It’s far from easy if you’re employed as an academic on a temporary basis. Apart from the obvious one – lack of job security – temporary staff face a number of difficulties. Unlike permanent staff, universities offer little if any financial help with relocation, it costs money (lots of it in some cases) to move, moving is stressful and has a negative impact on one’s relationships with family and friends, it’s nigh on impossible to secure a mortgage, there is reduced entitlement to maternity leave, temporary jobs lack possibilities for promotion so one’s salary is either stagnant, or decreases as one has to accept new jobs on a lower wage, pension arrangements are patchy at best, or non-existent.
Moreover, the way in which departments operate makes it almost inevitable that some unlucky folk will be stuck in a cycle of temporary work with all the disadvantages this brings. Hiring committees place a great amount of importance on a person’s research. They want to see a strong publication record, and evidence of the ability to attract grant money. Temporary staff are typically employed primarily to cover teaching, and have much higher teaching loads than permanent staff, often with no research time at all built into their contracts. Universities are increasingly employing temporary staff on short contracts of less than a year, which means that over the summer – when permanent staff are focusing on their research – temporary staff often have to take other jobs to make ends meet. Add to this the fact that temporary staff must continually be applying for the next job – and we all know how long it takes to write a job application. It makes it very difficult to do any research which will enable one to secure a permanent post.
The British Philosophical Association has taken this up, and produced a new policy document outlining the problem, and suggesting ways in which departments can improve the lives of young philosophers.
The document draws on an excellent report written by Dawn Phillips, which sets out the issues in detail, with suggestions for change. You can access it here.
UPDATE: Doh – I’ve just noticed Jender already reported this a few days ago. I’ll leave this post up too, though, as it has more detail than Jender’s.