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Advice needed from lecturers/academics!

(22 Posts)
Kake Tue 09-Sep-08 12:31:20

I am a postdoc, and have recently applied for a lecturer post in the social sciences. I've got an interview which is brilliant but I have a real dilemma, in that I really don't want to work full-time. So, should I disclose this in the interview and see what they say? Or, if I was lucky enough to get the job, what are the chances of working FT for a while and then negotiating down? Also, do any lecturers/academics out there work PT but on special contracts - perhaps term-time working only, for example. Finally, do any academics who work full-time find that during the holidays when they are not teaching, they have flexibility to spend more time with their children, or is that time fully engaged with research etc?

Sorry for all these questions but I'd be really grateful for any advice at all! Thanks in advance.

Jazzicatz Tue 09-Sep-08 12:38:13

I am in a similar position to you as a post doc - all the jobs I have applied for are full-time. Occasioanlly part-time jobs come up but essentially they are full time especially during term time. From experience most of the lecturers 'work from home' during the holidays, which allows for some freedom but they are required to attend meetings or any other admin required by the university. I wouldn't mention wanting to work part-time as however tight on they think they are, academia is still mainly frequented by male academics who are not primary care providors.

WilfSell Tue 09-Sep-08 12:43:51

It depends how much you want the job. Most jobs are advertised FT and it is quite unusual for academics to be PT but not unknown.

But it can be difficult to manage the workload especially in a research active dept.

I would ask after you've been made an offer - they will have a second choice candidate and if they really want you they may bend to your requests... Will be easier to request once you're in the job I think but they have the right to refuse your request.

The holidays are only really vacations for students... you will probably be expected to take 6 weeks holiday or somesuch - you will be engaged in administering, planning and preparing the teaching programme, staff development activities etc in your non-contact time. But mostly you'll be expected to write and research and if you don't deliver, things get tough for you.

There is flexibility but I have never been able to spend all the school holidays out and would be very surprised to hear some academics do this. My kids go to nursery or playscheme in the holidays and we arrange after school care for most of the week but not all. The main advantage we have is managing kids illness and school events - we have the flexibility to do these things most of the time. but even this isn't completely free: the jobs and tasks still have to get done and unlike some other jobs, they'll be waiting for you when you come back with the same deadlines.

KristinaM Tue 09-Sep-08 12:46:20

i agree with willself

Kake Tue 09-Sep-08 12:48:12

Hi Jazzicatz. That's what I thought - if I mention the part-time option I probably won't get much further than the interview which I suppose is fair enough since the post is advertised full-time. It's a real problem though, and my supervisor makes me feel like a bit of a wimp for not wanting to work FT but I'm in the incredibly fortunate position of not absolutely having to from a financial point of view so if I can avoid it I'd much rather not.

marialuisa Tue 09-Sep-08 12:48:57

I'm married to an academic and work in HE. In our institution there are p/t lecturers but it tends not to be term-time only (term-time only postholders are usually teaching fellows rather than lecturers). Of the p/t lecturers I know most still do a lot of "extra" work to keep up their research but they do know that they won't have teaching scheduled at particular times and wouldn't be expected to attend meetings on days off.

Personally i've found that HE can be pretty accommodating once you're in but that people get put off if applicants flag up alternative working practices too early in the recruitment process.

DH definitely does not have more time to spend with DD during the time when students are off (PG students around all year, other staff to supervise, research, updating teaching still continue) but he lives and breathes work.

Kake Tue 09-Sep-08 12:51:11

Sorry, cross posted with willself and kristinaM. Thanks for this - I guess that you both work full-time? It's ironic really, there's a lot of work by academics lamenting the lack of flexibility in the workplace but academia seems even worse than some private sector organisations!

nervousal Tue 09-Sep-08 12:51:17

Agree with willself - DP is a lecturer nad during the "holidays" he will either be preparing courses, doing research, writing grants or on annual leave. Before he started he assured me that he would be able to work from home every so often (he communtes an hour each way to work) - so far he hasn't managed it!

I think he would struggle to do part-time - unless he was doing a purely teaching role, and I don't know how common those are?

Kake Tue 09-Sep-08 12:55:27

Hi marialuisa, that's interesting, thanks. I am applying for Fellowships too, but the chances of getting them are very slim, although they would be more flexible on the hours. Maybe I'll have to bite the bullet and just go for it, should I be lucky enough to get the job. But the thought of putting my DD in full-time childcare makes me very sad!

Kake Tue 09-Sep-08 12:58:39

Hmm, don't think purely teaching roles are that common. I really want this career but I guess ultimately I have to ask myself whether I want it enough to do the full-time thing. Maybe I'll just go to the interview first and work from there!

WilfSell Tue 09-Sep-08 13:02:41

Kake, the job is flexible in the sense that there is quite a lot of autonomy over what you do when and where (eg I do work at home a lot, and can shift work around sometimes to work evenings and weekends, though the more kids you have the harder this becomes) but the issue is there are really not enough hours in a working week to be a successful academic in most universities, save the really really rich ones.

So most people who are ambitious put in the extra hours.

It is an illusion that we're all sat on our arses all day.

