unsure if the cause is crap management or a crap (i.e. overly militant) union.

It's crap management. The union is about the most toothless old donkey around.
Hardonicus - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to timjones: Yes there are many jobs that make and equal or greater contribution to society. We need posties, binmen and bus drivers - to keep this country running day-to-day.

Academia is different in that it is an investment into this countries future. Applied scientific research spending results in a profit for the UK in the medium term - that is a fact. Furthermore, that investment is crucial for our future - we need to stay ahead in terms of technology and skills. Why? Because we cannot compete with China, Vietnam etc. in mass production type manufacturing and we've all seen what happens when we let the City run free.

So I would suggest you are missing the long term picture here:

1) Our successful future as a prosperous nation on a global stage depends on continuing academic research.

2) You argue about pay discrepancy. Isn't the problem that our capitalist economy is too free to dispense with workers rights and force wages down to maximise profiability? Is the solution really lowering the wages of highly trained individuals to match this sorry state of affairs, or is it fact to demand that the shareholder cut is lowered and boardroom spending is reigned in to something vaguely consummate with the rest of us. I may double what a typical restaurant manager might - I choose to put 7 years of my life into Education/training on a with no/low to achieve this position. Whoopee - clearly I'm rolling in it at the ripe old age of 34.

The
sweenyt - on 07 Nov 2013
Since when did ones contribution to society have anything to do with earnings?

It's time to bring out the old cliché...
Footballers (in my opinion) add sod all to our society but earn lots.
Nurses (in my opinion) add lots to our society and earn sod all.


We don't have a meritocratic pay scale, as far as I know we never really have, and I doubt we ever will.
But isn't that OK? People don't just do the jobs they do for money, they do it because they enjoy it (be that the work, the lifestyle, the money, the travelling etc).

Its simple, if you think academics get paid too much for not much/enough work, go do it yourself. If you can't because you're not qualified enough or the hours are too long, or its a bit hard, or actually you just don't want to... tough. If academics think they earn too little then leave. Go be a banker, or a footballer or whatever else you want to do.

But academics won't leave, because the majority love the job.

There many people who want to go into academia, but don't because of the wages. There are many who leave academia because of the lack of wages.

But the supply and demand (very) roughly meet (if anything the demand for academic posts (in my experience) exceeds supply). So surely the pay is about right?
Tim Chappell - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to sweenyt:

> But the supply and demand (very) roughly meet (if anything the demand for academic posts (in my experience) exceeds supply).

I wonder what area you can be working in. In philosophy, having 100 applicants for a post is routine, and having 250 by no means unheard-of. This is why it's so hard to get started in academic philosophy, and why it is so hard to persuade university administrators to pay entry-point lecturers at a decent point on the scale.
Coel Hellier - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> I wonder what area you can be working in. In philosophy, having 100 applicants for a post is
> routine, and having 250 by no means unheard-of.

I'm told that the worst areas in which to find good applicants for academic posts are law and computer science, for which there are obvious alternative and well-remunerated options. Areas of engineering can be hard also, and areas of chemistry closely related to industry.

Of course if you choose to pursue philosophy or writing the 600th paper on Joyce's Ulysses then things are different.
Tim Chappell - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier:

There are still quite a lot of Law academics who don't have PhDs. That ceased to be possible elsewhere in the Humanities a long time ago. Though of course, the qualification path is different in Law.
Mike Redmayne - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
>
> There are still quite a lot of Law academics who don't have PhDs. That ceased to be possible elsewhere in the Humanities a long time ago. Though of course, the qualification path is different in Law.

It's very rare for so someone to get an academic law job nowadays without a PhD, though you do see the odd one coming through from practice. Different of course 20 years ago.

Coel is suggesting recruitment is difficult in law: in my experience it depends on the area. If you advertise a post in Human Rights Law you'll be swamped. Much harder to get people in standard stuff like contract.
Mike Redmayne - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to sweenyt)
>
> [...]
>
In philosophy, having 100 applicants for a post is routine, and having 250 by no means unheard-of.

Wow, I had no idea it was that competitive. Where do they all come from - do they all have PhDs? I wouldn't have though we were churning out that many philosophy PhDs, though maybe I'm out of touch. Lots of applicants from abroad? And what do they all do when they can't get jobs: do the people at the check-outs in Tesco all have PhDs in philosophy?


Tim Chappell - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Mike Redmayne:


A lot of the applicants come from the US. A fair number from the UK. Both countries where the size of your graduate school has been taken as a metric of how good a philosophy department you are for over 20 years. So the incentive for any ambitious department is to churn out hundreds of PhD graduates. Who then have to fight for a handful of jobs.

