@sthcrft has reflected and expanded upon this article from The Australian on research graduates wanting a career in academia. In particular, the point is made that increasingly academics are payed a comparative pittance, have little or no job security, and being sent mixed messages about the relative importance of research and teaching (see the last paragraph of The Australian article). I’d like to add my 2c worth.
Just over a year ago I made a conscious decision to take the opportunity offered by a redundancy to get the hell out of academia. Dominant amongst a range of reasons for leaving was the increasing destruction of the freedom/autonomy typically enjoyed by an academic position. Freedom in the sense of Dan Pink’s Drive mantra about autonomy, mastery, and purpose. The freedom to apply the knowledge and insight gained through research to doing good things in both teaching and research. A freedom that has been significantly reduced through at least three factors
In response to a tightening higher education funding environment universities are increasingly strategy led. A strategy developed by the senior management and which must be implemented. If you aren’t helping achieve the strategy you will be frowned upon. A little bit of autonomy lost.
Strategies lead to KPIs, which lead to task corruption. Where the bigger picture gets lost in the narrowed focus on a particular outcome. e.g. the KPI to have high response rates on course evaluations (even though there are significant questions about their value). A focus that creates a slippery slope of silly ideas to ensure the response rate is high, rather than the quality of the response. The focus becomes meeting the KPI, rather than exploring.
- Quality assured.
The problem with QA is that it assumes that consistency is quality. This is entirely problematic given something as diverse as teaching at a university. The checklists and templates of QA reduce the majority of teaching to the lowest common denominator and doesn’t even ensure quality as box ticking becomes an important teaching skill. To do something different than the checklist or the minimum standard is seen as wasteful, a little more freedom lost.
This is not to suggest that unbridled academic autonomy is the solution. That approach has its own set of enormous flaws that have plagued academia. It is to argue that some institutions are going to far the other way. Academia is becoming overly constrained and consequently destroying the freedom to innovate and explore that made academia attractive to me. Being reduced to an implementor of bad strategies seemed to be the time to get out.