Ages of heaven and hell

June 5, 2014

I retired from a Russell Group university on 30 September 2011, so was ineligible by one day to negotiate an extension to my career in light of the abolition of the default retirement age on 1 October. The three years since, with emeritus status, have been productive of writing and editing work, free from concerns about the research excellence framework and exempt from the rigours of performance management that seem to have broken the spirit of some former colleagues (“Silver linings”, Features, 22 May).

It is particularly nice to retrieve 20-year-old data to see if they are still relevant (they are), devise wacky review articles and compile taxonomic indices from my books, projects that would never pass muster for any contemporary league table. Best of all, life is free from admin, marking and interruption, liberating the mind and allowing me to keep up with the literature for the first time in a decade.

However, this golden autumn rests on the final salary pension of the Universities Superannuation Scheme, which is now being closed (“Is it the end for final salary pensions?”, News, 22 May). I hope that when colleagues work until they are 70, there will be a tolerance of productivities other than pure grant income and high-impact primary articles in the years approaching retirement. Most fields still need thoughtful reviews and comprehensive textbooks, but when sexagenarians and thirtysomethings are expected to demonstrate the same energies and outputs, our higher education system is much the poorer.

David Bignell

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