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to be biting my tongue and think they are being twits about jobs/unpaid experience?

(229 Posts)

I am this close to snapping back about this so just want to see if I am BU or if you can tell me to be a nicer person.

A few days ago I was asked to publicize a competition which has been set up to give people an unpaid position, while they're looking for the paid equivalent. They'd also get space to work and access to various subscription-only stuff you'd need. Jobs are very competitive so there are lots of people who will be in the position of not having found one yet, so the fact this is competitive too, means it would be better on your CV than a blank.

Obviously I know it won't be for everyone. It isn't anything to do with me as an initiative - I was literally just asked to spread the word. So I did. People now keep responding and asking what it's for, saying they don't see why it's made competitive 'as they could just give it to everyone' and saying it's pointless as it doesn't pay anything. I replied a couple of times saying why I thought it was being offered and I'm now giving up.

Am I being unreasonable to think they are being idiots? Here they are, they haven't managed to get jobs, but they're turning their noses up at this and seem to have no understanding why there might be competition for it. I made it clear I am just passing on information and am still getting these stupid snooty comments about how they wouldn't choose to do this, etc. etc.

I am so tempted to reply pointing out that beggars can't be choosers. AIBU?

Ephiny Thu 15-Nov-12 13:00:51

Wellcome Trust studentships are often over £20k, but normally it's more like £15-17k, going by the ones I was applying for a couple of years ago anyway (that's with London weighting though).

It was big who mentioned the 20k grant for sciences. But yes - god knows how I get anything done with MN!

Actually, I do believe it helps - it's good to be able to chat when you're working, I think, otherwise it's easy to get too solitary.

Whatnowffs Thu 15-Nov-12 12:48:51

LRD i was a science PhD in the lab - i thank GOD that i never discovered mumsnet while i was doing it! Oh and 20k grant? <THUD> That was me falling off my chair laughing, ouch, that hurt! 10k and i was lucky!

grin at ephiny.

I banned myself a few months ago to get some work done.

Ooh. That is immensely cool.

I love old libraries. I am a right book geek.

The thing is, I think ordinary people do appreciate this stuff - the British Library still gets loads of visitors who want to look at their exhibitions of books. And I've never shown students images from manuscripts without them being fascinated, even the ones who 'hate' what we're studying and are sulky about it. And friends who teach at school can get primary school aged children absolutely hooked by showing them what real things survive from so far back in the past.

There is an amazing project they're doing with manuscripts associated with the deprived areas of the West Midlands, where the person who masterminded the project wanted to show people that being Brummie is not (as some people see it, which is really sad) in some way 'uncultured' - that there's a really rich tradition of people with the 500-year-old version of that same accent and dialogue producing amazing literature. She did interviews showing people the manuscripts made in their area and they loved it - and she wants to see if the project can be used to promote tourism.

So I do think that really there is a huge amount of interest, and people want and need this research, if only it could be properly supported.

I guess with the Quran, maybe there are a huge number as they are kept so carefully? I agree though, I find it implausible you couldn't get much more for it though - if you just put it on Amazon at 500 I would bet it would get bought!

Ephiny Thu 15-Nov-12 12:19:17

^unless you're a computational biologist, in which case procrastinating on MN etc is an occupational hazard...

<bans self>

I used to work in a research library that had a very small rare books section that no one had ever properly archived or looked at in years. So I finally went in one day, I could not believe what was in there. There was a folio produced in Constantinople in the 1500s. Later on I found a Quran from 1640 buried in a closet.

That was the best job ever, unfortunately it paid nothing and had no security as they were always threatening to close the library, hence my postgrad career.

The sad thing is that it really feels like no one appreciates these things anymore, and if institutions don't invest in preserving not only the physical objects but the knowledge needed to interpret them, they will just disappear. And will people care? I had that Quran assessed, it was only worth $50 in the rare books market. How is that possible???

Anyway sorry to ramble, I just think it's sad that the A&H fields are so relatively unappreciated and underfunded, and so many people that would love to go into them (such as me actually) are deterred by how impossible it seems to make an actual career in it.

Oh, and how could I forget the most important thing?

If I were a scientist with a 20k grant, I'd be stuck in a lab and couldn't procrastinate on MN! shock

Gosh, I'm really not, am I?! blush

For the record, I love my subject. I really do. I feel so lucky I get to do something this much fun.

