Monday, November 23, 2009

Ten Things Postgrads Want: An Ironic Manifesto

A panel of four will deliver a version of the following ironic manifesto on Thursday at the Cultural Research Network's State of the Industry conference in Sydney. We would be delighted to hear your thoughts on these demands in advance.

Research students account for 57% of Australia's university-based research and development. Around 50% of the teaching in universities is done by sessionals, many of whom are postgrads. Our average age is 35. We are emerging academics in our own right, and we would like that to be recognised and supported in the following ways:

  1. Match scholarships to candidature (4 years) and make part-time scholarships tax exempt.

  1. Increase flexibility in visa conditions for international postgraduates.

  2. Ensure postgrads have access to adequate facilities and resources, such as office space, printers and meeting rooms.

  1. Provide sufficient funding over the course of candidature for each RHD student to cover costs associated with the production & dissemination of our research.

  1. Improve collegiality within our departments, with both emerging and established academics, through regular disciplinary seminars and social gatherings.

  1. Provide discipline-specific and 'generic skills' professional training programs.

  1. Provide institutional support and guidance for pursuing non-academic careers.

  1. Offer all RHD students university-funded programs to develop teaching credentials.

  1. Establish national standards for sessional teaching, with fair and transparent remuneration.

  2. Establish short-term ‘Early Career Fellowships’ (available 0-5 years post-PhD) to bridge the gap between PhD submission and first appointment/postdoc.

What do you want?


Anonymous said...

might not be full manifesto material, but increased flexibility with APAs. in particular, the option to go part time without losing scholarship privileges would really help during periods of heavy teaching.

- nate

Tammois said...

Thanks, Nate. CAPA has been pushing that barrow for awhile but still haven't won it yet. I've added it into the first point now. It would both help those who need additional work and those who need to mind their children (or care for older parents, etc).

lisa said...

If we got all this I'd be pretty darn happy, and in a much better position to actually do my work. That's pretty sad isn't it? Not exactly much to ask for.

Necron 99 said...

I only found out about the conference the day before it started and had other engagements. I won't miss another and will continue to address these issues.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that the university or government will overtly give PhD students what they want. But, as a PhD student myself, I have noticed that PhD students tend to get their way with things when they push their limits. But the catch is that has to be covert.

Did you know that through the RTS performance index, a university's funding is 50% based on a successful PhD completion? Now, if this PhD student were to quit for lack of funds or any other reason, the university in question would lose future research funding under the RTS.

Unlike any other worker, PhD students are irreplacable and no one else can complete the PhD project. In other words, the university can't "fire" a PhD student no matter how badly they perform.

I've often worked outside my 8 hour restriction and, even though my uni found out, no action was taken - not even a warning. Once, I demanded to be paid for unpaid hours on casual teaching. At first management was reluctant but when I threatened to take my PhD to another institution they agreed to review the situation and I got paid. They asked me afterward to exercise discretion on this matter.

PhD students hold great power, especially those who are on the verge of completion - since no institution would want to see their cash cow leave - especially a cash cow who only pays on graduation.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I followed the links from the New Matilda website to your blog.

I've read a number of your posts and they're all very familiar to me as a sessional/phd candidate at UTAS, particularly:

-casual tutoring with little pay (great 'hourly' rate but when you have to mark 20-odd essays as part of that 'hourly rate', particularly at the repeat tutorial rate, it ceases to seem like good pay =$3-4/hr)
-the university asking postgrads to give lectures for free (it hasn't happened to me because there are only a couple of us postgrads in my subject so the competition's not there, but it's happened to friends of mine in popular RHD subjects).
-lack of consultation/work space for tutors.
-Fellow PhD students running out of time on their APA, having to get part time jobs and eventually giving up on their almost complete PhD.

Your postgrad wish list is spot on. It'd be fantastic if our scholarships could last for 4 years. I'd love to have access to printing and an adequate, healthy workspace.