Monday, January 10, 2011

Inside Higher Ed's leaving or staying in academia

I saw two interesting articles passing by on Twitter.
A manifesto on leaving academia (I'll refer to this as the "con" manifesto)
Because No system defines me (I'll refer to this as the "pro" manifesto)

With only one year of experience in how academia functions, I was very interested in reading these statements from authors who have spent more time in academia and I thought it would be worthy to share some ideas on this. Continuously, I am asked what my future plans are, and if I'm pursuing a PhD as part of an academic career.

After one year, a year that was filled with tension because of the coming reorganization and shady political moving and gossip, I think I have seen a glimpse of what the author of the con manifesto means. Mostly, I was left outside of the discussion since I am only on a temporary contract and therefore not invited to discussions about the future of the department (we could argue about the validity of this statement too). But, I could capture the overall feeling of discontent that was wandering through the hallways.
It wasn't creating a nourishing and future-oriented vibrant atmosphere at all, only the opposite.

However, I find the following words from the pro manifesto very inspiring:

Because all the trauma of a system amounts to what makes me rise above it

Although I depend upon persons which have suffered badly from the management decisions taken last year, and my working pace in the lab has been slowed down because there are less technicians available now, I still feel that I have control over most of my project. I still feel that I am the engine itself, and can take my project to the level I dream to take it, if only I push it hard enough into that direction.
I've also encountered the feeling, during the past year, that you are never alone in academia. As part of a rather small research group, I feel sometimes isolated. Through exchanges, conferences and social networking, I discovered the possibility to share my ideas, both on the contents of my research and the process of doing a PhD.

As food for thought, I would like to quote these statements, again from the pro manifesto:

Because my acknowledgment rests mostly in the truth of knowing who I am

Because in school I am only limited by my own lack of questioning

The question whether I want to stay in academia or not, is yet to be answered. But with more than 2,5 years of PhD left, it is too early to predict what might happen in the future.


  1. I want to teach as an adjunct. But, I don't want to teach at a stale and closed university. I want to teach somewhere that has the innovative spirit of a Google or a Microsoft. I simply can't be anywhere where engagement and dialogue doesn't lead to progress. That is a waste of my time and my intellectual pursuits...

  2. I finished 4 years and a few months of an extra semester(without funding during the extra semester except a dissertation completion grant of a few thousands) of a PhD, majoring in a humanities subject--English literature-- which has increasingly become 'over-staffed' and less and less relevant in the current world which has become more and more oriented towards technical English instead of literary English. Now halfway through my 3-year contract and deciding to leave the job come the end of the 3rd year during summer 2014, it looks so near and yet so far. I used to have similar questions like you, and while I do admit that I liked my topic and what I did while inside the PhD, the process of job hunting after I obtained it had killed any interest or desire whatsoever to stay on in academia, alongside the students I teach who absolutely are not interested and whom I have to teach simply because my department is contracted to teach courses outside of faculty's strengths. My point is this, if you are in academia, you have to remember that desire, ability and the environment(current job market and what it allows you to do) are often very different, and the gaps between them might cause you to lose whatever soul or interest you have. In this case, it is not wrong to leave. At least you experienced what you set out to experience and learnt from it.

  3. Thanks for sharing your story and insights. I'll keep all that in mind during my job search...