An increasing number also come, as you'd probably expect, from China, Malaysia, and countries like those.
Tim Chappell - on 07 Nov 2013
Oh, and yes: they all have PhDs. No point applying if you haven't.
Coel Hellier - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> So the incentive for any ambitious department is to churn out hundreds of PhD graduates.

How many of those theses are worth reading?
Tim Chappell - on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier:



In the interests of avoiding uninformed generalisation, I suggest you read them all, and let me know what you think.

lithos on 07 Nov 2013
In reply to IainRUK:
> (In reply to Submit to Gravity)
> [...]
>
> well theres a chance that theyd actually do some proper science.. :-)

harsh :-)

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11807168
Heike - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to sjc:
> In reply to ericinbristol and Hardon and Coel
> I get the impression that your all pretty passionate about your work and deserve respect, however you don`t seem to understand that for the outsider looking in it all looks pretty cushy. I have spent some time around Uni`s the last 2 years and it all looks like a great place to be, fine facilities, new buildings going up, everyone walking around with a smile. So maybe you could forgive people for thinking your on a winner.

I don't know where you have looked, I work in the university and 'cushy' is the last thing I would use to describe my job. I am totally stressed out working basically around the clock and that's after having invested an awful lot of money into my career before reaping any rewards. The reason why I am not a promoted member of stuff at my age, is that all my other colleagues work even harder and I do like to go climbing at the weekends. Most colleagues work then as well! There are people working on short-term contracts who are immensely qualified, but will only get paid by the hour of lecturing, so for example you might get £30 pounds an hour for a lecture, but this includes your hours having written the thing, practiced it and marking the essays to go along with it. A pittance, basically. Many (young) workers in the university have to make do with that for years until they can get anything more permanent.

New buildings, people walking round with a smile, hmm, I try to, but usually it's a grimace!
Offwidth - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to malk:

The UCU issues in my order:

1) workload... this is getting beyond silly in many places and the impact is often hitting the best and the most honest the hardest. A lot of this is down to Universities having one of the most over administrated management sectors anywhere and academics being one of the least militant of workforces. This is no way to run our world class institutions.
2) casualisation... there are thousands upon thousands of lecturing staff on zero hour contracts, with almost no employment rights whatsoever. How can the mass (and highly cynical) use of such contracts benefit the staff or the students that they teach and what does this say about how much we really care about quality.
3) Pay... the universities as a whole can afford it as shown by the balance sheets and the significant investment on buildings going on around the UK (built so they can compete harder). Where they claim they can't pay this is mostly down to management smoke and mirrosrs (they have to pay the mortgage on the new buildings) and/or incompetance. Its pretty obvious there is a problem when a significant and increasing proportion of new lecturing appointments are coming from overseas. If the management had moved and offered 2% this strike may never have happened.
4) Equality... while the gender gap is closing in most of the public and private sector the position is almost static in Universities: see point 1 for clues why!

I gladly lost a days pay for being on strike over such important issues irrespective that I didn't reduce my workload any (the work still gets done) or do more than inconvenience the odd student (anyone stuggling a bit more because of the strike is going to get supported at some other time a little extra by me). I'd add in terms of global and economic reality our Universities are propped up by overseas student income and if things get worse many will go elsewhere.

Finally:

Shame on Coel, as an academic, for his point on how much PhD theses are worth reading.
cb294 - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Offwidth:
>
> Finally:
>
> Shame on Coel, as an academic, for his point on how much PhD theses are worth reading.

But he is right. Most theses are not worth reading, even those written by the students in my own lab. If you want to read about the science, read the peer reviewed papers written by the same students!

The thesis is an anachronistic part or the examination, at least in the MINT subjects. Fortunately my old Uni did away with this, I got my degree for a stapled together collection of my papers, plus a twenty page general intro explaining why what follows might be interesting.

In addition, if you look at many humanities or social sciences thesis, actual new content is often lacking. Of course, it is possible to generate new insight in these subjects, but the majority of their output is fluff. The MO of many subjects is now to endlessly regurgitate reviews of criticisms of the theories of some random guy who was wrong about something a long time ago.

To get a degree for this is as if had got my degree for a bunch of review papers!

CB
Offwidth - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to cb294:

No he is not right. Maybe they ae not worth reading all the way through by busy peers and maybe they are anachronistic as an assessment at doctorate level but the implication is that most are rubbish which they most certainly are not. They are extensive detailed records of a period of research work as per the requirements of the current system.
Ramblin dave - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Offwidth:
> (In reply to malk)

> 1) workload... this is getting beyond silly in many places and the impact is often hitting the best and the most honest the hardest.

It always seems kind of bizarre the extent to which the university system disincentivises hard-work and dilligence in teaching by preferring to hire someone who blagged their way through their teaching with a bare minimum of effort and consequently had time to grind out another paper or two...

