Improve gender balance in Irish HE or face fines, says review

Published yesterday (28th June) in the Times Higher, Jack Grove discusses proposed new reforms designed to improve gender equality at Irish Universities.

‘As part of plans put forward by an expert group commissioned by the Republic of Ireland’s Higher Education Authority, all higher education institutions would face financial penalties if they did not meet targets on gender equality agreed with the funding body. Institutions would also be unable to apply for research funding if they failed to achieve at least a Silver Athena SWAN award within seven years, the group has recommended. Other recommendations from the long-awaited national review of gender equality in Irish higher education, which was published on 27 June, include having mandatory quotas for academic promotion and asking university presidential candidates to demonstrate their experience in advancing gender equality.’

What do you think?  Are reforms needed to speed up the move towards greater gender equality?


Gender pay gap: keep the ‘pity payments’

Joanna Williams has written a really interesting article published in the Times Higher yesterday (16th June), exploring the gender pay gap, and arguing that one-off sums ‘reward biology rather than merit.’

”The current discourse promotes a false perception that women are disadvantaged in academia and need special treatment to achieve equal status with their male colleagues. One-off payments to “compensate” for the average gender pay gap, such as the one made at Essex, reward biology rather than merit. They suggest that women should be paid more just for being female, rather than for publishing papers or generating funding. Female academics have no need for such pity-payments. Finally, the gender obsession detracts from other, far greater, pay inequalities. Many women employed by universities work in catering or housekeeping. They clean the offices and make the coffee for academics. I suspect that they may well be envious of the additional £4,000 female professors at Essex are about to receive.”

These is currently considerable debate surrounding all of these topics and this is likely to continue.  What do you think?


Liverpool v-c calls for funding link to improve gender balance

Published in the Times Higher on 23rd April, Janet Beer (Vice Chancellor of the University of Liverpool) argues that a change in policy is needed to increase the number of women working at higher levels in universities.  Professor Beer has ‘called on senior figures within the research community to emulate the “incredible sector-changing leadership” shown by Dame Sally Davies, who, as chief medical officer for England in 2011, said that medical schools without an Athena SWAN silver award would not be eligible for Department of Health research funding.’ What do you think?  Would this work?  Could it be done….?

Professor Janet Beer

Professor Janet Beer

Has Twitter transformed the PhD experience?

Published on 12th March in the Times Higher, Jack Grove discusses Twitter and how it has changed the PhD experience:

‘Just a few weeks after Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey sent the platform’s first tweet in March 2006, the social media network gained its first PhD student. Indiana University computer science student Andrew Keep (@andykeep), now a software engineer at Cisco, is listed among the first 100 people to have signed up to the fledgling site, which now has 320 million monthly users. Dr Keep is still an occasional tweeter, broadcasting his thoughts on everything from home baking and everyday irritations to computer coding formulas, much like the hundreds of thousands of PhD students to have embraced the medium since then. But some advocates of Twitter, which celebrates its 10th anniversary on 21 March, believe its influence on PhD candidates has been more profound than just providing a way for them to let off steam or catch up with friends. For many, Twitter has transformed the PhD experience altogether……………………..’

What are your experiences of Twitter? Has it transformed your experience of doing a PhD?  Or are you a post doc/lecturer? Has it increased the visibility of your research and enabled you to network in a way that would not have been possible a few years ago?


More women in senior university jobs, says report

Published in the Times Higher on 2nd March, Jack Grove highlights analysis which shows an increase in the proportion of women in management or governor roles.

The pipeline is looking quite healthy, but the real crunch is at professorial level, where only 23 per cent are women” (Norma Jarboe, director of Women Count, a not-for-profit organisation that indexes gender representation in public, private and third-sector bodies and who have published Women Count: Leaders in Higher Education 2016)

Workload survival guide for academics

A brilliant article with contributions from multiple authors has been published today in the Times Higher . Here they discuss how to copy with a heavy workload, and when to say ‘no.’ I think this article will resonate with many people!

‘The downside of university life is that clear leisure time does not exist. There are no weekends with nothing to do. I have always thought that a key purpose of a PhD is to destroy a young person’s ability to enjoy leisure. Presumably, this is what it is like to be in the SAS. Once you have passed through extreme training, most normal activities are no longer stimulating, because your brain’s standard for what counts as excitement has been raised, and indeed can never go back……………… (Andrew Oswald Professor of economics at the University of Warwick)

Although the article is focused on academics, it also applies to PhD students, and indeed many staff in a University!



Ten tips to help you pass your PhD viva

Published on 1st February 2016 in the Times Higher, Heriot-Watt University Professor Kevin O’Gorman offers some advice to those preparing for their viva  –

‘The examiners are there to listen to you. It’s probably the last and often the only time that two senior academics, respected in the field, are going to concentrate solely on your work. This is a PhD exam, conducted by two people with nothing else to do but listen to you…………………..’

Read the full article to learn more.  What advice do you have?



How many hours a week should academics work?

Published on 14th January in the Times Higher, David Matthews discusses how research casts doubt on whether working long hours is a productive work routine.

‘How many hours do you work in a week? Many academics feel overworked and exhausted by their jobs. But there is little evidence that long hours lead to better results, while some research suggests that they may even be counterproductive………………………………. At parties, Michel is constantly asked what she has published recently. Working at the weekend is a “badge of honour” for academics, she says. And because knowledge workers, be they academics or bankers, are constantly competing against each other, their hours keep ratcheting up’.

Although not discussed in this article the problems associated with working long hours would also apply to PhD students.  How many hours do you work in a week?  Would you be more productive if you changed your work routine?

Postgraduates’ struggles with workload raise ‘concern’ for HEA

Happy New Year!  We are starting 2016 with a link to an article by Chris Havergal published in the Times Higher on 7th January concerning Postgraduate workload:

‘More than one-quarter of full-time postgraduates studying for a master’s and nearly half of those working towards certificates or diplomas do not believe that their workload is manageable, according to a major survey. The Higher Education Academy’s latest Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey, which attracted responses from 72,200 students at UK universities, found that 72.2 per cent of full-time master’s students felt their workload was manageable. A much lower proportion of full-time certificate and diploma students, 58.4 per cent, felt that they were able to keep up with what was expected of them. “That nearly half do not think their workload is manageable is of concern, not least because of a possible impact on their depth of learning,” says the HEA in the report.’

Do you feel your workload is manageable? Do you need support?  What more can be done?  What advice do you have…….?


Female academic leaders suffer more from ‘workaholic’ hours culture

Published in the Times Higher today – ‘About two-thirds of female academic leaders are unhappy with their work-life balance, with 85 per cent regularly working beyond normal contracted hours each week, a major survey indicates…… Some 23 per cent of female academic leaders who responded to the poll said that they felt unable to cope with the pressure and stress caused by their jobs – roughly double the proportion of men who expressed this view……’

Is this how you feel? What can be done about this?

What time do you think it's safe for me to leave work?

What time do you think it’s safe for me to leave work?