In the last decades, higher education has undergone multiple changes, namely the massification and the increasing of part-time and underpaid jobs as well as an increasing competition for research funding (Hurley & Taylor, 2016; Mercer, 2013).
In Europe, with the implementation of Bologna Process, there have been a lot of changes in higher education. In Portugal, and especially in the case of teacher training, graduated courses decreased from 4 or 5 years to only 3; so, in 5 years, the most part of the students graduated and then also completed their master degree – master is becoming more frequent. Another reality is the shortage of employment that makes a lot of students continuing to study, to do a PhD and accept part-time jobs or short-term contracts in faculties. This type of decision seems to be the only way out. Hence, the number of PhD students and university employees holding a PhD is increasing, notwithstanding the research employment opportunities and the research funding is not corresponding to it (Hurley & Taylor, 2016; Mills, Trehan, & Stewart, 2014). Hurley and Taylor (2016) stated that, in Australia, there is a lot of university teaching being undertaken by casual staff. Regrettably, that type of weak and untrustworthy bond between early career researchers and faculties tend to be a rollercoaster of emotions, presenting several different challenges, that have being studied by several researchers (Groves, 2016; Hurley & Taylor, 2016; McAlpine & Amundsen, 2015; McKechnie, 2015; Rimando, Brace, Namageyo-Funa, Parr, & Sealy, 2015; Stylianou, Enright, & Hogan, 2017). Thereby, this type of patchwork employment is leading to self-deprecation and lack of recognised identity within the workplace (Hurley & Taylor, 2016). To that extent, in the study of McAlpine and Amundsen (2015), concerning early career researchers challenges, participants described institutional exclusion. Stylianou et al. (2017) found that numerous participants felt like they were being marginalised within the institutional framework. Of particular note, agency seems to be one of the key factors when trying to develop a strong identity within the workplace. Insofar, being agentive can be typified as an emerging response to barriers and opportunities, widely shaped by organizational and social contexts (O'Meara, 2015). Accordingly, having agentic perspectives in higher education seems to be linked to self-initiated activities, engaging in scholarships, innovating and being reflective (Leibowitz, van Schalkwyk, Ruiters, Farmer, & Adendorff, 2012). Nevertheless, it seems important to clarify any possible misconception and to note that the early career researchers cannot rely solely on agency, since structure can constrain but also empower their action (Kahn, 2009; Leibowitz et al., 2012).
The aim of this paper is to give an account of the raw, honest, under-explored lived experience and daily struggles of an early career researcher, who is also a higher education teacher, through narrative. Specifically, it is our intent to shed some light into the complexity of this situation in the Portuguese scenario, highlighting experiences and worries, those that lie beneath the surface – what has the future in store for us?
Groves, C. J. (2016). Reflections of a "Late-Career" Early-Career Researcher: An Account of Practice. Action Learning: Research and Practice, 13(2), 160-167. Hurley, J., & Taylor, E. J. (2016). Australian early career planning researchers and the barriers to research–practice exchange. Australian Planner, 53(1), 5-14. Kahn, P. (2009). On establishing a modus vivendi: the exercise of agency in decisions to participate or not participate in higher education. London Review of Education, 7(3), 261-270. doi:10.1080/14748460903290256 Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (2003). Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Leibowitz, B., van Schalkwyk, S., Ruiters, J., Farmer, J., & Adendorff, H. (2012). "It's Been a Wonderful Life": Accounts of the Interplay between Structure and Agency by "Good" University Teachers. Higher Education: The International Journal of Higher Education and Educational Planning, 63(3), 353-365. McAlpine, L., & Amundsen, C. (2015). Early career researcher challenges: substantive and methods-based insights. Studies in Continuing Education, 37(1), 1-17. doi:10.1080/0158037X.2014.967344 McKechnie, D. (2015). The lived experience and lessons learned about publishing by an early career nursing researcher. Journal of the Australasian Rehabilitation Nurses' Association (JARNA), 18(2), 18-22. McMahon, J., & McGannon, K. R. (2016). Whose stories matter? Re-vising, reflecting and re-discovering a researcher's embodied experience as a narrative inquirer. Sport, Education & Society, 21(1), 96. Mercer, J. (2013). Responses to rejection: The experiences of six women early career researchers in the Education department of an English university. Women's Studies International Forum, 38, 125-134. doi:10.1016/j.wsif.2013.03.008 Mills, S., Trehan, K., & Stewart, J. (2014). Academics in pursuit of the part-time doctorate: pressures and support issues associated with the career development of business and management academics. Human Resource Development International, 17(4), 438-458. doi:10.1080/13678868.2014.928136 O'Meara, K. (2015). A Career with a View: Agentic Perspectives of Women Faculty. Journal of Higher Education, 86(3), 331-359. Richardson, L. (1990). Narrative and sociology. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 19(1), 116. Rinehart, R. (2005). "Experiencing" Sport Management: The Use of Personal Narrative in Sport Management Studies. Journal of Sport Management, 19(4), 497. Stylianou, M., Enright, E., & Hogan, A. (2017). Learning to be researchers in physical education and sport pedagogy: the perspectives of doctoral students and early career researchers. Sport, Education & Society, 22(1), 122-139. Webster, L., & Mertova, P. (2007). Using narrative inquiry as a research method: an introduction to using critical event narrative analysis in research on learning and teaching. London: Routledge.
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