Age is not the issue - ageism is 1

December 22, 2006

The claim that a generation gap is opening up between young academics "who embrace a performance culture" and their older colleagues ("Young guns ditch old values", December 15) does not accord with my experience. Since completing my PhD four years ago, I have seen no evidence that young members of staff are less committed to teaching, scholarship and collegiality than their older colleagues.

Indeed, it seems to me that the seriousness with which teaching is taken is likely to be higher among lecturers who have entered higher education over the past few years than among their older colleagues. This is largely as a result of the increasing expectation that all new lecturers will take part in structured teacher training (and the assumption that teaching is a skill that can be learnt rather than something that develops automatically once a first academic post is secured).

The significant decline in lecturer salaries over recent years, relative to other comparable professions, is also likely to have had a considerable impact on the attitudes and motivations of those embarking on an academic career.

With the relative financial rewards shrinking, it seems logical to assume that those who do decide to take up a job in higher education are attracted primarily by the perceived intrinsic rewards of teaching and research - surely the "traditional values" of university life.

While I would acknowledge that all is not rosy within the sector, and that elements of a "performance culture" have brought about some negative and serious consequences, I very much enjoy working with many young lecturers who are enthusiastic teachers, committed scholars and very "collegial" colleagues.

Rachel Brooks
Surrey University

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