Disillusioned staff pack their bags

November 11, 2005

When Martin Ogilvie first heard he had a job as an academic he drove through the night from Sunderland to Birmingham University.

The social policy researcher said he was so excited that someone such as himself - a mature student who had left school without any qualifications - could end up working behind the gates of a Russell Group institution.

But the dream turned sour and, four years on, the 32-year-old is quitting academe.

Dr Ogilvie is fed up with the instability of temporary contracts, what he sees as a cash-driven management style and an overbearing workload.

He is one of hundreds of disillusioned academics who are leaving the profession every year. And no discipline is immune.

A conference this week on retention in the sciences heard that just 3 per cent of science-related researchers were given permanent posts after their studies.

The scenario is familiar to Dr Ogilvie. "Temporary contracts mean I just can't plan for the future, in fact I can't even plan beyond the next few months," he said. "I've floated between three-month and two-year contracts.

I can't get a mortgage and have not even known whether I'm going to be staying in the same city for long."

Dr Ogilvie will next week quit his post in the School of Social Studies at Birmingham to take up a job as project worker for union Unison with a salary of £,500 - an increase of £3,000 on his academic pay packet.

He said: "I have loved being in an environment where the people are clever and have a thirst for knowledge.

"I love my subject and I will miss the way academics respect each other for what they know rather than their race, sexuality, age or gender.

"But I have to plan for the rest of my life. I'm fed up with instability at work and I get the feeling I'm part of a growing trend.

"Many academics who want to start building a future are quitting the sector.

"I have to say, too, that I have been disappointed with the management style of my university. It seems to be all about cash. Academics have become more and more marginalised within the decision-making processes.

"Of course I knew I was never entering academe for the work conditions or the pay, but instead for the love of my subject. But it's just not a realistic option anymore."

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