The one who stayed and the one who left

October 8, 2004

Stewart Barr graduated with a 2:1 from Exeter University's geography department in 1998. He then completed a PhD on waste management and was well placed to go into the commercial sector, but chose to stay in academia.

"Although I've considered commercial research in consultancies, the restraints would counter positive factors such as better pay," he said.

He stayed at Exeter, where he is a lecturer in human geography.

"Here, I have the freedom to decide how I work and to pursue the work that interests me," Dr Barr said.

He saw himself staying in academia until retirement but thought the increasingly bureaucratic structure of UK universities and the research assessment exercise demands might tip the balance against others remaining.

Bruce Howie did a chemistry degree at Heriot-Watt University, graduating in 1997.

"After my first degree I worked as an analytical chemist at the Rosyth Royal Dockyard, Fife, and for the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain in Edinburgh. I quickly worked out that I'd either have to work for many years in relatively mundane jobs or take a fast-track route by doing a PhD," he said.

So he did a PhD in synthetic organic colour chemistry at Heriot-Watt. He finished last year and got a job with Albion Colours in Halifax.

"In competition with honours graduates, I was able to show that I could handle difficult science and create results," he said.

Dr Howie admitted to missing the freedom of university life but said the pay, prospects and job security more than compensated.

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