22 SES 14 C, Employability of Researchers Inside and Outside Academia
The employment situation of post-PhD researchers deserves further attention because they are highly educated and motivated, closely involved with and contributing to the primary process of academia and economic and social growth in their countries (Häyrinen-Alestalo & Peltola 2006), but often lack a longer-term perspective and tenured contracts. Younger entry-level academics prefer to stay in academia (85%), value a clear career path and some kind of assurance whereas in reality they are forced to ‘face periods of uncertainty’ (Fumasoli, 2015, p.8). Systematic insights into their position and how they prepare for the future are currently not available but essential for the prospects of the entire higher education enterprise (e.g. Altbach, 2015; Chen, et al. 2015; Stassen et al, 2016). This part of the symposium involves the post PhDs and their careers outside academia, within the overarching context of the higher education system and labour market in the Netherlands. Our research question is here: how do post-PhDs condider their current employment in relation to their PhD trajectory? In order to answer our research questions, we carried out a literature study and held 13 interviews with post-Phds with a social science background, working in the professional or private sector and 6 interviews with their employers or managers (Zollner, 2016). Preliminairy findings: When asked about their career aspirations, it was quite remarkable that nearly all respondents explained that they chose their PhD-trajectory because the thoroughly enjoyed it and liked doing research. This work ‘like’ was mentioned in nearly every interview as the major reason for starting their studies and their PhD trajectory. Only a few mentioned the notion ‘sensible’. Literature mentions a percentage of about 70% of all early career academics who have to continue their career outside academia (De Goede et al., 2013; Schneider & Sadowski, 2010). However, the respondents did not consider their further career as a compulsory step. All respondents seemed to have chosen very deliberately to continue their employment outside academia. A few respondents worked briefly as a postdoc, but this small group also decided to seek for employment in the non-academic sector. Their rationales for continuing their careers were based on one or more of the following arguments: A. The need for practicality, B. Unsure future in combination with heavy workload and highly competitive environment, C. Having done with the world of science.
Altbach, P. G. (2005) Academic challenges: The American professoriate in comparative perspective. In A. Welch (Ed.), The professoriate: Profile of a profession (pp.147-165). Dordrecht: Springer. Chen, S., McAlpine, L. and Amundsen, C. (2015), ‘’Postdoctoral positions as preparation for desired careers: a narrative approach to understanding postdoctoral experience’’, Higher Education Research & Development, (ahead-of-print), pp. 1-14. Goede, M. de, Belder, B. & Jonge, J. de (2013). Feiten en cijfers: Academische carrières en loopbaanbeleid. Den Haag: Rathenau Instituut. Häyrinen-Alestalo, M. and Peltola, U. (2006), ‘’The problem of a market-oriented university’’, Higher Education, Vol. 52, No. 2, pp. 251-281. Schneider, P., & Sadowski, D. (2010). The impact of new public management instruments on PhD education. Higher Education, 59(5), 543-565. Stassen, Levecque & Anseel (2016). PhDs in transitie: Wat is de waarde van een doctoraat buiten de universiteit? ECOOM. Universiteit Gent. Weijden, I. van der, Teelken, C., Boer, M. de, & Drost, M. (2015). Career satisfaction of postdoctoral researchers in relation to their expectations for the future. Higher Education, 1-16 Zollner, K (2016) Jonge wetenschappers op de niet-wetenschappelijke arbeidsmarkt: Geweldige academische aanvulling of een irritante kostenpost? Masterthesis BCO, VU, Amsterdam.
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