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?

So essentially it's an unpaid internship or free labour for the employer? Apart from the prize of 'getting experience' what else does it offer? I can see why people would find it annoying. Not only are they already facing a competitive job application process but now even working for free is being made harder!
How long is the free working for? What sort of work will they do? Will it really benefit them or will it mostly benefit the employer? I can see why people are annoyed!

givemeaclue Wed 14-Nov-12 09:23:17

It's good to give work experience, I have 3 interns and all have got very good jobs from it. However why on earth would it be competition? What do they have to do to "win"?

fuzzpig Wed 14-Nov-12 09:23:37

But normal internships are competitive aren't they? You don't just wander into one, you have to compete by making your application/interview better than everyone else's.

Is it just luck that will select the winner, like picking their name out of a hat, or will you be selecting the best applicant?

See, as an unemployed person, I was immediately torn. Half of me is going give me that job NOW, while the other half is going but that's essentially taking advantage of people desperate for a job, isn't it?

I imagine the people making snooty comments are more inclined towards the latter of those. Also, a lot of people wouldn't be able to do a job (I get the impression it's basically the normal job, just not being paid?) if it wasn't paying, because how would they pay bills and so forth? These sorts of things are probably why people are being so incredulous about a non-paying job being a "prize".

Isn't the legality of interns being unpaid somewhat dubious? Unless somebody is a volunteer then they should be being paid.

As a minimum does the 'winner' get expenses?

It's not really free labour for the employer. I was trying not to give too many details - but it's a research post sponsored by a university, so the university only gets the (fairly unimportant) benefit of being able to say 'so and so is working as our unpaid researcher', nothing more.

I did think normal internships tended to be competitive.

I can totally understand people not being able to afford to do this job for free. But there is nothing I can see to stop them having a paid job at the same time, so it's not impossible.

And they don't have to go for it.

AThingInYourLife Wed 14-Nov-12 09:28:22

You can't see why people are irritated at being asked to apply for the prize of being exploited?


But if you're on job seekers for being out of work, a position like that would make you lose it.

Unless this is a position which would likely have candidates with enough savings that they aren't eligible for job seekers, in which case, they have nothing to lose.

Ok, sorry, I should have put more detail in my OP.

But I honestly don't think this is exploitative.

The organization offering these positions doesn't benefit - it just gives these people space to work in and access to research materials. Those are really expensive to subscribe to on your own.

I can understand someone thinking they simply can't afford to take up the offer because they'd lose job seekers or because they wouldn't be able to use the space/facilities as they're busy with another job. I'd be in that position myself (I'm not even eligible to apply).

But I don't see why they are getting at me for spreading the word about something that could be good on their CV and could provide them with free access.

LRD. Would the winner have set hours send duties and be doing work independently? Or would they be observing and shadowing?
If the former it should be paid. if the latter it would be considered work shadowing.

Has this been thoroughly checked with HR?

MsF - no, no set hours/duties - they're asked to say what they plan to do, but there's no obligation to do it (it's just assumed it'd be in their best interests to do it anyway). I assume they'd be doing it alongside a paid job.

They wouldn't be observing or shadowing.

I've no idea if it's been checked with HR. As I say - I really was just passing the word on. This is partly why I'm annoyed I'm getting all these comments from people turning their noses up at it - if I were eligible I would love to apply for this and I feel put down that they're all saying they're too good for it while not actually managing to get jobs either! It annoys me because if no-one takes it up this year, I assume it won't be offered again, when I could actually benefit.

HappyTurquoise Wed 14-Nov-12 09:36:34

There was a contest like this locally, for artists to submit artwork for a competition for having work displayed in a local art gallery for the competition if short-listed in top 100, studio space to work in for the year, and clearly a good deal of advertising. It would be an ideal business start up for the right person. I just couldn't risk giving up my cleaning job to do it, but it was very tempting and I am regretting not taking part. I would still want to support it, would love to go to the exhibition and support the winner.
Please don't give up advertising things like this, they are a great start for good British talant.

ParsingFancy Wed 14-Nov-12 09:38:16

Do you think the ad is poorly worded?

Eg does it advertise "position as researcher", which is normally a paid job, when it should say, "opportunity to access research facilities"?

If it's the latter, of course, there can be no set duties by the organization.

See, that's sort of how I felt happy - I can understand why someone might not feel it's right for them, but it's still good to know this sort of thing exists.

I hope maybe soon you will be able to take up your artwork competition, that sounds great stuff.

ParsingFancy Wed 14-Nov-12 09:38:33


parsing - it says quite clearly 'non-stipendiary' position.

I think the point of calling it a position, as opposed to an opportunity to access the facilities, is that, that way, you could put it on your CV and explain you competed with x number of other people to get it, so that it would at least be clear you were competitive even if you'd not managed to get a paid job yet. Or that's how I saw it.

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 09:40:49

LRD - it is not a job. People want a job.

I used to work as an academic and frankly anyone coming out of a PhD can probably access reasearch material for free through their old university.

Working as an unpaid researcher is just exploitation and a lot of universities are at it because their research funding has been cut. They used to pay post doctoral researchers a small cost of living stipend but increasingly not.

No doubt this intern will be producing something that wil be used and published by another paid full time academic researcher once they leave?

AThingInYourLife Wed 14-Nov-12 09:41:59

Well access to facilities is a prize someone might want to win.

A research "post" for no pay, not so much.

Who will own the results of the research?

Actually, no, we can't all access material - not after a certain point.

Maybe you are right, working unpaid is exploitation.

I just find it so hard to see, because I would jump at the security of having something to put on my CV between finishing and getting a paid job. And having access to a workspace and library and so on. It would be great.

Obviously a paid job in academia would be better, but they don't grow on trees and I do honestly think it's true that even good candidates are getting turned down. So having six months of a year in which you can do your normal make-ends-meet paid job and access a workspace and a library, and have this on your CV - to me it sounds perfect.

athing - well, whoever did the research would 'own' it in the sense it would be published under their name.

HappyTurquoise Wed 14-Nov-12 09:45:45

LRD, ignore the nay sayers and keep advertising. To stop now will mean word won't get out to people who really should apply for something like this, and the winner will be in a much better place to do well in their chosen career, and be able to carry with them into their future roles all the experiences, contacts, free advice and tuition that they get from the placement.

Floggingmolly Wed 14-Nov-12 09:46:43

Years ago, it was perfectly normal to work for subsistence money on an internship, or while you "served your time" in manual jobs. I'm 38, and I worked for 2 years in an Accountancy practice for practically nothing, while I qualified.
It's only this entitled generation who expect to bounce out of school with 3 GCSE's and find the world on a plate, waiting for them to choose.
Of course they're being ridiculous.

ParsingFancy Wed 14-Nov-12 09:50:54

That's the source of the grief then. It's being advertised as an unpaid job, to which many people object in principle.

If it were being headlined as a an opportunity to do your own thing, that would get different responses.

People can put it on their CV anyway - after all, a degree/PhD isn't a job either. It's perfectly easy to make it clear entry was competitive without calling it a "position" (often synonymous with "job").

HullyEastergully Wed 14-Nov-12 09:51:07

I agree with you LRD

Maybe that's it, parsing.

Thanks, happy! I will. I'm not really advertising it though - I am just passing on the word - I just don't want them to discontinue the scheme before next year.

ParsingFancy Wed 14-Nov-12 09:52:34

Ah, FloggingMolly, you've missed a big change.

Current internships aren't subsistence money - they're no money. Or travel expenses only.

ParsingFancy Wed 14-Nov-12 09:57:37

LRD, are you able to discuss wording with the organization? Find a less ambiguous and snazzy but I can't do that bit name for the scheme? (the "Ultra-Prestigious Institute Open-Desk Programme")

It does sound like a good scheme, and it would be a shame if it were discontinued for such a small glitch.

IvorHughJanusAndABulgingSack Wed 14-Nov-12 09:57:45

I had a look at various internships after finishing my MSc. The majority of them specified set hours and days every week and paid nothing. Not even travel expenses. I couldn't do it so the internships all went to people from families who could support them working for free so that their CV looked marvellous and they could then move into paid positions with good companies because they had the sort of work experience those companies demand, which is impossible to get otherwise. It's incredibly elitist IMO.

I'm not disagreeing with what you're offering, LRD, just explaining to FloggingMolly that you just don't get subsistence money anymore for things like that.

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 10:04:39

Ask yourself this.

Why did subsistence money get paid in the past and not now?

What has changed? People still need to have money to eat. Its just that employers know people are desperate and will work for nothing in the vague hope of getting a job. Lets be blunt, there are employers who just recruit one intern after another and never recruit any of them.

parsing - nooo! Honestly, I am really just passing the word on. I have nothing to do with it except I am really hoping it doesn't get discontinued for my year group. That's all.

I do think the whole system is elitist, so I agree, ivor - but this element of it, I think, isn't. I think it's an honest attempt to help people in a difficult employment situation plug gaps in their CVs. I think they are fully aware everyone wants a paying job, and just want to provide this so people can maybe have a bit of a helping hand towards that.

Floggingmolly Wed 14-Nov-12 10:05:26

Oh no, I get that, Ivor, just making a clumsy point about entitled brats, not the fact that it's unpaid grin and blush

more - yes, very true, but what do you suggest we do about it?!

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 10:11:45

LRD - you asked this question.

"Am I being unreasonable to think they are being idiots?"

Yes YABU. People are not stupid. They know they are being conned. Nothing we can do about it. However, dont be surprised if potential candidates question why they should expected to allow themselves to be exploited and they say they are not happy.

I am not in the least bit surprised people are questioning why they have to compete for an unpaid job.

I dont work for anyone unpaid and neither should anyone else. If a job is not one that an employer is willing to pay for then it is not a job worth doing.