And honestly, outside of this thread which obviously attracted a lot of academics, most of the people I chat to day-to-day don't know there is any funding at all for a PhD and would assume you'd do it off a student loan, or you'd have to save up, so they come at it from completely the opposite angle and make me feel lucky too.

I get to work with manuscripts that are hundreds of years old and would have been precious even when new, and they're unbelievably precious now. And I get to look at them and touch what people were touching 500 or more years ago, and to work out how they read those books. It is just absolutely amazing.

I've rarely met a PhD student in my discipline who didn't love what they did (and those who don't love it don't stick around! grin).

I'd hate to put anyone off, really. I do think the fact you can get a minimum-wage grant to cover you while you're studying is really important and should be much better-known amongst people who would be good at postgrad work but maybe don't know that it's accessible to them.

LRD I haven't seen that requirement (constant study) in my field at all.

No offence but you are not really selling the arts and humanities here grin

I imagine it's not so much an endogenous need but more a way to get a handle on the overwhelming number of graduates and few jobs. The more people chasing fewer jobs, the more institutions will create higher and more elaborate requirements.

I imagine they are using continuous study as a sort of proxy for dedication (generous interpretation) or thinking that it means someone is not suited to do anything else in life really and will be so dependent on this job they can be well exploited (cynical interpretation).

MamaMary Thu 15-Nov-12 11:11:16

Well I took a year out after my MA to do another course (not related to MA or PhD subject), then worked for a while in that area; then returned to academia to do my PhD. So that would have been me out according to those new rules LRD. I'm very glad I did this one-year course as it actually led to real, paid work!

(Not being overly specific as don't want to out myself!)

Personally I realised that working in the arts and humanities sector of academia meant pursuing a series of full-time but temporary (mostly one-year) posts; having no choice but to move every year as those posts were in different parts of the country; every year having to stress about and apply for the next post-doc/ research position. This has been the case for the few friends of mine who persisted with it. If eventually they do get a lectureship it will involve loads of admin and little actual teaching, time for research being constantly squeezed, constant unpaid overtime, getting behind if you are female and take maternity leave and (from what I've seen sadly) never catching up. In my deparment there were about 20 professors but only one female professor who was single and childless.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 15-Nov-12 11:00:52

This has been a really informative thread, thank you LRD et al.

megandraper Thu 15-Nov-12 10:24:48

Thing is though, about funded PhDs is that they aren't bursaries (for people in financial need) - they are recognition of the fact that this is an excellent application by a well-qualified person with a carefully thought out proposal of how to further knowledge in an important area and a well-justified plan of how it will be achieved. It's incredibly competitive to get funding, and only a small proportion achieve it. It's a big CV point, and opens up further opportunities.

So, people aren't going to turn funding down because they have some savings / a part-time job and could do it without. (apart from the odd billionaire perhaps!)

While we're being angry about all of this stuff, I wonder what people think of something else that seems increasingly common: post doc (paid!) positions saying they only consider candidates who've never had a year out from undergraduate to the end of a (three year) PhD, except for illness. So if you took a year out to work and pay off your overdraft - no luck. And if you took four years finishing the PhD because you worked - no luck. I can understand them wanting research to be recent and 'in date', but I was really shocked they penalize you if you took time off after your undergrad degree.

FlangelinaBallerina Thu 15-Nov-12 10:12:23

Well Floggingmolly you were still much better off than the current cohort because you were actually being paid something. Therefore your comments were inappropriate. Bad enough that you fail to acknowledge your greater privilege, but to stick the boot in as well is just ignorant. You may have had it hard, the people you are slagging off have it harder.

Maybe so.

It is depressing, isn't it?

I do wish every once in a while, there'd be a tiny bit of acknowledgment that we work hard at this stuff and we're not all just sitting around 'being perpetual students' down the university bar.

Ephiny Thu 15-Nov-12 07:57:40

Though having said all that about 'they'd have to pay someone else more to do our jobs', now this seems to be becoming a trend in clinical psychology, I wonder if it's the future for sciences as well.

I knew people who didn't get funding, and I didn't for my Masters. It does make me grateful, but I take your point. I think perhaps there is a distinction between subjects here. My PhD is essentially a gamble on the part of the university, that I will contribute to research. Of course I'll also do some teaching and contribute to the 'research community' insofar as I chat to other students and so on, and of course PhDs in my field do publish and do go to conferences and raise the profile of the university in that way.

But friends who did science PhDs knew that, even if they didn't do anything else in academia afterwards, they'd been useful just by doing the lab work as part of a team. If there weren't PhDs to do that, someone else would have to be hired.

