22 SES 09 B, (Post)doctoral researchers and students
The rise of academic capitalism has restructured the academic labor market. Previous research has focused on the increasingly large share of the contingent academic workforce, such as postdoctoral researchers, adjunct and part-time faculty (Rhoades & Torres-Olave, 2015). As a segment of the academic workforce，postdocs were considered as trainees, who pursue a tenure professional position (Cantwell, 2011), however, most of the postdoctoral researchers are not on the tenure track and working with relatively low wages, and limited security and benefits (Rhoades, 2014; Kezar & Sam, 2013). Some studies have pointed out that it is needed to know how the postdoctoral researchers perceive the work situation and how they relate the current work experience to their future professional development (Ylijoki, 2010; Scaffidi & Berman, 2011).
This study seeks to investigate the work conditions of postdoctoral in the Chinese mainland, how the postdoctoral researchers make sense of the work experiences, as well as the relations between current work experiences and their future professional development.
Academic capitalism suggests that research universities and academics become more aligned with the market (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004). The new knowledge/learning regime in academic capitalism has changed the values and logic of the academic production (Rhoades & Torres-Olave, 2015; Rhoades, 2014),and the structure of the academic labor market (Whitchurch, 2009；Rhoades & Torres-Olave, 2015; Rhoades, 2014). This has resulted in a pronounced stratification of the academic labor market which is segmented into two tiers, one is the primary labor market with tenured professors, while the secondary labor market is formed by contingency academics with insecure job prospects ( Hudson, 2007; Winter, 2009; Cantwell & Lee, 2010; Ylijoki, 2010）
Several studies have observed the postdoctoral researchers are in the secondary labor market, and some scholars have raised concerns about the working conditions in postdoctoral programs (Scaffidi & Berman, 2011; Chen, McAlpine & Amundsen, 2015). Although postdocs were considered as trainees who pursue tenure position in university (Rhoades & Torres-Olave, 2015), their working conditions are not secure, and the postdoctoral researchers are gradually no longer lead to a faculty career (Cantwell, 2011; Rhoades, 2014). Even more, studies have pointed out that many postdocs were employed as cost-effective skilled employments (Musselin, 2004; Rhoades & Torres-Olave, 2015; Cantwell & Lee, 2010).
The working conditions are exploitative and influence how the postdoctoral researchers construct their professional future. Ylijoki (2010) has identified three typical future orientations of these academics faced with job insecurity: instant living, multiple futures, and scheduled future. Instant living means the postdoctoral researcher only focus on the present and do not think about the future. In multiple futures, the postdocs have alternative plans for their future. And postdocs who hold scheduled future orientation will divide their future into progressive career steps and work hard to guarantee success. According to these three future orientations, this study will investigate how the postdoctoral researchers consider their plan and how they relate current work experiences to their future professional development.
This study will adopt a qualitative research approach to investigate how doctoral researchers make sense of their work experiences, and how they consider their professional future. There are three research questions:
1. How do the postdocs perceive of the work experiences?
2. How do the postdocs consider their professional development in the future?
3. How do the postdocs relate their current work experiences to the professional future?
This study will conduct in-depth interviews with 12 postdocs in four academic areas (Physics, Social Sciences, Business, and Engineering) from some first-tier universities in Mainland China. Both universities are focusing on externally funded research and employ lots of postdoctoral researchers. The selection of informants will mainly base on the variety of work experiences they obtained. And the four departments are aligned with the market differently. Some departments are more market-oriented, they collaborate with outside enterprises or conduct policy research, while others have limited external research funds. Interviews are semi-structured, mainly focused on the work experiences of the postdocs, how they consider about their working conditions, their future career, as well as how they relate their current work experiences to their future development.
There are several preliminary observations. First, many postdocs participate in several projects at the same time, but they lack chances of transition to a more stable professional position unless they could be the team leader of a national research project or lead a long-time project. Considering the limited chances in current life, postdocs report that they feel stressed to handle more than one research project at the same time. They also have a relatively pessimistic perspective on the academic labor market. Second, social capital serves as a significant factor for postdocs in the career development. The postdocs, who have good relationship with their supervisor and broader network with other scholars, are more likely to have a smooth postdoctoral phase and positive attitude to their desired career. Third, the postdocs emphasize on research productivity and publishing competitive paper, so they could schedule their professional future orientation. Most of the postdocs involved in their supervisor’s research projects, which required almost all their attention. They seldomly have enough time to do their research, and some of them feel that academic ability could not get advanced through their supervisor’s research projects.
Cantwell, B. (2011). Academic in-sourcing: International postdoctoral employment and new modes of academic production. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 33(2), 101-114. Cantwell, B., & Lee, J. (2010). Unseen workers in the academic factory: Perceptions of neoracism among international postdocs in the United States and the United Kingdom. Harvard Educational Review, 80(4), 490-517. Chen, S., McAlpine, L., & Amundsen, C. (2015). Postdoctoral positions as preparation for desired careers: a narrative approach to understanding postdoctoral experience. Higher Education Research & Development, 34(6), 1083-1096. Hudson, K. (2007). The new labor market segmentation: Labor market dualism in the new economy. Social Science Research, 36(1), 286-312. Kezar, A., & Sam, C. (2013). Institutionalizing equitable policies and practices for contingent faculty. The Journal of Higher Education, 84(1), 56-87. Musselin, C. (2004). Towards a European academic labor market? Some lessons drawn from empirical studies on academic mobility. Higher Education, 48(1), 55-78. Rhoades, G. (2014). Extending academic capitalism by foregrounding academic labor. Academic capitalism in the age of globalization, 113-134. Rhoades, G., & Torres-Olave, B. M. (2015). Academic capitalism and (secondary) academic labor markets: Negotiating a new academy and research agenda. In M. B. Paulsen (ed.). Higher education: Handbook of theory and research (pp. 383-430). New York, Springer. Scaffidi, A. K., & Berman, J. E. (2011). A positive postdoctoral experience is related to quality supervision and career mentoring, collaborations, networking and a nurturing research environment. Higher Education, 62(6), 685. Slaughter, S., Slaughter, S. A., & Rhoades, G. (2004). Academic capitalism and the new economy: Markets, state, and higher education. London, JHU Press. Whitchurch, C. (2009). The rise of the blended professional in higher education: a comparison between the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. Higher Education, 58(3), 407-418. Winter, R. (2009). Academic manager or managed academic? Academic identity schisms in higher education. Journal of higher education policy and management, 31(2), 121-131. Ylijoki, O. H. (2010). Future orientations in episodic labor: Short-term academics as a case in point. Time & Society, 19(3), 365-386.
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