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Teaching in HE

(12 Posts)
TheJawsThatBite Wed 14-Oct-15 15:27:48

I was wondering if anyone could help me with a query regarding teaching/career options with HE. Apologies in advance - I am aware I am very naive about this area and so may sound like a bit of a twonk.

Over the last 20 years I have had a series of careers - all related, but all slightly different - and gathered some post-graduate/professional qualifications along the way. My original degree was in English from Oxbridge and I got a II.ii (I deeply regret this - I didn't do as well as I should have done for a variety of reasons which probably aren't relevant).

I have always wanted to do a taught MA, but never been able to afford it. However, I am now in a position where it would be a stretch but I think it would be possible. I have contacted a couple of universities I am interested in, explained my background and qualifications, and they say my II.ii shouldn't be a problem if I wanted to apply.

My question is this: if I did an MA, what would be the chances of progressing in the field and teaching in HE? Would it require further qualifications and funding? I have just finished work as a secondary English teacher and, while I loved aspects of the job, I continually found that I was pitching too high academically, and a few people have mentioned to me that I may be better suited to HE. I find that, no matter what I do, I keep getting drawn back to an academic environment. I think I am finally finding out, after 20 years, that this may be where I am happiest.

I realise there are loads of ifs and buts here - I do know that I would need to be academically strong and there is no way of knowing from this if I am or not. But if I were capable, would this be possible? Or is it just hugely unlikely?

I have name changed for this thread to retain anonymity. Many thanks for any advice anyone can give.

AimUnder Wed 14-Oct-15 22:29:20

I just want to mark my place here because I know someone in a very similar position (also 2:2 from Oxbridge) and wants to do further studies.

SeekEveryEveryKnownHidingPlace Wed 14-Oct-15 22:33:08

You'd need to do a PhD and become an academic - a long road! Also you'd struggle to get a job that was just teaching: you'd also have to have the research. But I'm sure a 2:I would get you on the first rung with an MA!

TheJawsThatBite Wed 14-Oct-15 23:38:53

Thanks for the feedback - much appreciated. I am guessing there is not much funding about for PhDs? My memory from university is that a few of my supervisors were PhD students - would this be one way of scratching an income if I were to progress down that route?

Poofus Thu 15-Oct-15 15:31:35

You would be very lucky to earn anywhere near enough from teaching to fund a PhD. I've never heard of that. By all means, do an MA if it interests you, but you would then need a PhD (3-5 years) and perhaps a post-doc position on top before you could become a lecturer. You could perhaps find a teaching fellowship instead of a post-doc, if it's the teaching not the research that interests you, but you wouldn't be working as a teacher in HE for another 5 years or so minimum.

And yes, PhD funding in the humanities is very hard to come by (particularly with a 2:2, sorry).

MultiShirking Thu 15-Oct-15 17:21:04

if I did an MA, what would be the chances of progressing in the field and teaching in HE?

OK, tough love (I'm known for it grin) No way will you get a job in a UK university teaching English Literature with just a taught MA. I know the field, I sit on selection committees. I see the 100 or so applications for fixed term contracts in the field at mediocre ex-polys.

You'll need:
* a PhD from a pretty reputable university for English Literature - Oxbridge, a big civic (Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool) or a good 1960s university: York (cracking English department) Lancaster, Sussex, Kent or a University of London college with a good English department: Kings, UCL, Birkbeck, basically;

* a groovy interesting topic, supervised by someone who's known in the field and can help you develop a good research network; doesn't need to be a "star" but does need to be an active researcher/publisher/grant-holder, as well as out & about at conferences, or editing or the like;

* some HE teaching experience, usually gained while doing the PhD;

* a research trajectory, with publications in the pipeline at the very least - you'll need to show that you are a good bet for the REF for example. But the last few entry-level permanent jobs I've helped to appoint across a number of humanities departments have all either had a first book in hand, or a contract for their first book imminent.

