Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad REF?

By our Academic Uncles, Glen O’Hara and Andrew Dilley

This year, as the census, or report date, for the Research Excellence Framework (REF) draws near, universities will go into organisational overdrive. They will be gathering evidence of ‘outputs’ (books, articles and the like); ‘impact’ (any changes academics have wrought in society more widely); and ‘environment’ (research funding, seminars and the graduate student ‘culture’—and successful completion of doctorates—are the most relevant points under this heading). All for a shot at money that’s called ‘quality-related’ funding —billions of pounds that have been relatively protected in the present government’s successive spending reviews and budget cuts. It is a source of revenue that is declining in real terms, but that is still ‘ring-fenced’ in cash terms. At a time when Vice Chancellors face significant uncertainty as to what is going to happen to their income from teaching, QR money looks like a pot at the end of the rainbow. Continue reading


Keeping the Faith: Researching as a Part-time Teacher or Teaching Fellow

By M. H. Beals

For many early careerists, the first step up the post-doctorate ladder is working as an associate lecturer or teaching fellow. The precise nature of these posts can vary widely. Some contracts are paid on an hourly basis—literally or virtually including hours for preparation and marking—while others are contracted as a percentage of a full-time equivalent position, or FTE. The latter Is more likely to include a clearly defined number of preparation and administration hours, but, like the former, these may or may not remotely resemble the amount of time you actually spend. Nor can all FTE contracts be considered full-time positions. In recent years, I have seen them range from 0.1 FTE (or a half a day) to 1.0 (or a 35 nominal hours a week) and everything in between. Moreover, as teaching staff, you will only be paid during term-time and usually not more than ten months out of a year.

In the end, whichever arrangement you and your employer reach, a teaching position is just that—teaching. Any research activities you undertake will be done without direct recompense or—in most cases—any form of financial support. If you intend to continue your research, and most certainly intend to do so, choices have to be made about how you spend your time. Many will simply put their research on hold until term breaks while others will forgo those eight daily hours they used to waste on sleep. But while a teaching fellowship can cause bone-shattering exhaustion, it does not need to. There are some choices you can make to keep your research alive, without becoming the walking dead yourself. Continue reading