Generation gap (1 of 2)

August 9, 2012

It may be that my advancing years have rendered me more sensitive, but I have a strong suspicion that the research by the Higher Education Funding Council for England that concludes that a "bottleneck" of over-sixties is blocking the flow of new blood into the academy is useful cover for the fact that academic jobs are becoming more difficult to obtain and to perform ("Age may not wither them but stale sector needs variety of staff", News, 2 August).

With the current "business model" of higher education, many young academics are increasingly obliged to service larger and larger numbers of students while producing publishable research with "impact" in their spare time. And, as Hefce toys with the idea of policing academics' time even further by requiring "time allocation surveys" ("How do academics spend their time? Filling out forms about how they spend their time...", News, 2 August), the role of a new academic looks increasingly like that of an assembly line worker.

The greatest danger to young academics' advancement is not "dog in the manger" oldies but the increasingly transactional nature of the role and the obsession with the "bottom line".

Mary Brown, Freelance education consultant, Banchory, Scotland

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