Please will you tell me about your transition from graduate studies to work in academia and talk about it in light of the current climate in academia?
I think in some ways there are both continuities but also quite sharp differences. The continuities are that interestingly that I've talked earlier on in my interview about how I was glowingly brought on by my department in UCD, after four years, five years, with quite a considerable amount of teaching, working up from tutorials to actually running lecture courses. When a full-time post came up me and other post graduates who'd been doing this work were not even shortlisted for the permanent post. So that kind of smacked a bit hard and so I looked back across the water and I applied for and got a job back in Britain which was a one year; no sorry I've jumped a thing there. I got a part-time post in my field teaching Irish studies but it was part-time so for me it was a question of both a move back to my home country with my doctorate, luckily teaching a subject about which I knew quite a lot and felt confident about with some experience of actually lecturing and teaching although not much into a course that there was a lot of expansion going on because it had only just started. So in a sense I've been lucky haven't I in my career arc. I seem to have been at the right place at the right time.
Can you unpack that because, you know, is it really luck?
Erm, well I don't know. Now thinking about it is it luck or was I planning it? No I planned, at that point clearly, at some point during my PhD studies I thought I want to be an academic. I want to be a lecturer at a university and so therefore I was looking for jobs and I was hoping, which didn't happen, that a job would come up in UCD so I could conceivably have stayed in UCD had a full-time post come up. But this goes back to the point about flexibility, about why you have to take a job where you can get one and this was only half a job. I was stuck for six months, seven months in a half-time job teaching in London which was expensive and I had to go and live back at home to do this which was phenomenally problematic.
It wasn't nearby then?
Well it was commutable but I was, for the record, I was literally spending almost as much money commuting to my place of work as I was earning from doing the part-time lecturing.
How did you reconcile yourself with that?
I reconciled myself by thinking it's half a job, it's experience and I like doing it. You know it's actually what I want to do. It did rely on being able to live cheaply at home with my parents but it was difficult to do that after having been independent. You know undergraduate for three years and a post grad for five years, a bit difficult to go back and live at home. In actual fact I then got a job, a full-time post, in the Midlands of England teaching, not in Irish studies but on film and broadcasting. Now the joy of this post was that it was full-time and permanent. So I thought I'd hit the jackpot. Again, an expanding degree course in media. A cheap place to live. I lived in, as a student accommodation warden, therefore cutting down my living costs again there and I was very flush with money but I was hard pushed because I was teaching a full-time load. I was doing about, I don't know, 12 hours a week of teaching, you know, writing fresh lectures and I was also teaching beyond my knowledge field so I was one week ahead of the students in some cases. And that's scary. That's very tiring.
How do you think the culture has changed now for newly qualified academics?
I think before I – before a generation ago – I think people could get a job without a PhD. They would take you on if you didn't have a PhD in your hand. Now I think that would be very difficult and in my own experience of having been on panels both at my own institution and acting as an external panellist on employment panels for lecturers, you know not to have a PhD frankly is you know, you've got to have some incredible other experience to bring to a post if you don't have a PhD.
Other than not having a PhD what might be the other differences that people with PhDs would encounter now?
Erm, well again it's all subject specific. If you were in English, if you were in film or increasingly even in, certainly in media, PhDs in these areas are, you know, there's a lot of people in the market with those qualifications and so you're surprised if people don't have publications so you've got to be that more advanced before you get to that applying for at least a one year temporary job, so I think that's a difference as well. I mean, people are probably better qualified in academic terms and also in publishing terms than probably I was. I wonder if I would get taken on with my own qualifications now. I'd like to think I would but –