Academic quits dog's life to raise her hounds

July 30, 2004

Jane Kennedy is resigned to the seemingly endless stream of colleagues and friends who believe they are the first to crack the joke that she has "gone to the dogs".

But to be fair to those would-be comedians, that is exactly what she has done. The Liverpool University lecturer has quit academe after ten years to breed racing greyhounds.

Ms Kennedy's father was a greyhound breeder and she had always dreamt of returning to the family vocation. She said that the "appalling morale" in the academic world, fuelled by falling wages, increased workloads and rising stress levels, helped make a lifestyle switch easier.

"In the decade I've spent in higher education, apart from the obvious decline in wages, I've seen nothing but increased work-loads, increased stress and the demoralisation of working in an environment in which you are constantly being told you are not good enough," she said.

"People are demoralised and tired. They are not rewarded in any way, but just told what the next target and the next target is. We are driving people from the profession."

Although she was initially reluctant to be seen to condemn the sector too strongly - and especially not to focus on Liverpool - Ms Kennedy continued:

"I went into education because I loved the idea of the educational process - the engagement with people who are learning.

"But student numbers get bigger and bigger so you spend less and less time with the students.

"The amount of time that you spend being prepared to be measured, being measured and recovering from being measured detracts so much from the job in hand."

She added: "Research is just about doing the kind of work that your institution thinks will work in the research assessment exercise, not about the serious pursuit of knowledge."

Ms Kennedy, 41, had been a lecturer in social work who was stuck at the top of the "Lecturer B" pay grade for three years, along with a growing number of other academics awaiting promotion to senior lecturer and a higher salary.

"Before joining Liverpool, I was a social worker in child protection," she said.

"I've always worked in the public sector and have never been well paid, but that's fine if the compensation for low pay is a job you enjoy that gives you job satisfaction. But we have not even got that compensation anymore."

Ms Kennedy reckoned that as a greyhound breeder she could reach her current annual salary within 18 months.

"It's different when you're self- employed. Looking at the worst-case scenario, I can earn what I'm earning now, but the opportunities beyond that will be a lot greater."

But key for Ms Kennedy is the change in the quality of her life. "I'm entirely in charge of my own world now," she said.

Ms Kennedy has bought a 2.4-hectare farm near her home town of Burnley, where she grew up helping her late father with his successful greyhound breeding business.

She now has two bitches - or broods as they are known in the business - and one is expecting a litter in September.

She said that once the business was in full swing, she intended to keep between 20 and 30 dogs at any time and would rear them up to the age of 15 months, when they would start their training.

"The number of people who have offered to come and help me is amazing," Ms Kennedy said. "I could run a retreat for stressed lecturers."

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