AThingInYourLife Wed 14-Nov-12 10:11:50

Expecting to be paid for work you do makes you an "entitled brat" these days?

In fact, the unpaid internship system gives a massive advantage to actual entitled brats. It's the way the jobs they feel they are entitled to are kept out of the reach of riff raff who can't afford to work for free.

ParsingFancy Wed 14-Nov-12 10:14:12

Gwan, LRD, seize the nettle! Give feedback!

<shoves LRD towards keyboard>


But how is it a con, morebeta?

They are being offered something that gives virtually no benefit to the university, and a modest benefit to them. Conned?!

Why do you think it is exploitative?

I did explain upthread about who would benefit from their work. I do wonder if perhaps you are looking at this as someone in a discipline where work is more collaborative, and an unpaid contributor's work would simply be taken credit for by the team when she or he moved on?

I can see some people can't afford to do this at all. But lots more would be able to juggle this and a paid job. So they would end up better off than those of us who only have the paid job, and are also struggling to pay library subscription and find a workspace.

If paid positions were easy to get, I'd understand - but they're not.

grin at parsing.

Ok, I will try a gentle email saying what comments I've been getting ...

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 10:17:48

AthingInYourLife - very true. Look at all the interns working unpaid in Parliament in the hope of getting a nice safe seat in future years. Many of the leadership positions in all three main parties are held by people who worked as interns straight after university.

Unpaid internships are becoming endemic in the UK and does stop talented young peple getting into positions of influence. Honestly we are going back to the Victorian age in working practices.

UK universities (especially Oxford and Cambridge) used to be stuffed full of gentleman academics with an inheritance to live off and promoting each other. We are going back to that model again.

Whatnowffs Wed 14-Nov-12 10:17:50

I work as an unpaid researcher in a university environment. I don't have fixed hours and have found that i haven't been able to commit to it very well as i have been trying to look for work, run a home etc - its funny how much you have to do when you aren't working so this "job" has had to take a real backseat.

It has done mases for my confidence though and i wish i had more time to commit to it as its in an area of work i am trying to get back into.

I think YANBU apart from your last comment in the OP, as yes beggars can't be choosers but it is hard to commit to soemthing when you are not being paid (in monetary terms, i actually feel guilty for doing my voluntary stuff!)

morebeta, I can understand and sympathize with your annoyance at the way it's becoming increasingly difficult to get into academia without being well off.

I can't understand why you think this is helping out rich people, though: it is quite obviously going to help people who are struggling.

what - fair point, yes, I can see that.

Whatnowffs Wed 14-Nov-12 10:24:55

Also, travel expenses etc not paid to me either and this really restricts me, its a ten mile journey which i usually make by bike that isn't always feasible in foul weather. (the journey is actually completely off road so stupidly muddy)

My understanding is, there's two ways getting into this job market go:

1) You are well-off. You do a PhD (maybe it's funded, maybe not). It takes you 3 years, maybe 4, because you don't work alongside it. You can afford conferences and research trips (which makes your work go more quickly, boosts your CV, and probably helps you get published). You don't worry about going into your 4th year and having to pay extra, so if you need more time to get that publication out, you go for it.

You then apply for postdocs. The most prestigious of these (and the most numerous) are timetabled so that the majority of people will find they can only apply when they're nearly finished, for a job that doesn't start for another year. But you're ok with that: you will spend the spare year publishing a little more or perhaps doing some other job you pick up.

You can afford to apply for the prestigious job, btw, not the better-paid but less prestigious ones, because the prestigious ones are still not, TBH, brilliant.

2) You are not well-off. You rely on getting funding. It is minimum wage. You apply for travel grants/conference discounts but you still need a job on the side. It therefore takes you longer to finish, longer to publish, and you have less access to research materials and conferences.

If you take longer to finish, you look less good. Your CV has fewer publications/conferences - you look less good.

You apply for postdocs, but you may not be able to affor to wait a year between applying and starting.

You will almost inevitably have a year or so after you finish the PhD, during which you try frantically to get published in your spare time while not funded, and while you work a day job. You will have to pay to use the library, and you no longer have a space to work except at home (which may be fine or may not).


Surely this sort of position, though not perfect, is going to help the vast majority of people in situation 2?

PanickingIdiot Wed 14-Nov-12 10:27:35

I can see why people are annoyed.

BUT taking their frustration out on you is unprofessional and unlikely to win them any brownie points. If they don't like the offer, they're free not to apply.

I used to help out with recruiting in a former job and I was also amazed at the amount of abuse we got from supposedly highly qualified and skilled people, because they didn't like the conditions we offered. Yes, there are a lot of 'offers' out there that are bordering on scam and a lot of companies exploit the desperate. Welcome to life. Being snotty with the recruiter or the company won't make them up the offer, it would just make the applicant look like a nutter.

Whatnowffs Wed 14-Nov-12 10:30:37

I was in situation 2, which is why i am doing the vol work (also had career break). I don't think anyone goes into academia to get rich!

grin This is true, what.

panicking - well, I'm glad to know this isn't unusual, then.

I suppose possibly you do get to a point when you're fed up about scams. But still ...

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Wed 14-Nov-12 11:18:00

I can sort of see their point (though no excuse for rudeness). I think the idea does fall between two stools a bit.

Either it can be a paid post and rare as hen's teeth and competitive as alligator snooker, like all the rest. Or it can involve just provision of a few resources whose overheads cost pennies to the institution, in which case why aren't they being a bit more glad-handed with it? I can see the force of the argument "Why just one post?" Obviously you can't allow everyone who shows up to wander round using the library and the workspaces, that would be silly, and there does have to be some competition/quality control to ensure the resources are being used in the best possible cause. But equally I don't see why something like this would be pitched in the same way as proper research posts.

Some people, of course, are going to be annoyed because they can't afford to apply, which is also understandable. But I think it is mostly the disconnect between what is on offer and how it is being presented. I think talking in terms of (say), a "scheme" rather than a position would have got a different result.

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 11:23:26

Panicking - if you were doing what a lot of firms do which is to advertise a fairly senior position and then when making offers put the pay level at that of a junior position I have no doubt you got abuse.

Recently, I was in that position applying for an academic job that was at a senior position but they pulled a stunt on the salary that meanst I was in fact going to be the lowest paid in the department. I told the employer to politely get lost in the end.

People put a lot of time and effort into applying for a job and if in a senior position obvioulsy expect pay and conditions that acknowledge their skills and experience. Offering them a junior salary having dragged them through a recruitment process is not surprisingly going to annoy them intensely because it shows the potential employer is not serious and just looking to lower its costs by exploiting someone.

PanickingIdiot Wed 14-Nov-12 12:15:11

I agree with the sentiment, MoreBeta, but it's not an excuse for abuse or indeed any unprofessional behaviour. I usually side with the underdog in matters of fairness in employment, but people who blow it by being twats just end up being ridiculed on the internet and their CVs thrown in the round file.

I didn't have a say in determining the conditions of the jobs we advertised for. Nor did the OP, in her case. If you think an offer is not good enough, you're free to turn it down, or better yet, don't even apply. If I started to write angry letters in response to every job I didn't want, I wouldn't have time left for much else. And it would hardly advance my career.

I found it very surprising that people who were trying to brand themselves as serious professionals weren't able to show the most basic politeness or tact when dealing with a company that might employ them. Yet they thought they deserved high salaries and prestige and whatnot.

limitedperiodonly Wed 14-Nov-12 12:19:46

Unpaid labour is destroying jobs and distorting the job market for everyone at every level except for the companies who indulge in it and this government who promote it.

If there is a job to be done then it should be filled at the appropriate rate of pay.

How many middle-aged people lucky to still be in work who are supporting these schemes and calling people lazy for getting angry at what it's doing to the economy took part in this form of exploitation 25 years ago?

At 19, which was a long time ago, I did a week's work experience at a local business that recruited from my college because they were looking for people specifically trained at the highly-competitive, prestigious course that I'd managed to get on to using my excellent A levels.

I'd beaten lots of people to secure my place on the course and was performing well as were most other people who were highly motivated and skilled, if not experienced. That alone was proof of our commitment and ability and was valuable to our CVs. It is an insult to say anything else.

The experience was valuable to both sides and involved practical work - not just marking time for nothing until the next warm body came in for nothing to hang around the office and help the Department of Work and Pensions massage the unemployment figures.

(I notice today that they've gone up BTW).

It must have taken the firm just a day to realise they wanted me because they were really looking to recruit the right person for a real job, not the open-ended unpaid arrangements that people hang on for now and are told they should be grateful for.

They offered me a proper job with protection and an apprenticeship built in for when I finished my course six months later. I will always be glad of that opportunity but was I lucky? No, I bloody worked for it.

What firms and the government are doing now is just exploitation leading to no growth in jobs and a diminution of hard-won employment rights and I can't believe that more people aren't protesting about it.

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 12:27:36

"How many middle-aged people lucky to still be in work who are supporting these schemes and calling people lazy for getting angry at what it's doing to the economy took part in this form of exploitation 25 years ago?"


Those very same people would never have agreed to do unpaid internships when they were 19 that they now expect other people to take.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Wed 14-Nov-12 12:28:04

All that is true of jobs, limitedperiodonly, but this is not a "job". This person isn't going to be doing things for the university as I understand it, they are going to get the use of university resources for their research, and have a prestigious name they can put on their CV. Just no money. There are other problems with it, as I said, but the exploitation angle has been covered above and is not really relevant.

Iodine Wed 14-Nov-12 12:31:16

I can't afford to do work like this now to get experience for my CV. I have done in the past and it led to shit all. Even being told "you were the best project student we have ever had" in a reference is not enough for that person to offer you a job.

Paying my own expenses for travel, parking etc would seriously mean not eating or paying the rent.

