There were many reasons I left academia. But here’s one. In case it resonates.
To secure my role, and the roles of other staff, I was expected to help recruit masters students. But to do a masters these days not only will you have had to go through massive cultural, financial and social hoops to even be accepted, you need a lot of money on top of it.
(a) I was selling a luxury good. If nothing else, I didn’t feel trained in how to sell this sort of product. But it also wasn’t what I went into academia to do.
(b) As the option to do postgrad study was increasingly exclusive, the student body was less interesting. I mean, each individual student was great. I’ve never taught someone I wasn’t interested by. But as a whole, each classroom was a less diverse place and not so interesting as a result. So the job wasn’t so much fun. Universities are duller places, and get duller the more “elite” an institution you go too.
(c) This luxury good of a masters was often sold to students on the promise of a good job for those with the qualification. Via a mix of nepotism between graduates and the sheer competition for jobs being reasonably arbitrary criteria is used for triage, this worked. So, often the very existence of these courses kept people out of jobs they’d be great at. I couldn’t be part of that and sleep well at night.
So I left. I am currently doing a bit of teaching part-time. I love it and it’s tempting me to think about going back. But I just don’t think I’d feel comfortable being part of the business it’s become. There are other reasons too, but this was a key component to my decision and I thought I’d share in case others feel similarly uncomfortable.
I get this too, all of it, like a punch in the guts. It’s even worse now I’ve begun to take on PhD students. I also feel under pressure (moral more than institutional) to get grants and create postdoc jobs. I suppose this is what public sector jobs feel like in a neoliberal society: the pay’s still crap but the pride and the sense of service have been drained away.
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