Title, peace of mind... and a mortgage

April 15, 2005

In 2000, Mohammed Kishk , a PhD student at the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, began work as a research assistant on a two-year fixed-term contract.

It proved ideal timing since, in May 2002, RGU became the first UK higher education institution to give all contract researchers job security. Fixed-term contracts were replaced by open-ended contracts, in effect the same as for academic staff but emphasising research rather than teaching.

Dr Kishk, originally from Egypt, now has the title of research fellow but, more important, all the advantages of a permanent job, including being able to take out a mortgage - of crucial concern since he is married with three primary school-age sons.

"Everything was done in consultation within RGU and we were involved as research staff and members of trade unions," he said.

"When I go to conferences, normally the view is that a research contract is an ad hoc post or even a support staff post, but when I say I'm on an ongoing contract and a full academic member of staff, it gives RGU a selling point in the sector."

Dr Kishk believes it will also boost the quality of RGU's research.

He always wanted to be a researcher, despite the drawbacks, but acknowledges that most people in his position would have been driven to take a lecturer's post or move to industry because of the greater security.

"This encourages active researchers to stay doing research, and you get better research because people aren't worrying about the future or wasting time searching for new jobs," he said.

He has already secured external funds that cover his salary, which he would have been unable to do without an ongoing contract.

Olga Wojtas

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