People are frustrated. They shouldn't be taken out on you though. I went to an interview the other day for a position that was advertised as permanent. It had involved travel and a lot of time and effort to prepare. They then announced it was a temp job to finish after xmas and effectively called us all liars when we said it wasn't advertised as that. THAT is why people are angry. Job seekers are treated like dirt by companies.

beta, limited, can you explain why you think this is exploitative?

The university isn't getting a job done for them.

The university will only benefit in the extremely tenuous sense that they get to say 'look, we have a research community including these people, isn't it nice?'.

They don't even get to submit these people's publications to the REF.

It is as mulled says.

And btw, I am certainly not a middle-aged exploiter expecting others to do a job I wouldn't have done - I am younger than these people, and I am not eligible to apply, but next year I may be, and I would like not to find that the scheme has been discontinued because some people are too precious to accept it.

My impression is that the sort of person this is aimed at is not someone who wants to get a job in a different industry. It's someone who needs to be doing the work they would do for it anyway, but who would otherwise be doing it without the benefit of access to research materials and a space to work.

Of course I can see that for some people, they just can't afford to take up the offer - it's too expensive to travel in and use the research space, or even though they want to do the same work, their paid job takes up so much time they'll have to do it at a much slower rate.

Ok, that is tough, and I do see that. But lots of people who are struggling for money would find it useful.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Wed 14-Nov-12 12:36:37

I am certainly not a middle-aged exploiter expecting others to do a job I wouldn't have done

Nope, nor me. I'm 33 and I've done actual work for free, and I wouldn't recommend it for the reasons Iodine says. But this - if I could afford it - I would jump at because it's not working for free for someone else, it's working for me with resources provided.

The main problem with it as LRD said is that not everyone will be able to afford to do it.

bigkidsdidit Wed 14-Nov-12 12:38:04

I don't understand option 2. I was paid 20k a year for my phd and when I finished there were piles of jobs to go for. Is science completely different to your fields? It sounds really hard whereas mine was easy peasy (except the actual science, obvs )

grin Um, yes!

Science is completely different and I am green with envy.

You lucky lot actually do useful stuff, you see. wink

An AHRC grant is minimum wage (adjusted for not paying tax), and most of the jobs I'm applying for have a hundred applicants or so.

I think it has got dramatically worse since the recession, though, for obvious reasons.

bigkidsdidit Wed 14-Nov-12 12:42:17

Blimey. I'm sorry shock

I had no idea.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Wed 14-Nov-12 12:47:10

Maybe there should be some kind of STEM-HASS buddy scheme - "Sponsor an archaeologist" grin

Oh, why should you, big? It's fine. Just feel smug, ok? grin

mulled - I like this idea ...

"Years ago, it was perfectly normal to work for subsistence money on an internship, or while you "served your time" in manual jobs. I'm 38, and I worked for 2 years in an Accountancy practice for practically nothing, while I qualified."

How much was "practically nothing"? Was it more than nothing? Was it actually subsistence, i.e. enough to live on? Big difference between being low-paid and working for nothing.

ethelb Wed 14-Nov-12 12:53:32

Its not the fact that it is unpaid. Many will have accepted they will need to do some unpaid work experience. I have done similar. But I would have been v pissed off at the notion that I should be pleased I had won it as a 'prize'.

What a way to undermine the workers ability. Oh, and all other workers in the sector.

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 12:57:44

I copied this from a recent Financial Times Article.

"FTSE 100 directors’ median pay rose by 10 per cent last year – more than six times the increase in overall average earnings – despite a sharp slowdown in basic pay and bonuses, a report has found."

Here is another headline from a recent Guardian article:

"University vice-chancellors take average £9,700 pay riseHeads of elite universities' earnings exceed £333,000 on average, despite squeeze on institutions' overall budgets

I am spotting a trend here. Top people's pay keeps on going up but they use the excuse that budgets need to be cut as the economy is in trouble so ordinary members of staff have to take a pay cut or work for nothing as an intern and be grateful.

It is exploitation and people are getting sick of it.

Oh, ok, that's making me think a bit ethel. But then, if it wasn't competitive, it'd be no good on the CV, and it'd presumably be first-come-first-served or something like that, which seems equally unfair in a different way.

I do need to think about what you're saying though, since someone has just said very similar - that she is qualified already so it is rude to expect her to compete again.

beta, honestly, you're not making sense. How is this situation exploitative?

You're still talking about a situation where the work an intern does is contributing to their university but not being recompensed. I don't see how this does contribute - or certainly, how it contributes more than the very modest cost (to the university) of covering that person's workspace and subscriptions.

LessMissAbs Wed 14-Nov-12 13:00:23

I am a university lecturer, and have gradually seen my terms, conditions and pay eroded in real terms and now I've seen it all, expecting people to do skilled research for free. Offering unpaid research positions is bad enough, but to expect vulnerable, young people to compete for them is taking the mickey. Very few people can afford to do unpaid posts such as this anyway, and research is diffucult, time consuming and only utilises skills learnt during the degree anyway. Its of dubious value as work experience, as any employers outwith academia are likely to see it as too academic, more so if it is unpaid. Which any future employer is going to ask about.

Its a horrific idea, as I remember one of my first jobs on graduating was paid research one summer, for which I was very grateful. It wasn't well paid, but it kept the wolf from the door and led onto other part time ad hoc paid work. If it it had been unpaid, I simply wouldn't have been able to do it, and would have to have worked in a supermarket or pub instead, and some other student with family backing would have done it.

Most universities offer former students use of library facilities for very small charge anyway, or will provide for nothing if asked.

I think the whole idea stinks. Universities are publicly funded bodies, and should not be exploiting young people in this manner. Different if a qualification was being given at the end of it, or guaranteed publication in a journal, which is what these competitions normally offer.

ethelb Wed 14-Nov-12 13:01:27

You need to get rid of the idea of prize and 'competition'. People apply for it, someone gets chosen like they would for any other position.

I don't think of my job as a prize.

midseasonsale Wed 14-Nov-12 13:06:38

The idea of unpaid work experience is great as a steppingstone into he work place but it's only practical if you have financial backing. There is still food to buy, rent to pay, bills to pay, transport costs etc ..

ethel - it's not 'me' offering it, and it wasn't offered as a prize. Not sure where you got that from? confused

It's simply presented as competition for a non-stipendiary post.

I am absolutely sure this isn't intended for people to do instead of a paid job - it is intended as a stop gap while someone is failing to get a paid academic job.

MrsHoarder Wed 14-Nov-12 13:18:21

Why can't you just give all graduates access to the library for a year and offer a system to help them publish papers?

Most won't take you up on it, its clearly not exploitive and it will help the employability of the students. When I decided to do an msc I was able to use the local city university libraries and my old university library free of charge as long as I read the books/journals there. Was a good use of my tine on jsa(pee-baby)

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Wed 14-Nov-12 13:20:48

I think ethelb's point is similar to mine, really. What's on offer is not really something that people will readily consider a "post". I see why people are querying why it can't just be extended to more places - it can't be the case that the library is operating on such tight margins that it can only physically bear one more person.

I'm puzzled however at the number of academics here who seem to think that doing research unpaid means you're doing it for someone else. I suspect there may be some basic misunderstanding here about how different subjects work?

Because it has nothing to do with me, except I would like to be able to apply next year, mrshoarder.

As to why - I don't see why they couldn't offer everyone access and I wish they would. They can't possibly offer everyone research space - they're really short of space. I'm not sure what help they should be providing to help us publish papers - my supervisors are brilliant and spend a lot of time helping me, and I know other people who've graduated (and who're therefore eligible for this) are still getting lots of support.

I think universities vary in terms of what they let you do free - my undergrad university still lets me borrow books, which is amazing, though I left in 2007. My masters library still lets me use the books but I can't borrow. And my current place requires students who've left to pay to use the library. That's a big issue if (like most of us) you're holding down a pretty low-paid job while you write up or try to get published.

LessMissAbs Wed 14-Nov-12 13:22:52

*ethel - it's not 'me' offering it, and it wasn't offered as a prize. Not sure where you got that from?

It's simply presented as competition for a non-stipendiary post.*

So its an interview process for an unpaid position then?

Or is it an offer to provide research facilities to an unpaid researcher?

Is the research to be guided in any way? Is it to achieve a purpose?

My alma mater offers its library facilities, including online, for £170 per annum to former students. This includes sitting in the library, at a desk, or in a computer lab, at a desk, as long as you want.

Tbh, I suspect the reaction is due to most people being unsure as to what it is. Yourself included. If you are having to constantly explain what it is, then that indicates it probably too vague a concept for people to understand.

I'm afraid I cannot see the point in it. Why not offer some paid ad hoc teaching work at the standard hourly rate instead, including updating of materials, at which point the successful candidate would benefit from peer contact and have something meaningful to put on their cv?

I am really grateful for all the people who helped me when I was at this stage in my career. I remember travelling to a two week post at the other end of the country, for specific experience, thinking it would be unpaid, only to be asked for my bank account details when I turned up. So many people in higher positions saw it as their "duty" to help the young coming through, although in many cases it gave them no benefit at all. Certainly no-one ever expected me to work for free, and expected me to grateful for it. It cheapens the whole academic subject if you start doing that.

less - don't think they interview, it just says you have to justify why you want it and they'll take the best candidate.

The research isn't guided in any way.

£170 is a lot if you are on minimum wage, but I think it's the same here. sad

It may be they've just been too vague - that's a good point, and I might get back and say that (along with the point about lots of people seeming unsure about the wording of it, which someone made upthread).

We end up competing for teaching too - there are more of us than there are courses, and priority is given to current students.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Wed 14-Nov-12 13:26:27

Or is it an offer to provide research facilities to an unpaid researcher?

This, I thought we had established that. And your own research, not someone else's. That's why I don't understand all this talk about working for free or exploitation.