And of course there's the issue that, while there are jobs for Arts grads in very well-paid areas, on average we expect to earn less.

I'm not saying this because I'm happy about it (!), just aware of some of the context.

I'm trying to think how many PhDs at my place aren't funded - people don't always talk about it much, but I know it was considered remarkable, in my year, that there were four of us in my narrow subject area, and all had funding.

I do think the government is immensely short-sighted with the way it's treating arts and humanities at university. I think universities are increasingly trading on reputations they've not got the time and energy to keep up to date.

Ephiny Thu 15-Nov-12 07:30:18

I'm slightly uncomfortable with the idea of being massively 'grateful' for my PhD funding. I mean, I was delighted to get my PhD place, of course, but it never occurred to me that it wouldn't come with funding, or that anyone would expect me to work for 4 years without being paid at least basic living expenses.

There maybe should be a bit of appreciation on the part of the supervisors/universities tbh - PhD students make up the bulk of most research groups, most labs would just not function without them and we are generally working long hours for very low pay compared to what we could make in other jobs. And compared to what our supervisors would otherwise have to pay research assistants or post-docs to get the work done. My stipend is about a quarter of my salary in my previous job, which I could have stayed in if I'd chosen, so while I'm glad to have it, I'm not exactly feeling the boot-licking gratitude thing.

I don't know anyone who's done a PhD unfunded - in my Masters year there were a couple of people (non-EU students not eligible) who self-funded, but that was only for 1 year. I didn't come across any unpaid projects when applying, all the projects I was interested in came with 3 or usually 4 years stipend, plus fees, and budget for consumables and travel expenses. In science at least that is the norm, and so it should be IMO. I can't imagine any other job where people would be expected to turn down payment because they didn't absolutely 'need' it! Even if they were getting training/qualifications out of the experience.

grendels -ahh, ok, I'm seeing this may be an issue from angles I'd not thought of.

Even though of course this doesn't favour the wealthy, it might be worried it would.

cream - sounds not too dissimilar. Maybe it is enough the same. I don't mind so much about the workroom, as I do work at home, but I know people who've small children at home find it difficult to find the space. And I did myself, before I had desk space at home.

creamteas Wed 14-Nov-12 22:57:54

LRD they don't get their own desk but can use communal work rooms if on campus.

But most people write at home anyway, so don't need an office!

GrendelsMum Wed 14-Nov-12 22:52:23

Coming from the same background myself, I can see exactly why you think it's a pretty good deal to have library access and a desk, tbh. As people have suggested, perhaps re-naming the opportunity might help?

OTOH, I made the move sideways to a different situation within the University, and I'm aware that internships are politically a really hot potato at the moment. My boss is actually keen that we don't offer any sort of unpaid opportunity - so no volunteers allowed - as this might lay us open to charges of favouring the wealthy. Which is all very high minded, but means that we don't get the volunteers to help with our charitable activities and those already in a paid position who want to get more relevant work on their CV don't have the opportunity to do it.

cream - yeah, but you obviously have extra space, which I can understand, but I'm pretty sure my lot don't. Maybe they should separate this from the library access?

dreaming - yep, I'd have been depressed.

I am dead lucky now as since I got married, things have got better and DH has a good salary now, so I don't want to sound as if I'm whining - I do honestly know I am very lucky. But, I think there's a big issue with people who don't need to work, who finish faster, and who get cited as the norm.

AThing I had an American friend in my program who was quite wealthy, offered a fully funded phd with big stipend, and took it.

I was seriously depressed halfway through when i found out he spent $50,000 on his wedding. What he spent on one day was my entire phd.

At the time I was working as a kitchen porter in a yucky restaurant and writing my phd on my bed in an unheated boxroom. I know I shouldn't have cared about his life, it's his money, but it really upset me blush

We worked together on a few projects and I feel like on the face of it we were treated as equals -- it's not like his project was amazing and mine was shit, it's just that he got funding and I didn't. But I have definitely struggled a lot more because of that.

I wish there was more funding targeted toward people without money. We can be smart too damnit!

creamteas Wed 14-Nov-12 22:27:42

At my uni, all PhD students get automatic access to the library for 12 months after their viva. This helps them all publish from their PhDs. But if you don't need labs, there would be nothing to stop you doing new research instead. After 12 months it can be extended if their is a good reason to do so.

I think if we started to have a competition for this and thus limit the places there would be an outcry.

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