Jobwatch: Well-funded fellowships

July 16, 2004

One of the toughest challenges for young academics is making the leap from postgraduate study into a full-time contract. Victoria Gittins reports on a scheme that might just help.

Oxford Brookes University's School of Arts and Humanities is offering a fellowship scheme that is a golden opportunity for ambitious young researchers hoping to make that difficult transition from postgraduate study into an academic research career.

"There is a concern - shared with research and funding councils - that if universities have money to spend then they tend to take on those with experience. It is difficult for young people to gain entry," says John Perkins, professor and dean of the school.

"Advertisements for these early fellowships stress the importance of providing a way into the professions for bright young academics," he says.

The scheme, advertised in this week's Times Higher , will provide opportunities for young academics to gain broad experience of undergraduate teaching while pursuing their research. They will also have the chance to obtain the postgraduate certificate for university lecturers. Professor Perkins believes that teaching and research are inextricably linked but there is sometimes a tendency for research to be prioritised.

Professor Perkins is concerned about the increasing numbers of academics working part time. "Too many part-time teachers can affect the overall quality of the student learning experience, especially if teachers are constantly changing," he says. "This leads to a big cost in terms of recruitment and training, as well as managing and mentoring costs."

Professor Perkins believes that this kind of scheme has the added advantage of helping to securing future permanent teaching posts.

Oxford Brookes started the fellowship scheme a year ago. Money for part-time cover was used, together with financing from the funding council, staff-development fund and human resources, to turn part-time teaching posts into two-year early career fellowships.

The School of Arts and Humanities can now look forward to benefiting from two new researchers, and will look for academics with research interests that are a close fit with those of existing staff in the department.

"We are looking towards the next research assessment exercise, but in the long term we have committed ourselves to building up research," Professor Perkins says.

The department's emphasis on research has helped it notch up 5* ratings in history, English and French. The fellowships will hopefully lead to the creation of extra posts in the future, further developing the school's research profile, he says.

"Research is critical to the nature of the university. All universities have an obligation to support development of a subject," Professor Perkins says.

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