> A lot of this is down to Universities having one of the most over administrated management sectors anywhere and academics being one of the least militant of workforces.

Yes, among younger academics that I know there's a really depressing attitude of "X Y and Z are horrible but I'm so lucky to be in academia at all, really..."

My girlfriend's a "resting" junior academic at the moment. If she had an academic job I think she'd be on strike too.

Something that she's commented on is that although pay and conditions are the headline issues for the strike, a lot of the background to it is an increasing disaffection with the way the university system is going, specifically the increasing attitude that universities exist so that upper middle class kids can pay X amount of money to be spoonfed to a degree that will get them a cushy job in middle management. That it's becoming "customer-centric", in the sense that the students feel like they've paid a lot of money for their degree, and if they don't do well because they aren't very bright or don't put in any work then this is the university's fault and not theirs.

I don't know if this reflects other people's experience...
Offwidth - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

So now to why we are worth our pay being a bit more than inflation in real world terms (as opposed to greed).

1) In the 30 odd years I've been in HE the student numbers per member of staff have increased significantly (more than doubled in my team) with some of the largest increases in recent years, leveling off in the last two. In the same time the equivalent pay for my grade (top of the career grade below Prof; ie PL) is about 3/4 of the level then 9it used to the the same as an MP).

2) The bureaucratic requirements of the job are at their highest ever. The fact a good deal of this is needless doesn't stop the requirement to do it, in fact it makes it worse as it saps enthusiasm.

3) Pretty much every contractual protection has been eroded and the drip drip on this continues to a point where I feel we are genuinely threatening academic freedom. Workloads are a scandal; the scale of Zero Hour Contracts for lecturers are almost beyond scandal; equality issues are a scandal.

4) External incomes to Universities are continuing to grow and are at their highest level ever. Public money is only about 2/3 of University income; UK student related income is less than half.

4) Research in the UK is in an excellent state on any international measures. Overall University quality in the UK on any international measures punches well above its weight. The best are only beaten by the best US institutions but they have massive endowment income with far fewer constraints than say Oxbridge.

5) According to all the various international research studies on the subject investment in HE is one of the best investments that a country can make and HE is really mostly about academic staff. Investment in UK terms is falling behind our competitors.


A few other points. UCU is so toothless that they stopped Liverpool Uni sacking all their academic related staff and employing them on new contracts this year. Time after time important individual local disputes are won. UCU has been one of the consistent organisations fighting for the living wage...the lowest paid in Universities would benefit from this across most of the UK (they also consistently fought against fees and fee increases to £9k).

At the other end of the pay scale I resent VCs getting paid as much as they do as frankly they are running an intelligence business not very intelligently on average. Where are their loud voices defending HE? The good news in the sector is mostly nothing to do with them and too often despite them. They certainly don't deserve the 8% average pay rises this year or the significantly above inflation rises year on year for decades. Some senior profs do deserve high pay if the contributions they make are very significant and failure to recognise this again damages UK competitiveness. In my place the highest paid prof has about 30 pen pushers above them earning more (not including Deans, College heads, PVC, VC).
Tall Clare - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

One of the things I do to make a living involves proofreading doctoral theses - and it's fair to say that some are f*cking *awful*. Nudging them towards something approximating English is a challenge I can address, but it's hard not to notice the lack of intellectual rigour some display.
cb294 - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

I believe one should separate the thesis as a "record of a period of research work" from the actual results of said research work. IMO obtaining a degree should be based on the latter rather than the former.

I recently read a thesis on the lasting impact some 19th century philosopher had on vocational education in Germany (some thesis my wife had to grade for the department of educational studies). The answer was not much, as all he ever said on the topic was contained in about 12 pages of one of his books (as had already been observed by others who had written about the guy), and even that was pretty trivial.

Seriously, what is the point? This would not be publishable even by the low standards of originality often required in the humanities, but apparently good enough to be put into a thesis and to earn that student a degree. I couldn´t get a degreee for an review and a bunch of failed experiments.

On the other hand, a different thesis, that showed for the first time the lasting influence that the schools some protestant fundamentalists built around the same time had on the education of girls was just brilliant. Lots of original archive work at the spiritual centre of that still existing group, from theoretical discussion about education to the negotiations with the state and the yearly bills for provisioning their school. Not surprisingly, these results will be published, thesis or not.

