Working for oneself

October 25, 1996

David Albury's thoughts on the possible growth of self-employed scholars ("End of tenure, start of tender", THES, October 11) were very interesting. Having been head-hunted as a senior lecturer in a business school to work as an overseas consultant in economic development, I took the plunge into self-employment two years ago.

The reasons for leaving academia were many and varied: more students, fewer resources, the treacle track of trying to get innovations moving, the rise of macho managerialism, lack of time to undertake research, reduced holidays, inadequate pay and so forth.

Since then I have developed the FUSE Programme aimed at preparing undergraduates to become self-employed. FUSE won The Financial Times 1996 David Thomas Award and has been promoted to vice chancellors. A number of institutions are negotiating to run it. The intention is to create a network of institutions interested in reducing graduate unemployment and developing staff expertise in linking academic programmes with progression to work. My main worry is where future income is coming from and how many proposals to clients will be accepted.

The flip-side is time and resources: a fully-equipped office at home, intellectual freedom and the little things like being able to buy anything I like from the office supplies catalogue.

My wife is still in the university sector. She pays for parking space, is up to the maximum 550 teaching hours, has no prospect for promotion (all posts frozen) and is to undertake the work of a colleague due to go on sick leave. She teaches over 250 students and marking of assignments and examination papers strains our domestic life.

Her future prospects are very different to mine, although she is better qualified and younger. Self-employment? A possibility certainly, but I would warn that the market will operate here as elsewhere with universities using the cheapest available staff (postgrads? part-timers?) to undertake the majority of their teaching, while reserving "names" for research bids, prospectuses and overseas recruitment fairs.

Romuald E. J. Rudzki Principal consultant, RMS 15 Fairfield Newcastle Upon Tyne

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