I think it must be really different in different subjects. I know scientists and social scientists are routinely doing multiple-author papers and multi-person studies, so perhaps they're more worried about ownership of research.

For us, I can't see how it would matter where you were when you did a piece of research, but maybe I am naive.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Wed 14-Nov-12 13:29:59

I think if anything you'd be less at risk of plagiarism with a scheme like this than if you were working closely with a particular academic, like you do at PhD and in some paid researcher posts.

But presumably it isn't plagiarism they are worried about? It's that you could do a lot of work and it'd be perfectly acceptable for you not to be named as an author?

I don't quite follow, but I understand that sometimes not all the people in a team get named, or not prominently enough for it to be good for their CV.

MooncupGoddess Wed 14-Nov-12 13:42:11

Loads of people are misunderstanding the situation here and think you're talking about an internship (many of which really are exploitative).

In fact what they're offering is perfectly fair; a friend of mine has just got this deal somewhere and is very pleased.

But they (or you - are you using their phraseology in your opening post?) are pitching it wrongly. Saying 'set up to give people an unpaid position, while they're looking for the paid equivalent' suggests the person who gets this will have to work all day for the employer in the same way they would if they got a paid job. Which clearly isn't the case.

In fact they are just offering an institutional affiliation, work space, and research facilities. Great! But they should say so and avoid any mention of the word 'job'.

I am going to get back to them and say that, mooncup. It didn't occur to me it was an issue (and I think they use the term 'non-stipendiary research position' rather than 'job'). But I think probably this is a lot of the problem.

I do think some of the people commenting (to me originally, I mean, not on here) are being a bit daft, TBH: we're all in the same boat so they ought to know what's going on.

I think some of them have the attitude that if they've not got a postdoc, then anything else is an insult - they did the PhD therefore they deserve a job, right now please, and where is it?

Whereas I think a PhD is the minimum requirement, then you work your arse off.

LessMissAbs Wed 14-Nov-12 13:47:14

*Or is it an offer to provide research facilities to an unpaid researcher?

This, I thought we had established that. And your own research, not someone else's. That's why I don't understand all this talk about working for free or exploitation*

Thats not something I would want on my cv. Unpaid, undirected research for an undefined period? Unless it resulted in publication. I would tend to miss it out and fill in the gap on my cv with something more useful and purposeful. Such as a job.

I think the word "competition" is used more often in this context on the Continent and doesn't really infer the sought after context in this setting, hence the confusion. In the UK, people generally compete to win a prize. If theres no prize on offer, then they that will create certain associations about unfairness and exploitation in their minds.

I think its making an awful lot out of an awful little. Why can't the university instead offer free research facilities to students with firsts, or whatever? Or a small bit of paid ad hoc teaching or research work? It sounds lazy on the part of the university, and I don't like the way its being handled. I think it has the potential to backfire.

limitedperiodonly Wed 14-Nov-12 13:48:18

mulled Universities are employers. They are not a special case no matter how much they plead.

If there is a job to be done it should be paid to the correct person according to national minimum wage, which is the law. Any benefits they accrue cut both ways for them and their employer according to their ingenuity. The employer isn't doing them special favours - if they've got their heads screwed on they should select the person who will make their best of their position.

There should be a contract setting out hours, conditions, responsibilities and length of service expected, which is also the law. Anything else is exploitation.

So would everyone else, less. But the point is, we don't all seem to be getting jobs.

I've already explained about the teaching and about the issues with space for research facilities.

mulled - but they don't have responsibilities or length of service expected? confused

They don't want people to do a job for them - they want people to get on with their own research.

Ephiny Wed 14-Nov-12 13:57:47

I think it must be different in different subjects. Certainly in science, unless you're a PI with your own lab/group, as a researcher you are very much 'working for someone else'. Yes you get your name on the paper when you publish, which counts for a lot. But you expect to be paid.

I'm not going to say it's wrong or exploitative, but if unpaid internships are starting to appear in's worth considering that industry and City firms offer well-paid internships (mine actually paid my accommodation costs as well as a very good salary), very often leading to an offer of a permanent job at the end if you make a good impression. You can kind of see why the top graduates are often drawn to these career paths rather than wanting to stay in academia. DH and I both considered staying in research, but there were just no decently paid permanent positions to be had. This was even before 'unpaid internships' which we would have been pretty hmm about tbh.

And maybe beggars can't be choosers, and should be grateful for whatever they can get, but do universities really want such 'beggars' as their next generation of researchers?

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Wed 14-Nov-12 14:01:53


"If there is a job to be done..."

Stop right there. There isn't a job to be done.

You need to read my previous answer again.

It is not a job.

That is a very good point. sad

I do see why graduates are drawn away from academia. Is it entirely the universities' fault? Government funding is being cut away too. I don't think the ordinary academics - people who're our supervisors I mean - like this any more than we do. And I know the impetus for providing this came from them because they were worried about us.

MooncupGoddess Wed 14-Nov-12 14:03:54

Yes, use of the term 'competition' is odd.

'Thats not something I would want on my cv. Unpaid, undirected research for an undefined period? Unless it resulted in publication. I would tend to miss it out and fill in the gap on my cv with something more useful and purposeful. Such as a job.'

But surely most humanities research is self-directed, yet aimed at publication? Of course it is better to get a grant/funded research position, but the intended outcome (publication, making a contribution to the field etc) is the same?

Iodine Wed 14-Nov-12 14:04:13

I agree with Ephiny. This is what is confusing me, because I am used to scientific research where you are basically doing the research jobs that the laboratory supervisor doesn't want to do.

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 14:05:07

Beleive me, the university is getting something out of this and I suspect also there is a paid researcher somewhere who will be using this work in their paid research which may then lead to a REF point or two. I have seen it happen.

amicissimma Wed 14-Nov-12 14:05:59

They seem to have found a way to weed out only people who will really appreciate this opportunity. The ones who want to cry 'exploitation' and will only do a well-paid job just won't apply. Tell them not to waste bullets on the messenger!

It sounds as if it can be done in tandem with paid work, so must be possible to do without losing unemployment benefit. I can see it's effectively closed to people who cannot economically get there, but that applies to anything.

My DS had to put in an application to do DofE. They had 20 places and about 50 wanted to do it. They chose the ones who had made the best argument for themselves. Those who got it did it in their own time, at their own expense. Some of them had to creatively raise funds for themselves. It is good experience and looks good on a CV, specially as they had to work to win a place. Are they being exploited? (No, DS wasn't chosen!)

I'm sorry, but I don't believe you TBH, morebeta - what could they possibly be getting out of it?

You don't show other people your research, you know. There is no way someone could use it for REF unless they were a mind-reader.

MooncupGoddess Wed 14-Nov-12 14:07:27

To be honest I think funding people to do postdocs on mediaeval poetry etc is very low on the government's list of priorities. What they've done to the universities is pretty awful in many ways, and they (and New Labour before them) have a horribly utilitarian approach to higher education... but looking at it cold I do understand why funding is so hard to get. It's not the universities' fault for the most part, surely they'd love to have the funds to get more people in?

Maybe that's it ami!

grin Yeah, fair point *mooncup, I do see that. blush

(Whaddayou mean, medieval poetry isn't central to everyone's wellbeing?!)

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Wed 14-Nov-12 14:11:57

Ah, then no, this isn't the same thing at all, Iodine. Research posts that exist for the purpose of helping an existing academic with their own project are very clearly labelled as such. Self-directed research aimed at publication is the norm in the humanities AFAIK.

Now just baffled by Beta.

Ephiny Wed 14-Nov-12 14:15:12

So why is the university doing this? If there's no benefit to them? What's the purpose of it?

I am confused at the idea of research that you don't show to anyone, maybe this is a subject/cultural difference as well, but in my experience research is a team effort. The idea of the solitary researcher engaged in their own secret work sounds like a 19th century 'mad scientist' stereotype.

This isn't science though, I'm guessing?

I also think I'm missing exactly what is being offered. If it's not science/engineering etc, is 'research space' just a desk? Access to journals sounds useful, though there's a trend towards open-access now and pre-prints being put on sites like arXiV (and often if you email the academic they will be happy to send you a pdf).

YY, what mulled said, iodine.

Basically, for the people this is aimed at, the situation is that they've finished their PhD, but haven't yet got a postdoc and want to get one. Usually you struggle because you don't have enough/any publications (you don't publish much in my subject - it is quite normal to get through a PhD with nothing published yet, or with one publication). So, you tend to find that as soon as people submit their theses, they start trying to get papers out. Those papers might be based on the PhD or might be something new. But it's quite likely they'd be something only your supervisors had ever seen, or even something no-one else had seen until you submitted it to the journal and it got published.

(I think this isn't great, btw, and lots of us do try to chat to mates, but it's not the same as having research that is somehow public property before you submit it.)

ParsingFancy Wed 14-Nov-12 14:16:09

Heh, NotGoodNotBad, the "practically nothing" starting salary for trainee accountants had me smirking slightly as well. When I was considering accountancy in <mumble>, starting salaries were an awful lot more than "practically nothing" - or even subsistence. Of course graddies got a lot less than a qualified accountant with 10 years' experience, but so does most of the country.

My generation paid no fees and got grants to go to uni, went straight into paid training positions, and bought property at 3 times a single salary.

All unthinkable luxuries for the current youngsters.

mamakoula Wed 14-Nov-12 14:18:36

I was in the sciences. I was established in a research field early on in my postdoc. My husband refused to move to let me take a position elsewhere to advance my career. I wanted to keep my family together but research is an integral part of my identity. I volunteered for 1.5 yrs. I co-wrote a grant but my name could not go on it as I didn't have a permanent position. I was hired and trained people. Then the bullying started. I have lost my job, my research and some of my sanity as I have PTSD now. I am not even going to get a publication out of it and my reputation is being torn to shreds. As a temporary worker (non-UK) I basically was an at-will hire and fire: I felt unprotected and could not go to anybody for support for fear of reprisal.

