Most people dream of becoming an academic persona and are passionate about lectureship.
Some of these dreams are powered by a determined passion for research, a drive to extend the borderlines of knowledge and an aspiration to enthuse the next generation of scholars with a love for an academic subject.
Some dreams, however, are established on a vision of dreaming spires, where academics live life at a different pace, amputated from ‘real world’ worries like budgets, limits and deadlines. This world is long gone.
Today, internet will give you the chance to discover the realities of an academic career, help you decide whether such a career is suitable for you, offer ideas to help you make it an academic overview and also suggest alternatives.
But whether an academic life is in its essence as attractive and rewarding today as it was ages ago is another matter. We aren’t talking about the pressures the role holds, it’s about the insecurity that some experience, the fading resources and the bureaucratization. We would mainly like to highlight the experience that should lie at the heart of higher education: the celebration of scholarship, learning and innovation.
What we observe today in the system is the shift of focus gradually from educational substance to educational process. Assessments of performance and quality, which are handed out like confetti from almost every street corner, are too often not about what is done, but about how it is done. Most often we don’t recognize or reward the major scholarly breakthrough (or perhaps even more significantly, the attempt to achieve one); instead the willingness to abide by the new rules of academic practice is rewarded.
Of course the performance of an individual matters, more in universities than anywhere else. But we need to question the system about what kind of performance we are trying to embolden, and particularly whether we are looking for and rewarding intellectual creativity; and indeed whether we’ll actually recognize it when we see it.
You are not the only one grappling with the question on whether you’d be better off in academia or industry. Trying to decide which career path to pursue is one of the most frequently discussed topics amongst fresh graduates. With limited availability of academic positions, scientists must evaluate their options more critically than ever before and consider options beyond the typical academic path.
We would still recommend it to anyone with intellectual inclinations for an academic career. But we hope that we will find more novel and better ways to encourage, support and reward academics into the subsequent generation; and celebrate the fact that most of all will expand knowledge while they show dedication to the existing tidy educational processes.