CB

Offwidth - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Tall Clare:

I'd agree there are problems but we should not tar all with being the same as the worst. I see most through supervision, internal examination, colleagues and appeals and am pretty pleased with the maintenance of fairness and efforts to put things right after the viva (the award being subject to minor/major amendments). I'd rather see the end of the near universal thesis requirement for PhD: a shorter report and a collection of papers defended at viva would be much better in my view.
MG - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Tall Clare: Offwidth is wrong. Many, as you say, are poorly written and most are probably never opened again after being accepted. The good bits are published in journals that might be read occasionally, or, in more practical subjects, are used directly by industry.
Offwidth - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to cb294:

Some PhDs are better than others, and a few are a little lucky so what? Coel said most were not worth reading and he shouldn't be so niave as the way that must come across to the public as he works in academia.
Tall Clare - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Offwidth:
> (In reply to Tall Clare)
>
> I'd agree there are problems but we should not tar all with being the same as the worst.

Most definitely not. I'm working on one at the moment that's fascinating, provocative, innovative and rigorous.

> I see most through supervision, internal examination, colleagues and appeals and am pretty pleased with the maintenance of fairness and efforts to put things right after the viva (the award being subject to minor/major amendments). I'd rather see the end of the near universal thesis requirement for PhD: a shorter report and a collection of papers defended at viva would be much better in my view.

I get the feeling that would be highly appropriate in a lot of areas. Accounting students writing over 100,000 words of repetitive drivel - I can't see how it's necessary.
Offwidth - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to MG:

Offwidth is right as he is arguing across the board not from the minority of bad examples and the increased problems with english as UK students don't write as well as they once did and the majority of theses are written by students operating in a second or third language. I think one of the key reasons the thesis is anachronistic as the main form of PhD assessment is because we are highlighting the weaknesses rather than the strengths of the doctoral work.
Tim Chappell - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Offwidth:
> (Coel said most were not worth reading


No he didn't. He asked me whether I thought most PhDs in philosophy were worth reading.

I suggested he read them all, and then take an evidence-based view :-)

I make the same suggestion to anyone else who wants to generalise; there've been a few on here.
Tim Chappell - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell:


PS Here's a link to the most famous philosophy PhD of all time (Cambridge University, 1921):

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/5740
MG - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Offwidth: We can contradict each other all day long but the fact remains most PhDs are barely read after being completed. This either means there is huge body of material that is worth reading but ignored, or that this body is not really worth reading, with the worthwhile bits presented in more accessible forms. I know which alternative I would go for.
Offwidth - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell:

The clear implication was that they wouldn't and as we both know that Philosophy is one of the areas with the highest standards in PhD production the further implications are obvious. I do wonder where Coel gets his wide knowledge from at times. I've been on University level commitees and doing various equivalent forms of external business and have been doing national (non-militant) union work with access to (sometimes confidential) union and employer possitons (APT through AUCL through AUT through UCU) for decades and I feel the sector is so wide and vibrant I still have lots to learn.
MG - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell: Why is this famous?

I don't understand what is meant by 1, and 1.1 is clearly wrong. I stopped there.
Offwidth - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to MG: If you think the fact that a PhD thesis isnt read much (in something as busy as modern academia) is a measure of its readability you are an idiot. My contention is that the effort into the readability (language and content) is best put elsewhere where it will be more effective.
Offwidth - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to MG:

"Why is this famous?"... says it all.

ads.ukclimbing.com
MG - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Offwidth:
> (In reply to MG) If you think the fact that a PhD thesis isnt read much (in something as busy as modern academia) is a measure of its readability you are an idiot.

Well I didn't say that. May be the idiot is you. Or maybe neither of us and you should grow up and stop the abuse.
MG - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Offwidth: You of course could explain why without googling coulnd't you?
Tim Chappell - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell) Why is this famous?
>
> I don't understand what is meant by 1, and 1.1 is clearly wrong. I stopped there.



Chuckle.
MG - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell: Well, at risk of a never-ending thread go on: How can someone possibly claim that the world doesn't consist in part of things with a straigth face? I assume in some technical sense this must be a serious sentence?
Offwidth - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to MG: Being an acdemic rep pre google has its advantages.
Offwidth - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

and post google you get gems (if I'd read this before I'd forgotten):

"Mr Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, whether or not it prove to give the ultimate truth on the matters with which it deals, certainly deserves, by its breadth and scope and profundity, to be considered an important event in the philosophical world. Starting from the principles of Symbolism and the relations which are necessary between words and things in any language, it applies the result of this inquiry to various departments of traditional philosophy, showing in each case how traditional philosophy and traditional solutions arise out of ignorance of
the principles of Symbolism and out of misuse of language."

Pretty heavy going (unreadable for most) as reading comes though :)
MG - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Offwidth: So you didn't/don't why it was famous. Thought not. Perhaps drop the posturing?

That para is in Bertrand Russel's intro in Tim's link BTW.
Tall Clare - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

Nah, you just have to get into the rhythm of it. For incomprehensible and impenetrable, I'd recommend trying computational informatics from someone with English as a second language. A person can find herself properly tied up in ontologies there.
Offwidth - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to MG:

"That para is in Bertrand Russel's intro in Tim's link BTW."