I am - now I'm back at work - often on MN at lunchtime or in the evenings, but I almost always am doing other work at the same time (my screen is always on) and this just gets worse when teaching and marking starts.

marmee Tue 09-Sep-08 13:03:30

I'm a full-time lecturer but have negotiated flexible working so that I get one day working from home and one day which I have with the kids (acknowledged) and I know others, including men, who have similar arrangements. I organised this (quietly) with my HofD with the understanding that I would fit my research time around it and would be available on phone and email when not in the office. I wouldn't mention it in the interview, but find out what hours you'd be timetabled to teach, what your office hours would be, when meetings are normally scheduled. If you can fit teaching into two or three days, plus admin, you might find you can manage it, especially if it's the kind of place that's not expecting a book a year. You have to be realistic with yourself about how much research you can produce while balancing teaching and home. I do know people who jobshare too, but it might be difficult to bring that up in an interview. What's great about the job from a childcare pov is the flexibility to organise your own hours. I can go to all of my son's nursery induction stuff without missing too much work. If you've put in the PhD and the postdoc, you deserve the rewards of a tenured job!

WilfSell Tue 09-Sep-08 13:06:28

I did what marmee did for a while too, but am finding it increasingly difficult to do. You have to be VERY disciplined with your time to do the flexiday thing, and when you have school age children as well as nursery age as I do, you often need to use up your flexibility for collections, INSET days, school plays etc...

frogs Tue 09-Sep-08 13:09:35

I did this for a while when dd1 was small. I managed to work from home some of the time in my first FT lecturing job, but it was quite hard work. And the dept were not particularly accommodating in organising my teaching schedule to help me manage my time at home effectively -- ie. teaching spread out across the week in dribs and drabs.

It can work, you can be lucky. But most of the people who make it work for them are older and well-established, tbh. As a rookie you will get dumped with all the committees and marking nobody else wants to do, so I wouldn't put too much faith in making the system work to your advantage.

Also (and I know this is depressing) you may find that you need to be prepared to relocate as jobs come up in different universities (though this will depend on your subject area). It becomes v. v. much harder to manage this once you have school-age dc -- remember nurseries/childminders exist for parents convenience, where as schools most definitely do not.

FWIW I threw in the towel when dd1 reached school age, and am now coming up to 10 years of self-employed consultancy, where I do get to call the shots.

Kake Tue 09-Sep-08 13:21:30

Thanks everybody - all really helpful, if a little depressing.

Frogs, consultancy sounds great. Unfortunately I am not sure how commercial my research interests are.

Willself - I certainly don't think that people in academia sit around on their arses all day! I don't think I'm particularly ambitious or otherwise, but I would be prepared for my career to move more slowly whilst my kids are young. However, I recognise that reasearch-led departments are not necessarily happy with that, given the pressure to publish etc.

Jazzicatz Tue 09-Sep-08 13:24:30

I think thats the problem now Kake the necessity to publish - I am currently aiming to publish 4 articles a year in decent peer reviewed journals plus teaching and a PhD - that has to be achieved through the holidays - saying sorry I have got childcare issues does not seem to be an excuse accepted! sad

igivein Tue 09-Sep-08 13:54:10

I found out I was pregnant 3 weeks after starting my job as a lecturer. Went to see the Dean of the school who said congratulations and was really kind (not what I'd expected!). On returning from maternity leave I asked for reduced hours and it wasn't a problem, HR just wanted to know if I wanted a permanent change to my contract or wanted the option to raise my hours later (I opted to review when ds starts school). I appreciate I've been really lucky, and I do work v. hard and take on almost a f/t workload in p/t hours, but it is possible!

Zazette Tue 09-Sep-08 14:18:47

Another academic here, and some fairly mixed messages from me. Though I am f-t I know a few people who lecture part-time. It is do-able, but they all agree that it is their research that takes the hit, and that does have implications for career development. And none of them had kids when they started out - they all took a more classic academic career path of getting PhD and job under their belts, and not having kids till their 30s. So they had a fair amount of experience and a 'bank' of research data to draw on - they weren't trying to build everything up from scratch.

The really driven people who find they have to work flat out in the vacations mentioned on this thread are all men, I notice. To be brutally frank, that is a personality type that flourishes in academia - and sometimes it is their need to be immersed in work that drives that level of engagement, not the objective requirements of the job.

I would be a bit more positive about flexibility in the university vacations than some people on this thread. Term for me starts in another couple of weeks. I knocked off at 3 to pick up my kids from school yesterday, will do the same again today, and am taking a morning off later in the week to go and see a colleague's new baby. I've got an article to finish for a journal and a paper to write for a conference before term starts, but I've made some headway with both and am confident that I can find the time to finish them (and squeeze in a bit of Mumsnetting, as you can see!).

BUT it's probably fair to point out that I've been in the job for nearly 20 years, and can knock stuff out a lot faster than at the beginning of my career. Said colleague with new baby (5 years in to her career) was revising an article in between contractions (but she is one of the driven ones, they're not ALL men).

Practical point to finish:
As an academic who has been on quite a few appointment committees, I have to agree that you should only raise the issue once you've got a job offer in your hand. You are in a strong position to negotiate at that point.

Kake Tue 09-Sep-08 18:24:37

Thanks so much everyone, I really appreciate you taking the time to respond. Let's see what happens at the interview!

Jazzicatz Wed 10-Sep-08 10:46:25

Good luck with it. I have had 3 so far - hate them!!!!

Kake Wed 10-Sep-08 21:45:35

Thanks Jazzicatz - good luck to you too.

Jazzicatz Thu 11-Sep-08 10:17:39

Let us know how you got on!

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