Letter: Get over the age barrier

October 19, 2001

The bulge of over-50s will soon lead to a dearth of academics and is seen as a problem ("Ageing staff cohort threatens expansion", THES , October 5). In strict demographic terms this is correct, but there are solutions.

The stretching of the life span means that many will live between two and three decades of healthy life after the current retirement age.

Academics can expect more years than others. The European Union has recognised this and abolished statutory retirement from 2006. The UK government has endorsed this policy and launched its 50-plus programme to encourage the employment of older workers.

Academics are inclined to continue research, writing and some teaching interests after formal retirement. So it makes good sense for universities to develop part-time contracts for retired staff. They will probably find that such staff prove committed, reliable and less prone to sickness than their younger counterparts.

It is time universities abandoned ageist policies and returned to the days when they employed bright young people in academic posts in their mid-20s and valued the rich resources of mature scholarship.

Malcolm Johnson
International Institute on Health and Ageing

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