Life's a lottery 1

February 27, 2004

Alan Ryan's ideas for reorganising universities (Columnist, February 20), though sound, omit the individual academic for whom the labour market is a lottery. What job you get depends on timing, available vacancies, fashions in research and the latest government funding policy.

Careers are then determined by this lottery.

The job you get affects whether you get research leave, which determines later success in grant applications that determines the result of further job applications and promotions. This is why it is unfair to assume that the best lecturers are in the best universities. There are plenty of individuals whose research profiles disprove this idea.

We don't all enter the lottery from the same background. You report on the graduation prospects of working-class students ("Marks in class count less than class marks", February 20), but where is the research on the effects of class on academia? There has been plenty of research on the effects of gender and race. Before we make any assumptions about which universities are best, and assume that lecturers in the post-1992 sector are merely suffering ranking envy, should we not consider the effects of class on the distribution of lecturers in our universities?

Farah Mendlesohn
Editor, Foundation, the International Review of Science Fiction

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