Bit of an extreme example I know. The university owns intellectual copyright and the lab books and work generated. I was just a cog i nthe system and I happened to come across a nasty weasel with ulterior motives.

Yep, research space will be a desk somewhere. It's not a huge deal. Library acess is a big deal, as books are a big part of research, as well as journals, and most of our journals aren't open-access.

I do genuinely think the university are offering it because they're nice (and they want their graduates to get jobs in the long run!). That's why I'm so bothered lots of people are turning their noses up at it.

I do talk about my research btw - I chat about it on here, and I chat to mates, and so on. But you don't have to. And I have been burned before so I am a little cautious about the good bits, TBH. There is definitely stuff I'm working on that won't be seen by anyone except my supervisors/committee until it's published. And while supervisors possibly could plagiarise their students, I don't think that giving someone a non-stipendiary position would have any bearing on it!

MamaMary Wed 14-Nov-12 14:19:01

*It's simply presented as competition for a non-stipendiary post.

I am absolutely sure this isn't intended for people to do instead of a paid job - it is intended as a stop gap while someone is failing to get a paid academic job.*

Firstly, it's not a post. It's some desk space and a library card. Come on.

maka - oh, that is horrible. sad

I'm so sorry to hear about it.

Ephiny Wed 14-Nov-12 14:20:00

Honestly I think either the work is useful and valuable to someone in which case they should pay for it (whether it's goverment funding or industry or private sponsors or whoever), or it's just the individual's personal interest and self-improvement in which case they should probably do it as a hobby in the evenings when they get home from their actual job.

Unpaid internships or whatever we're calling them seem to fall into a gap between those two things, I'm not sure they're helpful for anyone tbh. If there are no jobs for these people in academia, there are no jobs. Offering made-up unpaid positions doesn't change that.

Whatnowffs Wed 14-Nov-12 14:20:53

In the sciences, you can get LOADS of authors on a paper, everyone is either wanting to be first author (this is good for the CV) or last author (It tends to be the group leader/corresponding author who goes here).

I knew someone who was into medieval poetry once - he was weird!!! and not in a good way.

Funding is a great bugbear of mine - I am in the middle of trying to get a fellowship for returning scientists, they like my proposal, they like me - but can't get funding. Its for breast cancer research and the reason they can't get funding is because they struggle to get funding for medical research more than any of the other sciences (it boils my piss i tell ya!). Hardly anyone in the department is being funded and it is crippling the department, the university continue to charge extortionate fees for the space (so the same amount per person as a humanities student, who basically needs a seat in the library!) so it gets screwed over every which way. That and industry taking its business elsewhere - is there any wonder the economy is going down the drain!! grrrrrrrr

mama - ok, maybe they shouldn't call it that (and I have said, I'm going to email and give feedback from people that the terminology seems confusing).

But I'm not sure I needed the 'come on' since I have nothing to do with it except not wanting to see it stopped before I get to it.

MamaMary Wed 14-Nov-12 14:21:48

Secondly, speaking as someone who had to leave academia because they couldn't afford to work for free, I can tell you that doing the necessary research (unpaid) to advance my academic career AND actually earn a living to keep a rood over my head (and pay the mortgage) was not possible.

No wonder people would resent this. I don't blame them. Why should they compete for something like this?

Erm ... ephiny, I think you may have summed up what the government thinks of arts subjects! grin

'Honestly I think either the work is useful and valuable to someone in which case they should pay for it (whether it's goverment funding or industry or private sponsors or whoever), or it's just the individual's personal interest and self-improvement in which case they should probably do it as a hobby in the evenings when they get home from their actual job.'

All arts research is in the latter category, in that no-one will pay for it directly.

LessMissAbs Wed 14-Nov-12 14:22:39

I think presenting it as a competition gives the impression that its more of a publicity generator for the university. Giving a similar candidate a little bit of ad hoc teaching or a little bit of paid research from the budget would be "nice". This would also allow them use of the research facilities and a desk, as well as the respect of their colleagues and something worthy of putting on their cv. This is what most universities do, as a matter of course, without proclaiming that its a "competition".

I think its in danger of backfiring, because it makes the university sound as though its trying to get free publicity.

Whatnowffs Wed 14-Nov-12 14:23:01

LOL at research being done in the evenings after their real jobs!!!

MamaMary Wed 14-Nov-12 14:23:10

Sorry, the 'come on' was unfair - but in my defence I am actually speaking from bitter, personal experience of the academic world.

whatnow - I promise I'm not very weird.

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 14:23:31

LRD - "You don't show other people your research, you know"

Err... I used to be an academic and that is the point of research.

If you want me to be blunt I will explain exactly how the exploitation works.

Unpaid academic internship research posts are used as a perk by some universities to retain senior research fellows and professors. They get told that they can hire two interns who they will supervise. The univeristy pays nothing but the senior research fellow or professor gets the grunt work of his/her basic research done for free which they then publish later once the intern has gone.

It is totally exploitative and it is a growing trend because research grants are being cut. Senior researchers and professors demand higher pay and perks in return for staying so the university gets their REF points. The university cant pay research money it doesnt have so it offers unoaid internships to bridge the hole in its budget.

If it doesnt cave in the senior research fellow or professor leaves for a university that will.

ParsingFancy Wed 14-Nov-12 14:24:31

"It sounds as if it can be done in tandem with paid work, so must be possible to do without losing unemployment benefit. "

Sadly no, amicissimma. If you're studying, doing an internship or volunteering more than a few hours a week, you lose unemployment benefit.

Hindering people from doing the things they'd love to do to improve their employability.

Ah, fair enough mama. I can get behind that.

I'm sort of torn between being angry that something like this exists - because I wish after working hard for three years there was a job for me - and feeling, well, ok, but there isn't necessarily going to be a job straightaway, and this is better than nothing.

Everyone I know who's finished their PhD has done research in the evenings after their real jobs at some stage, I think it's normal. I wish it were normal to line up a postdoc straight after the viva, but I've not really seen it happen. Even with the really stunning people.

beta, honestly, I understand you were an academic and I am sorry I can't agree with you, but this is just not how my subject works.

It is totally normal to publish something that few people, maybe no-one, has previously seen. Honestly, it is.

mamakoula Wed 14-Nov-12 14:28:26

My postdoc was lined up a few months before my viva. Not unusual in the sciences (or at least from my experience and that of colleagues)

Btw, there is very little 'grunt work' to be done in my field, that you could farm out. Occasionally for big projects, someone will pay an intern/student to do some transcription. I imagine you could also farm out your proof-reading, if you so chose. That's pretty much it.

And this position, scheme, whatever we call it, is not intended for that - it's for someone's own research.

I'm not in the sciences, mama.

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 14:29:06

OK. I believe you. Never seen it im my subject.

I have though seen several professors and senior fellows in my subject brazenly advertising for unpaid interns to do basic research for them - as if it was some kind of honour.

No promise of a name on the paper either.

Ephiny Wed 14-Nov-12 14:29:19

Whatnow I once had to cite a paper with 60+ authors on it (was fun doing the BibTeX citation for that one hmm). It was Nature, so I guess everyone wanted in...

Ephiny Wed 14-Nov-12 14:32:02

And I'm not saying it's ideal to be doing your (medieval poetry or whatever) research as an evening hobby, but if no one is prepared to pay you for your time or your results, what better choice do you have?

It really is pretty normal in mine, beta. I did say a long way back in the thread, I am pretty sure this is to do with subject differences.

We don't really do multi-author papers - there's just a few oddballs who publish as couples, but it's rare. So there is less scope for sharing work. And if you're at this stage, just after the PhD and struggling for money, you're not likely to go to a conference and present the work, so probably no-one will see it except a kindly supervisor giving you a read-through.

ephiny - ouch! 60?!

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Wed 14-Nov-12 14:32:18

Actually I think Ephiny has summed up what the government thinks about all subjects. grin Even scientists are having to demonstrate immediate "impact" and added value now. And unsurprisingly they're not very happy about it either.

Beta still seems to be talking about internships that are specifically attached to a particular academic with a particular project, and clearly isn't reading anyone else's posts.

mamakoula Wed 14-Nov-12 14:33:03

It's a nice idea and it could be a stop gap for somebody who really wants to stay on in research. It may be helpful. What support and mentoring would be available for the recipient? If they are fairly junior, that could be very useful.

ephiny - well, keep applying for jobs and hope to get one in the end, I think. sad Obviously people do give it up. But very few PhDs go straight into a job, and many more will get a job in the year after finishing, so you go into it hoping it will be a temporary hard patch, if that makes sense?

Whatnowffs Wed 14-Nov-12 14:34:11

Of course the point of research is to publish, but until you have proved your hypothesis or refined it to a point you can publish it, you would be mad to be telling all and sundry about it, if it is a point of paritcular interest you can bet bottom dollar there will be other groups working on similar things. Then of course it all gets competitive because of the funding issues.

Can't imagine you get much competition with medievil poetry though eh, except from weirdos ;-)

I'll ask, mama, I think perhaps that's another point they should have made clearer, about whether there will be any official support or whether it's just the usual 'goodwill of your old supervisor' (though this does seem to work pretty well from what I've seen).

We weirdos are a happy bunch, whatnow. Our name is legion, for we are many thousand (or, well, more than you'd think, anyway.)

Whatnowffs Wed 14-Nov-12 14:37:42

Out of all the people in my department who did PhDs the same time as me, only one of them stayed in academia and even now she has had to go into university admin as funding has dried up. Such a shame. My supervisor has left academia and me, for some mad reason after a 5 year break, I'm trying to get back into it - i am a bit of a weirdo though!

mamakoula Wed 14-Nov-12 14:37:49

If you are staying on at the same place then perhaps. Would the research need to be distinct from that of the area of the PhD or the previous supervisor if remaining at the same institution? Novel research?