Shit, how dumb am I... completely missed the third person reference and name under the text there didn't I?

I am not and never claimed to an expert in this subject area, that doesn't stop me being aware of things and since when did awareness constitute posturing.. its just memory not intellect.
Offwidth - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Tall Clare: I've come close to that but escaped so far... too many materials researchers around still where I can help more :)
Offwidth - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Offwidth:


...back on topic then.

Part 3 of my postings: the employers' response to the pay demand and my view on its applicability and honesty.

The UCEA website is here:

http://www.ucea.ac.uk/en/empres/paynegs/current/

The latest detail here is the early statement produced in March (despite their protestations to be willing to discuss and engage) it contains the following views (in quotes … with my responses after):

" The 2013-14 JNCHES pay negotiations take place against a very uncertain background, both in terms of the HE sector and the wider economy. The impact of the funding changes in 2012-13 in England on individual institutions is only now starting to emerge and the differences in HE funding and fee policies between the four jurisdictions of the United Kingdom are leading to significantly different funding contexts. In England the situation is still very uncertain and Sally Hunt, General Secretary of the UCU, has said that the funding plans “could well be disastrous for our universities” (UCU, 2012a) and “endanger the health of the sector” (UCU, 2012b). Commenting on the most recent set of sector financial forecasts, Alan Langlands, Chief Executive of HEFCE, said that “recent talk of universities being ‘awash with cash’ is ill-informed”."

Smoke and mirrors: they have the money now and the risk from giving a better than 1% award this year is hardly massive if you put it in context with the huge investment in buildings (and mortgages with that) that have come close to bankrupting some HEIs and are the main reason cash is short in some institutions. Many institutions have significantly increased numbers of non-academic staff in bureaucratic areas that best managed industries have been removing.

"Given the state of the UK economy and perceptions that the HE sector has not faced its share of the public sector cuts, HEIs are anxious about the funding settlements from 2015 onwards. According to data from the Financial Times (2013), Department for Business and Skills (BIS) potentially faces a £1bn cut in its budget and a 19.2% real change between 2015 and 2018. The Chancellor also announced in his 2013 Budget that all unprotected departments, including BIS, will be required to cut spending by an additional 2% over the next two years."

Blackmail now: we might be due cuts in the future better be careful.

"There was a decline in demand for undergraduate university places across the UK in 2012-13 and acceptance numbers in England were considerably affected by the new funding policy with 40 HEIs experiencing a fall in student numbers of 10% or more. The latest UCAS figures for 2013 applications show that there has been a 3.5% increase on 2012, but the number of applications received is still 4.2% lower than at the same point in the cycle for 2011."

More smoke and mirrors: the demand is linked to overall balance sheets not the worst case scenario in the worst hit institution on student numbers where in some cases they are still spending money they don’t have on other things to compete more and increase administrative control. The sector is full of terrible management mistakes in the worst financed institutions and the average practice falls well behind the best in management practice. Overall student numbers (including overseas students) are roughly static and have increased significantly since we last got any pay award that was close to inflation. However, most importantly incomes have risen balance sheets are more healthy.

"In terms of financial health, the most recent HEFCE data indicates that institutional finances in England are generally satisfactory, but it stresses that student recruitment in 2013 will be a major uncertainty for institutions planning their expenditure. Some institutions may well need to dip into reserves in 2013 if the decline in student applications continues and to revisit areas of expenditure. Institutions also now need to keep larger reserves to cover capital costs (borrowing for new buildings, infrastructure maintenance, IT, etc.) as the funding for this has been almost entirely cut by government in all the devolved nations. Overseas student numbers have also been hit badly by the new student visa controls. There is no real terms increase in research funding and cuts to European research funding could be significant for research intensive HEIs. Funding councils in Scotland and Wales and the Department for Education and Learning for Northern Ireland have all indicated an expectation that HEIs will deliver efficiency savings in the coming year given the constraints on public expenditure and the need to maximise value for money. In England the BIS funding letter indicates likewise and repeats last year’s expectation of restraint on pay."

We have delivered efficiency savings for decades so why will this suddenly stop now? You might think the sector is on the edge of a cliff from all the doom and gloom here, what about the continued success: things like the significant growth in 3rd stream income? The view on balance sheets (the key issue): generally satisfactory... the areas cut illustrate how badly UCEA fight their corner with government.

