The changing character of the academic game

At a recent event, I heard an extremely distinguished professor make the argument that there was a certain sequence to career development which all academics who sought jobs in high status university ought to pursue. One ought to publish papers in well regarded journals before writing books. One ought to establish a reputation within a field before writing for a broader audience. The professor qualified by this recognising the dynamic might not hold for lower status universities. The statements were also clearly couched in terms of the United States, without this framing being qualified.

It nonetheless raises an interesting question which has often occurred to me in recent years: does advice about ‘playing the game’ have a shelf life in a system which is itself undergoing change?¬†The tenure system in the United States plays a large role in creating continuity between successive cohorts, as careers pass through a nodal point which only changes incrementally. The research assessment system in the U.K. brings a different dynamic with it because so much of institutional status hinges on your relative value for the forthcoming assessment exercise. My perception is that the rules of the game change with each cycle, in terms of the institutional requirements and how they are articulated on a local level, meaning advice about career development necessarily has a shelf life.

2 responses to “The changing character of the academic game”

  1. Discussing an inspirational lecturer who had encouraged and helped me in my late-blooming academic life with a respected professor I said “you may know him he was a student here” to which he replied “gosh they let anyone into academia these days”

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