I'd encourage the incumbent to learn about boundaries and to protect themselves. A little bit jaded! I am going to approach the dean with suggestions as to how the institution can support workers in vulnerable positions

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Wed 14-Nov-12 14:38:05

The other thing that may be different about humanities, I guess, is that being attached to an institution gives you a source of feedback, which you can use selectively to keep your self-direction on track. You may not present all your work to everyone in advance of publication, but you probably go to seminars and conferences as an attendee, you may present small papers on aspects of your work within the institution, you can approach particular experts for help, chat to other researchers in your field. You're not isolated in that sense.

Occasionally, but not that rarely, you come across a point in an article where the author says "I am grateful for x for drawing my attention to this site/artefact etc" and it arises out of this kind of contact.

Ephiny Wed 14-Nov-12 14:39:39

Yes I guess so...but if this is a position that's going to affect unemployment benefits, surely only fairly wealthy people can afford to take it, at least if they don't want to be starving on the streets while they wait for a paid job.

And yes this is probably the most stupid thing I've ever said - but can't they just start applying for jobs a few months earlier? If it's just a timing issue between finishing the PhD and starting the job they expect to get within a year?

Though in my experience many PhDs do have their job lined up before finishing (the difficult bit is if you haven't submitted by the time you start work, and you have to find the time and motivation to finish writing up in the evenings...and hope you don't get too many corrections!).

Iodine Wed 14-Nov-12 14:40:08

Beta- I'm keeping an eye out for my work appearing under my supervisors name. He made it clear he wanted to submit it but has gone silent. My friend, who did her PhD with him, says its not unusual of him to submit it without your name on it.

If it appears on his list of publications with my name on, I will be contacting the journal involved.

Ephiny Wed 14-Nov-12 14:42:00
mamakoula Wed 14-Nov-12 14:44:00

Iodine, out of curiosity - how do you think the journal will respond and what steps will they take? If you are arguing that your input has not been recognised, how do you prove it you should be an author? Do you know of any cases that have done this and succeeded? The weasel promised me no publications.... but W needs them for tenure.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Wed 14-Nov-12 14:44:37

Ephiny it is absolutely a problem that not everyone will be able to afford to take it, yes. This is the problem right across the humanities. Funding is very tight at every stage and many talented researchers do drop out for lack of it.

What you want to do about that really depends on your view of the humanities and the worth of its research.

Good luck with it whatnow!

mama - yep, it's for people staying in the same place. And no, no constraints on what they research.

mulled - yep, that sounds like my experience. I always love those 'I am grateful to x' comments, especially if I remember the conference - it makes it feel like a real community. smile

ephiny - but they'd do this alongside a paid job. As to applying - no, not a stupid question at all. But lots of jobs will specify you must have a PhD or be near completion, and the major drawback for most people is simply that they haven't published enough within 3/4 years. My brother is in another subject and finds it worked differently there - you publish as you go along, and then you hand in a PhD that is effectively a collection of papers (rather than the basis for your first book), and you expect to get a job pretty much out of the PhD. I do think there are serious issues with my subject area, and I can get furious about how it privileges those who are well-off.

I just don't think this particular thing is actually part of the privilge.

Whatnowffs Wed 14-Nov-12 14:46:09

Epiphiny, i'd do it (cept my knowledge of poetry doesn't extend much further than revolting rhymes!) and i am piss poor. I would of course do it on the understanding that as soon as paid work became available i'd be off. I do this now actually, but as i said upthread, when it isn't paid, it makes it harder to be commited to. I think if i were younger, living at home maybe, able to support it with bar work etc i'd be quite happy to do this during the day. I am not very money orientated, but sadly life demands that we have it. I am far from wealthy and couldn't afford to commit to this full-time, i could however if i were 23 and still living at home.

mamakoula Wed 14-Nov-12 14:46:44

Wow. These links are something else! grin

Ephiny Wed 14-Nov-12 14:53:09

Oh I see, (I think). I'd missed that it was supposed to be done alongside a paid job. There's less of a privilege issue there, then.

Yes in science you'd normally expect (or hope!) to publish during your Masters and/or PhD. Usually supervisors are keen to get papers out (though tell that to mine who's taking months to get back to me with comments on my latest draft...). I can see it would be an issue applying for academic jobs if you haven't published yet.

Of course in science you are also gaining skills and experience in the lab which can qualify you for jobs in industry, I guess maybe in humanities/arts the practical skills you learn, while I'm sure they're valuable, aren't so specifically 'employable'?

Well, I assume it is. There's certainly the scope to do it alongside, and I don't see who wouldn't.

I think you're right about the dreaded 'transferable skills'. I've learned a lot about teaching, which is useful, and my medieval Latin and palaeography are pretty good, but oddly enough they're not what your average job cries out for.

But then you know that when you start into an arts subject, I think - you're not going into it thinking you'll swap out into industry.

(Crikey, who knew job experience in academia could be such a hot topic?!)

Iodine Wed 14-Nov-12 14:57:02

Mamakoula- Well if I submitted work under my own name that was actually someone elses, I would expect to be called up for plagiarism. I can't see the university looking on it favourably either as it's something they drum into their students.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Wed 14-Nov-12 14:57:59

We-ell, I'm with whoever said it would be pretty tough to do this and really make a difference to your publication record with it, alongside doing a paid job. I couldn't. But then maybe I wouldn't make the cut. grin

Iodine Wed 14-Nov-12 14:58:29

And my work was for my final year project at university so I have a whole report written that proves it was my work.

mamakoula Wed 14-Nov-12 15:02:29

I've also seen the argument that the intellectual input was limited therefore it was a technical role = no need to be included on authorship. Personally I opt for a more inclusive approach of if you did any of hte work (including as a technician) and this was important for the submitted work then you have a claim to be included as authors but not all places work that way. However, I have seen technicians (and undergrad students) left off of papers

Iodine Wed 14-Nov-12 15:09:27

Let's just hope it doesn't come to having to argue it, mamakoula. But I would be prepared to fight to the death (ok maybe not that far, but I would kick up a MASSIVE fuss!).

mamakoula Wed 14-Nov-12 15:16:10

Keep your eyes open and ears to the ground! Perhaps write or give a phone call to see how it's going and to offer help if it is needed? A reminder of what this means to you?

On the plus side, a friend recently found out that her undergrad project was included in a paper submitted for review... 7 years later. It's not all doom and gloom.

Despite co-writing the grant and setting several projects up, and doing a lot of the groundwork as well as getting grad students established in their research.... I have been promised that I will get no publications. W knows that I desperately need them.

MamaMary Wed 14-Nov-12 15:28:43

I'd missed that it was supposed to be done alongside a paid job. There's less of a privilege issue there, then.

My issue with this is, what kind of paid job is a PhD graduate going to find that enables them at the same time to access another workplace and library to do research (during opening hours, when journals and archives are available etc). In my experience, in the current job market, this simply does not exist.

A PhD in humanities or arts will not really have given the graduate a huge amount of work experience, except a bit in teaching - and we have established that coveted teaching opportunities within universities go to current students only; they have no actual teaching qualification to teach elsewhere. In reality (and speaking from what I've seen my friends/ colleagues have done), you're talking about call centre jobs, or Tesco. Jobs with hours that are either full-time (thus not allowing you to do all that research) or shift work (thus not allowing you that luxury of a roof over your head).

Thus, as has been pointed out, the only people that can actually afford this opportunity are those who are being bank-rolled by their parents, or, if they've left home and married, by their DH or DP but then we're assuming they've no children.

Basically, only the very entitled would be within shot of this.

Iodine Wed 14-Nov-12 15:28:56

Sounds like a frustrating situation to be in. Is there anything you can submit on your own?

Just from my lot - there is tesco/call centre, though I don't know anyone atm who has those. Tutoring is very, very common, though. Or doing things like proof reading.

It's the same jobs we've done throughout the PhD, usually, just more hours if you can. I am not looking forward to it, I've got to say.

mamakoula Wed 14-Nov-12 15:38:12

No! Technically it was done in a PI's lab therefore the PI has to be included on it and there's no way that will fly.

I tried. I oopsied. I have been fortunate though to have worked with some truly great people and taken great satisfaction out of what I have done and achieved and also helped others achieved. I am in a tight corner and I cannot say much more as my situation is fairly unique. You'd recognise me if you knew my history and what led to where I am.

Science is a great career and research is one hell of an adventure. It's addictive. And no, I haven't quite gotten it out of my system. Good luck!

Heya LRD,

I think this is really a problem of framing. They should be calling it something like a Visiting Fellowship (unpaid). Here in France, a number of academic institutions offer this -- they don't pay you but you have desk space, the affiliation, you can participate in department activities. They present it less as a competition to get one, rather you simply write to them, explain your research, and if they think it fits in with their activities and they have space, poof, you're a fellow.

I do understand why people react a bit badly to this (although they shouldn't bother you about it!) The idea that even after years of schooling, achieving the highest possible degree in your field, doing all the associated things you do to become an expert, you still then have to compete for an unpaid position just so you have a line on your CV -- it's a bit mad isn't it? I mean, it's the kind of advice we give to BA graduates or MA students.

I agree with you there are advantages to it, but I actually think they should try to make it sound a bit more casual, instead of bigging up something that isn't really all that impressive in the end.

Ephiny Wed 14-Nov-12 15:45:03

Journals are more likely to be electronic versions (i.e. available online) these days though. I haven't been into an actual physical library in a long while, but having access to the journals via Athens/Shibboleth is very valuable - research would cost me a fortune without this. Though I believe our university library is open well into the evening and at weekends (and around the clock at exam time, though that's more for the benefit of undergrads).