"The private/public pay divide continues as a result of the Government’s pay restraint policies. In the private sector, the median pay increase was 2.8% but awards have been variable across industries and projections for 2013 indicate that pay increases in the private sector will continue to vary by sector. Pay awards in the public sector were largely around zero, although there has been an underpinning increase of £250 per year for those earning £21,000 and below. Some parts of the public sector moved in the last year into a pay policy of overall increases capped at 1%, a policy that comes into effect for all other workforces from April 2013 and will continue to 2015-16. In local government, there have been zero increases for the last three years but staff on the main pay spine were offered a modest increase for 2013-14 (rejected by the unions). Despite pay freezes, earnings levels in the public sector have continued to increase by modest amounts due to pay drift (e.g. increments and promotion increases)."

HEIs are not strictly speaking public sector, even if most of out income is public money. Employers and the government tell us one thing when it suits them and the opposite when it suits them, with no shame whatsoever in the dichotomy. There is no evidence I've seen that shows significant average individual lecturer pay increase due to pay drift. Overall pay has gone up slightly but the reasons relate to funded capacity which is highly complex and following a time of huge growth (and much smaller growth in lecturer numbers). Income, in contrast, has gone up much more than overall pay costs. Hence the key factor: the percentage of HEI expenditure on pay has dropped. UCEA make a big thing out of incremental progression increasing pay costs but this only increases costs when the system is out-of-balance. The number of people at any increment point is typically pretty static as people move up a little each year but expensive people retire to be replaced by people at the bottom of the scales.


Offwidth - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

continued....

"The most recent official pay data (ASHE 2011) indicate that earnings levels in HE continue to be competitive for like-for-like occupations. While the value of HE salaries has reduced due to relatively high inflation over the last four years, this phenomenon is not unique to the HE sector and hence the HE position in the ‘table’ has not been altered. As shown in the most recent update of the Pay in HE (2013) report, the average annual earnings of full-time HE teaching professionals has increased more than 15 points ahead of inflation between 2001 and 2011 and this group recorded the third highest median earnings out of the 46 professional occupations identified by the Office for National Statistics. In terms of the wider economy, the UK economy stagnated in 2012 and has still not recovered the output lost during the 2008-09 recession. Growth for 2013-14 is forecast to be positive but limited and subject to significant uncertainty. Inflation is set to remain in the region of 3%, although there are predictions that it will begin to fall slightly towards the end of 2013. Across the economy pay increases have failed to keep up with inflation for several years, leading to a substantial decline in real incomes for almost all occupations. Whilst three of the last four awards in HE have been below inflation, incremental and/or promotion-based salary growth within most HEIs’ pay systems will have cushioned these effects for a significant proportion of staff in the sector."

2011 report based on data from what year... things have moved on a lot since then in terms of pay, workload and job security. What has the overall UK economy to do with this given we’ve just come out of a multi-year pay freeze? The average pay position as a profession is lower than it was (top of career grade was once the same as an MP) but deservedly remain high. Increments don't cushion anything when you are at the top of the scale (the position for a significant percentage of staff). Promotions and PRP require very formal justifications so must have paid for themselves already. More doom and gloom here as well: inflation will fall.

"In conclusion, the HE sector faces a very uncertain future and the employers need to be very careful to control staffing costs if jobs are to be protected. Financial sustainability is a very real issue for many institutions. While the employers acknowledge the fact that pay levels are being eroded by inflation, rising costs for resources other than labour are also eating into HE budgets. In spite of this challenging position, we do remain hopeful that the mandate from participating employers will enable us once again to offer a modest award for 2013/14."

In conclusion UCEA are government toadies with a habit of choosing facts that suit them and who are following highly damaging policies. The key issues even in their small-world managerial terms are balance sheets and risk. The former show affordability and the risks they list are dangers (no real sense of probability) and not balenced against opportunities (that history shows clearly exist: as equally all the 'bogey men' can be usually dealt with when they actually happen as they have been in the past). If they really wanted to protect the sector they would: fight harder for government settlements using the research that shows how important HE is to national economies; defend HE more in public and trumpet the success; pay their staff more fairly; ban zero hour contracts for lecturing staff and deal with casualistion better (esp for post docs); control workloads more fairly; work harder on closing the gender pay gap that almost all other sectors have dealt with better.
jonny taylor on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

> UCEA make a big thing out of incremental progression increasing pay costs

This is a bit that makes me particularly angry: the suggestion that many people will experience incremental progression, and this makes up for the lack of a pay award that even pretends to take into account inflation.

1. Incremental progression is there for a reason, it acknowledges an increase in experience and hence capability. It is not intended as an answer to inflation.

2. More importantly, the suggestion that incremental progression is a substitute for a proper pay settlement is appealing to peoples selfishness. *An individual* may be fortunate enough to have incremental progression, but the next wave of postdocs/lecturers/professors coming up through the system are effectively being paid 13% less for the same job as their peers 4 years ago. The job has been devalued, and we will never see that reversed.


