Friday, November 27, 2009

State of the Industry Conference - Graeme Turner presentation

Live blogging from the State of the Industry conference at the University of NSW, hosted by the Cultural Research Network.

Professor Graeme Turner, Convenor, Australian Research Council Cultural Research Network, and University of Queensland

  • Problem of how to replenish the academic labour market as up to 50% of "baby boomer" academics retire over the next decade;
  • The market will be increasingly internationally competitive - arts & humanities generate a lot of PhDs, but there are slower completion rates, higher attrition rates and more discontent with casualisation of work than in other Faculties/disciplines/sectors;
  • This will be approached as "the university's problem" but it is increasingly one for government;
  • The myth of "lots of jobs in the near future" has been around "since Graeme was 25" - beware of that mantra, although it may be more true this time.
Issues that need addressing and their attendant causes:

  1. Perpetuation of casual/sessional appointments - originally designed to eliminate "exploitative" contract employment, but is itslef more exploitative;
  2. Collapse of discipline-based departments;
  3. Exploitative behaviour by unviersities and departments and resultant loss of trust;
  4. Low level of PhD stipends and effects on personal living conditions esp. for those with families;
  5. The end of the Masters degree as a PhD training ground - requires too much to be done with inexperienced PhD candidates;
  6. Anti-intellectualism in Australia and disapraging of people in universities;
  7. Increasing vocationalisation of universities, and use of "interdiscplinarity" to develop economies of scale by forcing disciplines together;
  8. Marketisation of univerisites and short-term responses to shifts that see wholesale disappearance of disciplines and departmentsesp. outside of metro universities and G8 universities (seen in ERA exercise, soon to be public);
  9. Poor advice from research offices and other entites trying to "second guess" where the funding will be e.g. whole Faculties being told to submit ARC grants.
Such factors influenced the decision to set up the CRN. Aims were to:
  • link up senior reserachers with PhDs and ECRs;
  • enable grassroots development of research ideas;
  • build collaborations across disciplines and build multidisciplinary teams;
  • address problems associated with professional development and lack of institutional mentoring for ECRs;
  • liberate researchers from constraints of their particular institutions and departments by linking up to a wider communtiy of scholars.
Issue of how not simply to draw attention to constraints but build capacity for collective agency c.f. presentations by Simon Marginson and Staurt Cunningham on Day One of State of the Industry conference.

Whta are the consequences of loss of capacity in the humanities generally over the last 15 years and the unevenness of critical strength across the sector? Capacity was largely built in the sciences, particularly during the Howard years.

Ongoing arguments about how to get government to take our claims seriously. Poor results in first round of Future Fellowships an illustration of the problems arising. Can become a "vicious cycle" since governments respond to evidence of results rather than special pleading for more cash.

Maintain a focus on the quality of your work, and not on short-term exigencies of research offices e.g. first-tier journals after ERA.


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