I agree there's a limited amount of research (or anything really) you can do alongside a full-time job. That's the problem though. If no one will pay you to do research (yet), your options are limited, and I guess having some access to resources is better than nothing...

Hi dreaming. smile

Yes, that might have been a much better title for it, absolutely. I have a horrible feeling they didn't think hard, just dashed to email it out, because they have already put out one 'correction' explaining a minor detail. They clearly thought people would jump at it and, so far as I can see, no-one is jumping.

ephiny - yes, that's what I meant, sorry - that you need journal subscription even if not the physical access in the building. Personally, if I'd not been able to borrow books I would have found my work very hard to do - it's amazing what a privilege that feels like (and is).

Btw I'm doing academic editing to pay the bills while I wait for my viva. The pay is atrocious but at least I can do it in my PJs smile and it's good training for writing my own journal articles. They seem to have a lot of literature articles submitted so you may want to give it a try!

I don't know how you people cope with MLA style btw wink

Ahh, the viva! grin

How exciting to be waiting for it though.

I should really get on and do some real work ... the irony of posting on this thread when I should be writing is beginning to shame me away from the computer ...

MLA - oh, god, yes. It annoys me too.

MamaMary Wed 14-Nov-12 16:08:15

In my PhD area, there were quite a lot of materials that could only be accessed during open hours. Though more and more is being digitised. Still, it's the time element - I personally found it impossible to do the unpaid work necessary to keep 'in the game' on top of a full-time job.

I have seen the way academia (at least in arts & humanities) has gone and I am very glad to be out of it, tbh.

This situation reminds me a bit of an advert I once saw by the BBC. It was a poster asking for the public to conduct interviews among members of their local community about local history. It stipulated the number of interviews necessary (say, 5) and recording time. It may also have asked the material to be edited - at least formatted in a certain way. The prize for the winner who successfully completed all those hours of work and was deemed the best of all the entries??? Wait for it: The opportunity to have your work aired on BBC AND a tour of the BBC building!!

Basically: exploiting people who are desperate for any opportunity to get experience. And getting work done for free. It's rife in the media, and it's now the case in academia too.

Mama, that's a good example.

I also find this to be a worrying trend inside something that should be a good trend, namely open-access publishing.

I have seen two journals in my field recently who very proudly put themselves forward as supplying top-class research that anyone can access.... yet, they are advertising for PhD and postdocs to do their editing work unpaid.

It is just going to get worse and worse as the recession and lower funding keep decreasing the number of paying jobs while more and more people graduate every year. So LRD you may be getting flack because people are just encountering this stuff everywhere. Your post may be the tenth time that day they saw something that sounded great only to find it unpaid.

bigkidsdidit Wed 14-Nov-12 16:29:21

I think open access publishing is very tricky. Obviously it's great in theory. But my national body, which does enormous amounts to fund disadvantaged students, gives money to attend conferences, and does loads of outreach work in schools, is entirely funded by its journal. We are expecting a disaster in the next few years sad

My last paper had 22 authors incidentally smile but I like to include everyone who helped a little bit!

GreenEggsAndNichts Wed 14-Nov-12 16:44:33

I agree with you, LRD.

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 18:06:41

Journalism is increasingly also dominated by unpaid internships. Especially online publications.

Everything is dominated by unpaid internships these days, it seems.

And this idea that you have to just suck up unpaid work, that that's the way to get ahead, is a bit dangerous I think. Certainly some of the most successful people I know are people who did not do unpaid work, they valued their time and skills too highly for that.

I think a certain amount of unpaid work is okay but it's a slippery slope isn't it? It's really becoming standard.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Wed 14-Nov-12 18:25:51

The media's been like that for a long time, sadly. I've not seen the figures but I would suspect it's as much dominated by privilege as parliament. Anything to do with writing, there's always someone willing to do it for free.

AThingInYourLife Wed 14-Nov-12 18:32:13

Look here all you haterz, how are the untalented children of the rich supposed to have the highly paid and interesting careers that are their due if they have to compete with the plebs?

This is how meritocracy works - the successful insulate their children from having to work as hard as they did.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Wed 14-Nov-12 18:48:03

grin Quite right. Guardian columns for all who can afford it!

Seriously though <pi> I think LRD is right that privilege is a slightly separate problem. However much funding there was for post-doc work, there'd still be people getting the same experience without having to go through the angsty trial of applying for it. Even if absolutely everybody who wanted to could go on to post-doc research and be able to comfortably pay for food, bus pass and a roof over their head, you'd still get the wealthier ones going off on research trips to Florence and that.

Money always adds an extra layer to some people's experiences, sadly, regardless of how good or bad the standard offering is.

MamaMary Wed 14-Nov-12 19:44:27

I agree with the poster upthread who said the meritocracy is over and we're going back to Edwardian times again. Oxbridge (and now the Russell Group unis) full of toffs who can in the first place afford the tuition fees, and who then walk straight into certain professions. This time round it'll be because daddy can afford to fund them while they work unpaid for however long it takes.

It is sickening.

I would say about 80% of the people I know who got fully funded for postgrad work were people who didn't really need the funding. It's a self-reinforcing cycle, because of course then they are also the people most likely to get jobs afterward (many academic jobs, at least in my field, want people who have already attracted funding).

It has real practical consequences in my field, I think, because then these are the people going around explaining how we should interact with the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the world.

AThing, I sincerely doubt the 'untalented children of the rich' are going to benefit from what is, essentially, free access to the library, a workspace and a line on the CV. They will not need the first two, and sadly, in all likelihood if any relatively untalented person gets through the PhD, they'll have cracked how to do it without needing time out before their first academic job. The odds of getting a job straight out (or of simply not needing to worry about one) are already stacked in their favour.

OTOH this idea does provide for someone who isn't well off, and who can't easily afford the library fee, and more importantly, who is in the situation of needing to fill a blank in their CV because - unlike the rich kids - they've worked through the PhD and continue to do so.

I agree Mama sad

Oops, sorry, I must have forgotten to refresh and cross-posted quite a lot in my last.

I agree mama. And it worries me, too. I do think it goes together with the attitude that, nowadays, you 'pay' for your undergraduate degree and you expect to get what you paid for.

TBH I think this is perhaps partly what I'm taking agin with these people I'm talking to about this, in that they clearly feel they've done the PhD and by god, that should be enough. They're not acknowledging that just doing the time - getting, if you like, the equivalent of an 'honours degree' - doesn't mean you're going to snap up a job. Any more than my undergraduates who say 'but I kept to the mark scheme for a pass' are going suddenly to find they're awarded first class marks.

Aboutlastnight Wed 14-Nov-12 20:07:41

Well as someone whose paid job is now being done by unpaid interns under the watchful eye of one very stressed experienced person, I think unpaid internships are pretty indefensible.

I can see that that must be rotten. And I agree on that count, about.

But, this isn't that situation.

Sorry, I don't know if I'm banging on and we've just moved on in the debate, or if it's still not clear (and I am really sorry my OP was so stupidly unclear).

FuckingWonderwoman Wed 14-Nov-12 20:12:14

I loathe internships. Especially those people who have spent about 2 years doing one after another. All it says to me is Rich Mummy and Daddy Are Funding Me. I would much rather employ someone who has worked at Maccy D's or wiping arses in an old people's home. That says to me that they're not afraid of hard work, not that they enjoy poncing around at their parents' expense into their late 20s.

FuckingWonderwoman Wed 14-Nov-12 20:13:26

I actually interviewed someone, and asked them why they chose their last internship. He said "I didn't choose it, Daddy found it for me because his friend owns the company."

I don't know... I think a phd is a bit different.

In theory anyway, a phd means you are an expert in your field -- in some cases, a world-class expert. That doesn't mean you should automatically walk into a job but I think most people feel it should put them beyond the stage of having to take unpaid positions to improve their CV.

I would rather see universities simply extend the period of affiliation/Athens privileges for say 18-24 months after awarding the phd for all students.

fucking - well, I wish people employing us in academia would recognize that!

It makes me steaming furious that it is still, in many jobs, acceptable to insist candidates must only have spent a certain amount of time since they started their PhD, before applying for a job. Because the assumption is, if you take too long, you must have been lazy, right? No, wrong, you might have been busy earning a living on the side, caring for children, caring for sick parents ...all of those things ordinary people have to do.

It is immensely privileged.

As to 'daddy found it for me ...'


MamaMary Wed 14-Nov-12 20:41:44

dreaming I agree - why not give Athens to all? Why, as in the case of this thread topic, should there be a competition to, essentially, retain research facilities? So you can work then unpaid.

In my case, my university actually did provide Athens/ library access rights for a good 18 months post-PhD but as it didn't provide any extra funding, I was not in a position to use them, as I had to EARN MONEY, having overshot my PhD funding period by four or five months to write up. I was in debt and simply had to get a paid job. None in academic or research existed in my area (both academic and geographical). Now, I could do with those library rights, but they are gone.

LRD, exactly. I might now be in a position to continue my research, but as it's a year or two after my viva, I'm now seen as 'out of touch', left it too long, lazy, whatever. If I was in a position of economic privilege, this wouldn't have happened.

Btw, a PhD is not the equivalent of an honours degree. That makes a nonsense of it.

No, sorry, I didn't mean a PhD is the equivalent of an honours degree. I put that badly.

What I mean is, there is an attiude I am seeing in undergraduates, which is, 'look, I paid for this degree! How dare you now give me one that is the bare minimum?'

And I was wondering whether maybe saying 'look, I am too good to bother with trying to publish/buffing up my CV, I have got a PhD' is not dissimilar?