The fact that certain vice chancellors have the nerve to repeat this line in spite of their own double-figure pay rises really boils my blood...
Offwidth - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to jonny taylor:

Most vice chencellors have forgotten what they should be about. They tow the line and they dig their snouts in the trough and they queue up for their knighthoods. They should instead be defending academia in its widest sense, if only for the selfish reasons of how they will be viewed in a few decades. This belt tightening and increased belief in academic manageriaism is very dangerous for academic freedom: the ability to explore, think, enthuse and educate that made our Universities great.

A thing that makes my blood boil is the billions of government money spent weighing the pig to try and make it fatter and the seperately highly paid managers to ensure it's done properly (at least a billion in the old QAA visits that found 16 failing subject areas in institutions, mostly overseas). We could cut huge swathes of administration if the sector was reformed and VCs stopped protending that managers generate wealth in their institutions and better supported the academics who really do it. That reminds me of another thing, when I started 30 years back we used to get proper admin support but its really much worse now despite hard working people at the 'coal face' (again due to more managers manageing managers managing ...). My top paid prof pal with millions in income has no allocated admin support so does things like booking his own coffee for meetings and queues up for photocopies.
Coel Hellier - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

> ... and as we both know that Philosophy is one of the areas with the highest standards in PhD production
> the further implications are obvious.

Do we know that? I'd have thought that philosophy is one of the hardest areas in which to produce genuinely original and worth-reading work (as opposed to mere regurgitated commentary on the work of previous philosophers). It's actually a genuine and proper question as to how many of such philosophy PhD theses are worth reading.

Or, to put the question in more concrete terms, what fraction of them would have been cited over 20 times in refereed journals or books (not merely other theses), after, say, 20 years (where we can include citations to any papers deriving directly from the thesis)? (This 20-citations-in-20-years level being deliberately set very low.)
Coel Hellier - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to jonny taylor:

> Incremental progression is there for a reason, it acknowledges an increase in experience and hence capability.

One generally finds that scientists are often most productive and original early in their careers. Rate of publication of lead-authored papers usually peaks in the postdoc years and declines with age.
Coel Hellier - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to MG:

> I don't understand what is meant by 1, and 1.1 is clearly wrong. I stopped there.

It certainly could do with a definition of the term "facts" (or whatever German word is being translated as "facts").
Offwidth - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Then the best people move on to do other really important things like lead and inspire research groups or focus more on teaching or fight the tsunami of paperwork the inexperienced would struggle with. There are checks and balances too: you dont get promoted to the top grade without strict measures being acheived and if you fall behind you get put on improving performance measures ( then if things are still not Ok retired early, converted into teaching only or similar).
Offwidth - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Back to Philoshopy I don't know enough in that subject to argue about citations (the counting of which I think is sometimes a bit of a clubish con trick these days as the system adapts to the REF KPI and similar elsewhere). The ones I've seen and the ones colleagues I respect have spoken about are usually well written, cogent and relevant in terms of the qualification. These days the papers that come with the PhD are much more likely to get cited. As I said earlier I think the thesis is an anachronism as the normal measure for a doctorate but more so in Science than in Philosophy I suspect.

All I wanted from you for the sake of PhD students everywhere is the acknowledgement that many are probably worth reading (even if they are not read). I think Tim is right to suspect how many you have read (more than zero even?) or are very much aware of from trusted witnesses on which to base your view.
Coel Hellier - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

> Then the best people move on to do other really important things like lead and inspire research groups
> or focus more on teaching or fight the tsunami of paperwork the ...

I agree, though saying that about "the best people" is not an argument for annual increments that apply to all.

By the way, your university seems far worse than mine for paperwork, given what you are saying. Amounts of paperwork are -- to a very large extent -- under the control of the university.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Coel Hellier - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

> All I wanted from you for the sake of PhD students everywhere is the acknowledgement that many
> are probably worth reading (even if they are not read).

Well I've not read them, so don't know, but I suspect not about most of them. As I said, I'd have thought that philosophy was one of the hardest subjects in which to write genuinely worth-reading stuff. (My estimate of what fraction of academic philosophy in general, not just PhD theses, is worth reading, might also be lower than you might like, though I readily accept that some of it certainly is.)

Offwidth - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Crossed posts so I deleted a reply... the still relevant bit is my paperwork problem is in a post 92 institution (ex poly): as a Prof in a pr-92 you are very much more protected (as long as you produce your outputs).
IainRUK - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to timjones:
> (In reply to dsh)
> [...]
>
> In terms of real physical usefulness to society I'd suggest that they are outranked by nurses, the police, the fire service, farmers, fruit pickers, everyone else who works in the food sector, postmen, binmen, street sweepers, builders, plumbers, heating engineers........
>
> The list of people who provide great benefit society by doing essential physical tasks is endless!