* most short-listed applicants had a First at UG degree, a DIstinction in their MA, and then a PhD. I think in your case as your BA was so long ago, a Distinction at a tough competitive MA, and then a funded PhD would be OK. The significance of funding for your PhD is that it shows you're competitive and that you are able to secure funding for your research. And you could sell your secondary teaching experience - although at the places I've worked at, this isn't seen as anything really hugely advantageous. At the level of training & appointment, it's about the quality of the research, because universities have to maintain a tough line about their staff doing research. Otherwise we're just glorified schools. We need to be producing the new ideas & knowledge, as art of training undergraduates to high levels of expertise.

It's unlikely you'll go from PhD to standard permanent academic contract, so you need determination & resilience to last out the two to three years (minimum) between submitting your PhD and getting a permanent decent job. In a post-doc researcher position, often working on another academic's project. But not a bad way to learn your job, actually.

There is funding, from the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for PhDs, but it's administered by multi-university Doctoral Training Partnerships. It's been cut by about 50% over the last 5 years, and word on the street is that it's likely to be cut further, now there's a mechanism for postgraduate loans.

TheJawsThatBite Thu 15-Oct-15 22:37:01

That is really useful - thank you for such detailed responses. No huge surprise that the PhD is essential. I guess I need to get the MA under my belt and go from there.

multishurking, your tough love is much appreciated - I need to be clear about what is involved. Could I pick your brains slightly further and ask how I determine whether an MA is tough and competitive? Would the list of universities you gave for PhDs also be a good bet for MAs? The two I have talked to are Warwick and Birmingham; are they both well thought of?

Once again, many thanks to all for the input.

MultiShirking Fri 16-Oct-15 11:25:22

Either of those is excellent. Your choice might be guided by thinking of a taught MA as prep for a PhD. What sort of area or topic do you want to do a PhD on? Because if you want a job as a lecturer in HE, its about the PhD

TheJawsThatBite Fri 16-Oct-15 19:57:49

Thanks. I hadn't thought as far as the PhD before this thread, so I'd need to have a serious think. The area I'm passionate about is Shakespeare, but I know I'll have to be considerably more specific than that! Good to hear that the two universities I've looked at are considered good, though.

MultiShirking Fri 16-Oct-15 20:27:41

If you want to teach in HE then you need to think about the PhD. You need to wirk backwards from that. But if you just want to teach, but not at school, you could look at FE? No need for research there. You see, really to get into HE, research needs to be your driving motivation. I know if I couldn't pursue my research, I'd have gone and earned lshed loads as an elite civil servant or merchant banker.

Passion has limited currency in this sort of planning, frankly. The thing about "passion for Shakespeare" is that there are a lot of other people in tbe field, so developing something if Doctoral standard, particularly satisfying the requirement for originality, will be tough.

But if that's your thing - the Shakespeare Institute at Birmingham does a part-time and/or distance learning Masters, iirc.other than going to the US, you couldn't study Shakespeare at a better place.

TheJawsThatBite Sat 17-Oct-15 00:43:02

Yes, I know the Shakespeare Institute reasonably well - it was where I was thinking of for Birmingham. I think I probably misphrased my original post - I was looking at teaching as a way of earning an income so I could study - not because I have a driving ambition to be a teacher. I think the reason that HE has been mentioned to me in the past is because I enjoy the learning side more than the teaching side, if you see what I mean.

I understand the point about passion - I meant really that it was a good place to start my thinking rather than I expect my passion to sell an idea. I know lots of people with a similar passion for Shakespeare! I guess it's that balance between finding something that genuinely interests you and you can give your life to, and something that's original and "groovy"!

The tip about working backwards is very useful - thank you. I'll have a think about where I want to end up in an ideal world.

jclm Wed 21-Oct-15 20:40:11

I am leaving academia after 7 years as a post doc. I could not find a permanent job and have become resentful of doing several fixed term positions. My field is slightly less competitive than yours. I'd only embark on this journey if you have lots of passion and energy and resilience.

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