I want to tell you why I have chosen to join my fellow members of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) in industrial action from the 28th February.
I consider myself incredibly lucky in my career.
I am lucky, because I only signed on once after my PhD, for a short period of time. Many sign on for longer.
I am lucky because I knew that signing on would contribute to my National Insurance payments, which had been on hold, or only partially fulfilled, for the eight years of higher education I took part in.
I am lucky, because I finished my PhD at 26, and entered full time employment at 26. Many people do not finish their PhDs until their thirties.
I am lucky, because I was earmarked for a PhD on day one of my undergraduate degree, and I received exceptional support.
I am lucky, because I have been given fixed term contracts. Many academics are given guaranteed hours, or hours to be notified, and don’t even have the luxury of knowing how much they will bring home every month.
I am lucky, because the bank decided to bend the rules on my mortgage, even though my contract did not qualify me for one.
I am lucky because I am not juggling academia with a young family, because I genuinely love both teaching and research, because I am not stuck with one of the bullies as my boss, because my visa is not threatened by Brexit, because I happen to work in a field that is strong in the UK, because I’m publishing papers that happen to REFable, I’m lucky because I don’t want to quit . . . unlike them, them, them and them.
Yes, we have a good pension. An expensive pension. It is what the universities give us to make up for the fact that on average we earn less than we would elsewhere. We think that the creation, dissemination and curation of knowledge is vitally important for our students, and for our society, and so we put up with the challenges. One of our conditions of employment is that our employers take some of our money, and give it to us after our hard working life is done.
I am an experienced researcher, I’m an interdisciplinary researcher, and at the age of 32 I will be one of the youngest people to age out of the ‘six years post PhD’ definition of an early career academic. I am managing to keep my head above water, and my career going, and I just about feel safe now. The proposed cuts will take £12,000+ per year away from my pension.
I am what it looks like to be lucky in academia. Take our pensions, and academia will be lucky to have any of us left.