Its pretty ignorant though.. you may think a nurse is more beneficial but scientists provide the tools of the trade, where would we be without vaccines, antibiotics, chemo drugs...
Boar of Badenoch - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

> A thing that makes my blood boil is the billions of government money spent weighing the pig to try and make it fatter and the seperately highly paid managers to ensure it's done properly (at least a billion in the old QAA visits that found 16 failing subject areas in institutions, mostly overseas). We could cut huge swathes of administration if the sector was reformed and VCs stopped protending that managers generate wealth in their institutions and better supported the academics who really do it. That reminds me of another thing, when I started 30 years back we used to get proper admin support but its really much worse now despite hard working people at the 'coal face' (again due to more managers manageing managers managing ...). My top paid prof pal with millions in income has no allocated admin support so does things like booking his own coffee for meetings and queues up for photocopies.

This pisses me off too! We have as many administrative staff as there are academic staff, yet most of the admin that actually needs to be done gets done by the academic and research staff!
JdotP - on 08 Nov 2013
Regarding why the Ph.D. thesis is important. It is important, from the point of view of training good researchers for the future, that the Ph.D. student has a scientific project which is identifiably "theirs", instead of just spending 3 years doing odd jobs around the lab. The requirement to produce a thesis at the end is one of the means to ensure this. So even if it is not worth reading, it is worth writing.

wintertree - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to jonny taylor)
>
> [...]
>
> One generally finds that scientists are often most productive and original early in their careers. Rate of publication of lead-authored papers usually peaks in the postdoc years and declines with age.

But lead-authored papers is not the indication of productivity. I collaborate with someone who lead authors very few papers because they encourage their postdocs to lead-author the work they take increasing responsibility for, as they become more senior they mentor and encourage the next generation. To me this is a sign of a good supervisor, and it's a pattern I see repeated in different institutions and fields.

Having said that, there is evidence of a productivity lull between early career researchers and senior stage mentors but that's a different issue.
Coel Hellier - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to wintertree:

I agree, one tends to move from a more doing-science role to a more mentoring and managing role. In some areas, though, such as theoretical physics, most of the best work is done by people under ~ 35.
wintertree - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to jonny taylor:
> (In reply to Offwidth)
>
> [...]
>
> This is a bit that makes me particularly angry: the suggestion that many people will experience incremental progression, and this makes up for the lack of a pay award that even pretends to take into account inflation.

I would add a third point - a lot of long serving and devoted people in the academic departments who are not tenured are effectively parked at the top of their pay grade and are denied progression by the rules set by the administrative side, so incremental progression is irrelevant to them. The overall figures on how many people benefit suggest that this is not the case in more inwards facing departments.

If only VCs lived on the pay scale.
JdotP - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to wintertree:

> If only VCs lived on the pay scale.

Who else reads the "Poppletonian" column in THES? That always has me in stitches...
Offwidth - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to IainRUK: pretty much everything those people do relies on scientific and other academic developments. Bloody academics what did they ever do for us?
Offwidth - on 08 Nov 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier: An interesting article on age that counters that claim somewhat:

http://www.massey.ac.nz/~rmclachl/overthehill.html
Tony Naylor on 09 Nov 2013
Perhaps slightly off-topic, but academics aren't the only ones feeling the pinch in academia. It's becoming common for support staff to be forced to reapply for their own jobs under the guise of 'reorganisation'. They have to fill in application forms, write brief essays on why they want the job (which they may have been doing for the past ten years) and attend a competitive interview along with internal and external candidates. And if they don't 'succeed', they're gone. Not sacked, not made redundant, not offered alternative employment - just gone.

Other staff are seeing their contractual hours cut by up to half and subsequently agency staff employed on more hours than them.

I've seen both of these things accomplished this year, and more are in progress now.
Offwidth - on 09 Nov 2013
In reply to Tony Naylor: My academic engineering teams of various flavours was formally closed 4 times and merged with another, with all the at risk analysis involved. A couple of years back in a School where I deal with the casework they experimented with a cut back in top of career grade staff like musical chairs by removing just two posts... the time, effort, pain and anger caused for a saving of about 20k a year after redundancy costs year beggars belief.

Liverpool Uni tried that en masse with support staff and had to back down after threats of industrial action and international opprobrium and anger from students. Its noticeable that they suffered way more that most from the effects of pickets last Thursday... wonder why? Support staff who do real stuff: technicians, course admin staff, secretarial staff and PAs, librarians, IT staff, careers, counselling, H&S staff, academic quality, repair men, canteen staff, cleaners, parking and security, all are way more pressurized than when I started 30 years back; while an army of middle managers live in neat offices inventing tasks for the plebs (alongside senior management) in order to justify their existence.

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