Doubts of a new generation

13 01 2015

Yesterday I conducted a workshop in the winter school of  the international network of Migration, Integration and Social Cohesion in Europe (IMISCOE), with about 30 PhD students. The question was ‘How to plan an academic career?’ As far as it is possible to plan an academic career I provided them with as many do’s and don’ts as possible. What worried me, however, is that upon the question who was entirely sure they wanted to pursue an academic career only one person raised his hand. The other were all in doubt. The reasons they gave testified to the unpleasant work environment the universities across Europe currently offer to the young generation: the PhD students did not like the publication pressure, nor the extreme competitiveness for grants and positions. They were hesitant that they would have to specialize in a research area and then to keep elaborating on it, instead of being able to follow side ways and unexpected venues. Lack of job security and low pay were other, but less important factors. Some doubted whether it was possible to combine a family life with an academic career, to which I could fortunately answer that in my experience academia is one of the most flexible employers there is. But I recognized all the other doubts, and need to think about ways to prepare our new generations better for the academic future, so that they also see the fun, pleasures and rewards that may make up for all the other problems. Otherwise we may not have anyone left to take over.

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