Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-31)|
WEDNESDAY 3 JULY 2002
20. John, you said particularly that you did
not feel you were getting the teaching experience you wanted.
Obviously the short termism is not going as far as personal prospects
or career development is concerned. Are you finding fulfilment
in your research roles or are you peripheral to the projects as
well because of the short-term contract?
(Dr Sawyer) I find short-term fulfilment in what I
am doing and I enjoy doing the research. I find I cannot develop
an interest in a particular topic too closely because funding
will run out for that particular interest. I have invested lots
of time on that particular project and now I have to start something
new. That is what I have done two or three times before in my
career and it is what I am doing now in this new post. If I have
to change posts it is not to do the same work or even extend the
work that I have done, it is to start something else that is new.
For me now a short-term contract means I do what someone else
wants to do, I have no opportunity to do what I want to do or
even suggest what I want to do.
21. Even within that, is there a period at the
end of the contract when your attention is on securing your next
contract whatever that might be?
(Dr Sawyer) My attention now, having just started
my current contract, is on securing my next contract.
22. You are not able to develop expertise and
reputation in your field because you have to keep chopping and
(Dr Sawyer) Yes. I have papers in five or six different
areas. I do not have a considerable publication list in one area.
Whilst that can be argued to be a good thing, at the same time
I cannot ever be a reputable person on a particular topic.
23. As an academic it is always bad.
(Dr Bambra) I think you end up being a jack of all
trades, do you not?
(Dr Sawyer) Yes, master of none.
24. You work in very distinguished institutes.
What have the institutes done for you? You are part of a big employer,
have they any encouraging schemes for you? Have you ever been
taken in, not to the Vice-Chancellor but some way down the pecking
order, to talk about it, maybe the personnel officer or the so-called
(Mr Ahern) No, definitely not. Certainly the institution
is aware of the situation and it is a very hot topic across the
board. It is not just somebody junior like myself, for instance,
but even senior staff who would be a PI on the project I am working
on, say, they are in exactly the same situation as I am, they
are thinking about where their next funding is coming from. Once
you get to professorial level you are on the hard funding so at
least you have got five years but everybody else below that, they
are all in the same situation, senior lecturers are being underwritten
by departments because they cannot get the funds to secure their
25. If you wereand I hope it does not
happen, of coursesick for weeks and months rather than
days, would you be covered under these contracts?
(Dr Bambra) I am.
(Dr Sawyer) I have ten days I think, or 20 days it
might be, of sick leave.
26. Paid sick leave?
(Dr Sawyer) Yes.
27. After that you are on your own?
(Dr Sawyer) Just like any other employment I would
(Dr Bambra) I have got the statutory sick pay rights.
(Dr Sawyer) That is the same.
(Mr Ahern) I have got the same but every time I sign
my new contract I waive my right to redundancy.
(Dr Sawyer) Yes, I waive it.
28. Do you have paternity and maternity rights?
(Dr Bambra) I did not think I did. I thought it said
in my contract that I did not have maternity rights but one of
my colleagues has suggested I should have so I am not sure.
29. You were not very impressed at all with
the Roberts Review, what would you see as a good solution, a good
way forward for yourselves? What would improve your own circumstances?
(Dr Bambra) I think either more permanency so you
are employed by the university and then the funds come in that
way or if they still insist on using fixed-term contracts whereby
they are longer. I felt that two years was small but now I have
met people on four months I almost feel lucky and it should not
be like that. So something which is perhaps more common in other
sectors, five years, something whereby you can move house and
get a mortgage.
30. A standard minimum contract?
(Dr Bambra) Yes.
31. Do your contracts have redundancy waivers?
(Dr Sawyer) Yes.
Chairman: I have to move on. It has gone very,
very quickly. It has been very informative. Thank you very much
for relating your experience to us today. We will be doing our
bit, I can assure you. Good luck in your careers, wherever you
end up doing. Thank you.