Midlife crisis

September 26, 2003

Despite Simon Inger's despair (Letters, THES, September 19), the real postdoc blues are those who achieve a doctorate in midlife and are discriminated against because of their age. I was an 11-plus failure, gaining my first O level at 21 in the army. By my 40s I had two masters degrees and at 53 a PhD. I also have a file containing 50 job applications to UK universities.

I have had one nine-month contract as a part-time research assistant at a leading management university. I supplemented the salary by working as a security guard. I published two papers and presented two more at conferences. Only last week I withdrew from an international conference in Italy owing to lack of funds and university backing.

I have now applied to become an administrative assistant at my local prison and, because I have disabilities, I am guaranteed an interview. Perhaps the universities whose mantra is "we support lifelong learning" should take note.

John Black

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