It seems not unreasonable to me that employers in academia will hope for more than a PhD. But then, I'm wondering why I say that as I know perfectly well that to publish during your PhD, in my subject, you must either be brilliant, willing to publish a shite article, willing to take longer over your PhD, or willing to compromise your hoped-for book. So maybe it is unfair to compare the two at all.

It's just, given the job market is as it is, do they not see that if they all pour scorn on this offer, it won't be offered again, and others (ME!!!) who might have appreciated it won't be able to?

Ephiny Wed 14-Nov-12 20:55:25

Maybe it's a question of how you 'sell' it to people then. Something like 'We're offering a limited number of free journal subscriptions if you're interested' would probably get a different response than, say, 'we're recruiting for a competitive but unpaid researcher position.' The whole unpaid internships thing is a pretty contentious issue at the moment, and even if that's not what this is, the way it's being presented to them probably makes it seem like it is.

I don't think it's the same thing.

I don't think these people are saying they're too good to publish or buff their CV -- I mean, aren't all phds trying to publish? Isn't that a given?

I think they're reacting to the idea that this is supposed to be such a great opportunity when, really, it's not all that.

And maybe it's good if they scorn it, if that means that the university comes up with something better that benefits more students. I mean, really, is this the best they can do? A desk and a password for one student?

ephiny - yes, I think you are right. And I will pass it on.

dreaming - well, but, if they don't want this to help them publish, fair enough: but why sneer at it for others?

They are saying they need proper jobs.

I see their point: but we all need proper jobs. We're not getting them. I am applying at the moment and I know how competitive it is. I would love to have something like this, that would tell me for sure that I won't need to worry about fees next year.

They are saying they don't want to bother because it's an insult to them. Well, ok, but then, do they get to complain about money after turning this down?!

Btw, I do take your point (and morebeta's point) that I need to look at the bigger picture, and yes, maybe I should boycott this in order to show the university it could do better. I don't know.

FlangelinaBallerina Wed 14-Nov-12 21:31:57

Floggingmolly, you don't get it. Lots of this 'entitled generation' as you so charmingly call them are also having to service crippling debts from university. This, as well as the distinction between working for not much and working for free, makes their position a great deal less privileged than yours 18 years ago. For you to stick the boot in to people who would kill to enjoy the opportunity that you had is at best deeply inappropriate.

But how would doing this help them monetarily?

Why would turning down an unpaid job mean they can't complain about money?

I don't really see how it helps them to publish. It doesn't give them more hours to work (the way a paid job would), I guess the main benefit is the Athens but lots of people will still have access to that somehow.

dreaming - well, if they don't get this, they have to pay for library access, right?

So they're out of pocket.

And not being able to afford library access does make it harder to publish. I know it shouldn't but it does.

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 21:41:51

LRD - just had a thought inspired by the a few of your and other peoples' posts above.

I do accept that might be an issue of selling and perception and understanding.

However, I do wonder whether the fact that students now have to borrow to do an undergrad degree means they just dont have the luxury to do a Phd unpaid and then face years more unpaid internship. Making people pay to do degrees piles a lot of pressure on the bearer of a freshly minted PhD to get a paying job straight away! In other words students are going to be increasingly hard nosed about money and you are unlucky in getting the first wave of that.

Universities cant keep taking a slice out of people and perhaps your university may just be unaware of the financial reality. After all most senior academics did their degrees fully funded with grants and so on and many academics are not exactly noted for empathy with people.

Maybe that is it morebeta. That certainly makes sense.

My generation are among the last who didn't pay high tuition fees. We graduated in 2007. sad So mostly, our careers are, frankly, fucked.

For me, getting funding to do a PhD was amazing and a huge privilege. My DH and I lived off my grant for my first year and it wasn't especially fun, but I was so conscious here I was! With a job! That paid!

Frankly I'd have licked people's shoes to say thanks if they'd asked. It really felt like that.

I am coming round to your point that maybe students can afford to be more discriminating, and make more of a point of what they deserve. I do wish universities would just accept, for example, that an Arts PhD isn't compatible with REF. Nor is Arts in general really.

I do think my supervisors try to sympathize. I can rant about notable failures of empathy (!!), though, so you may be right.

I guess it depends -- as noted earlier, some unis do continue to give library access for free or cheaply.

Even if it saved me a few hundred pounds, really does that mean I can't complain about there being no jobs and having no money? Library fees are not the difference between being poor and not.

Wel, yes, but ours doesn't so we're all in the same boat.

You're right, though, of course we can all complain about no jobs.

I suppose I mean, I'm not massively thrilled that I'm paying my 4th year fees and they could get the same for free, but they're insulted by the idea of it and won't apply.


Well maybe that's a bit of a difference then, I did not get funding (I have loans and worked). So I don't feel particularly grateful or boot-licking grin to anyone.

It's also why I would be a bit hmm at a university who did not deign to give me any funding to now generously allow me to compete for the privilege of an unpaid research position.

I feel immensely lucky to have got funding. It is a huge thing. I just wouldn't have done it without, you know? Maybe that was naive in itself, but no-one would have given me loans of that size (I know, because I did ask to start off with). So it felt like such a huge thing to me. Likely it doesn't feel like that to others.

I do think you're right, if you've worked your way through, you should rightly feel more in line for funding now, surely.

But this isn't the same as 4th year -- these are for post-viva, right? You're paying fees (as am I!) because we're still enrolled and using department services and seeing our supervisors and all that. It's not just for library fees.

Floggingmolly Wed 14-Nov-12 22:04:26

Flangelina. I grew up in Ireland, where a university education has to be paid for. Upfront. Think £6000 per year, payable in advance, before any living expenses.
It tends to keep third level education the province of the very well off; and certainly out of my reach.
The only way I could gain a qualification was to work my arse off doing grunt work in an Accountancy practice, living at home because I couldn't afford to rent my own place or feed myself (no benefits for students either), until I could finally earn enough to live independently. It was no walk in the park, actually.

For me it was like this: I looked for a job. The one I got paid minimum wage and it was the PhD. If I'd got another minimum wage job before the PhD, chances are I'd have held out or been very conflicted. But I did know I didn't have very long to hold out, so I couldn't have spent too long faffing around for something. If that makes sense.

dreaming - oh, sure, you are right, there are differences. I'm just a tad bitter! I don't want them turning it down to mean it's not offered next year.

I don't feel more in line for funding, but having spent the last few years getting paid (occasinally well!) for my skills I don't really want to go backwards. I feel like I'm sort of past that point and, as I noted earlier, I see that my friends who have done well are people who do not work for free.

Of course you should feel lucky to be funded, but I think it's good to keep your sense of gratitude in perspective. Yes, it was nice of them, but it's an investment, not a gift -- presumably now you will go out and get a not terribly well paid teaching job and educate the next generation of students. Their funding you doesn't mean you should settle for less than you deserve.

Obviously we all do unpaid work as academics, it's expected, but sometimes it's just a bit too much and I think this idea as advertised is an example of that.

AThingInYourLife Wed 14-Nov-12 22:12:15

"I would say about 80% of the people I know who got fully funded for postgrad work were people who didn't really need the funding."

Back when I was flirting with academia I knew the heiress to a billion pound family business who was offered (on merit) a fully funded PhD.

She turned it down because she didn't need it.

She was American though and appalled by the idea of someone missing out on funding so someone as rich as her could have it.


"AThing, I sincerely doubt the 'untalented children of the rich' are going to benefit from what is, essentially, free access to the library, a workspace and a line on the CV. "

Of course, I was responding to the immediately preceding posts about journalists etc doing internships.

I work in media. It's a problem grin

FuckingWonderwoman Wed 14-Nov-12 22:16:08

The "Daddy found it for me" man was hysterical (unintentionally so). Daddy had also told him to apply for the job of my assistant. Bizarrely, I knew one of his referees, and asked him about this chap. "I don't really know him. He's a friend of Daddy's." It was like Tim Nice But Dim.

I've had two assistants in recent years with a similar academic background; straight As all the way through school and a first from an RG university, plus a Master's from somewhere else prestigious. One had worked all the way through - fast food places, nursing homes, call centres, sandwich shops, bar work. The other hadn't and had done a couple of internships before she got this job. The worker would cheerfully do anything you threw at her - photocopying, filing, general office admin crap. Little Miss Intern used to sneer "I didn't get my first class degree to do your filing." (Which part of the word "assistant" in the job spec did you not understand? I asked her.) You might understand from this why I've been put off interns!

dreaming - you're probably right. You usually are!

I do feel the first in line for funding should be people with no other source of funding, though.

AThing - shock Wow, that is shit. I would have been livid (the American lass).

I get what you're saying about the media. And academia too.

I keep hoping it'll get better and I am worrying this is perpetuating it. confused

occasionally, sorry

I can see why you don't want the scheme to go away but at the same time, why not shoot a bit higher? Are there small grants in your field? EU funding?

I'm trying to put together a research council funding proposal that would create a postdoc for me in my department (so I wouldn't have to apply for it).

Basically, try to see this scheme as a last resort, not like such a great option for you. But apologies if your field doesn't really have those other sorts of funding options (I'm more social sciences).

Oh, I'm shooting. I'm applying for everything that's going atm.

I just think, you know, if I don't get it, I'm not quite ready to give up. I am aware many people would say that's just survival of the fittest but I'm prepared to push a bit.

Viviennemary Wed 14-Nov-12 22:25:13

I can see why somebody would think it is exploitation. Competing for the great priviledge of working for nothing. Even if it is gaining experience. And you can do voluntary work on JSA I believe, if you inform them and it's not over a certain number of hours. I saw some 'vacancies' advertised in a charity shop which sounded a bit competitive. I thought it was a bit cheeky and would rather do work for one which said volunteers welcome. Rather than positions vacant.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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 07:57:40

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!)

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

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

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.

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).

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.

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

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.

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>

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!

grin at ephiny.

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

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!

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.

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).

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