I really want to get into academia, but due to financial reasons, I cannot do a PhD, even if I were to get funding. I have a BA in Politics and will soon have an MSc in Public Policy, along with some experience in the field of public policy - I would be looking to teach and research in a government, policy or politics department. This is my absolute passion, and I think that I would be suited to academia for many reasons. I have noticed that some lecturers/readers/professors do not have PhDs, and if I could replicate what they have done to get into these jobs, that would be ideal. An example would be Giovanni Razzu at Reading University - (https://www.linkedin.com/in/giovanni-razzu-45746760 https://www.reading.ac.uk/economics/about/staff/g-razzu.aspx) a full Professor of Public Policy, who does not hold a PhD.
Does anyone have any experience of this, and/or tips of how to achieve it? Thank you for any help.
1) time travel - go back to the 1970s when a PhD wasn't needed.
2) Have a glittering public policy career and then try.
If you are a strong candidate, then there is funding for PhDs in public policy / politics, but you need to be really good. Candidates for even research assistant roles in those areas these days will tend to have a PhD, publications and teaching experience simply because there's a serious large pool of un / under-employed people with PhDs in the field. With an MSc not much chance in academia, you'd be better trying the government route, if you don't want to do a PhD.I also wonder whether you have a realistic idea of what an academic job entails?
Thank you for your help everyone, these were very considered responses. Bewildered, I have provided an example of a case where someone has attained the rank of Professor at a highly reputed university, showing that it is possible in 2015. Also, The Blavatnik School of Government, in an advertisement for one of their lectureships in public policy, also cited 'equivalent experience' as an alternative to a PhD. I don't have my results yet, so I have no idea whether I can get funding - I have a first at undergraduate but I understand a distinction is required at postgraduate level, too. The funding still won't be enough for me, which is a reason why I want to avoid the PhD route.
My idea of what an academic job is involved is as follows - (1) producing high-quality research across a small number of specialist research areas; (2) teaching students; (3) contributing to furthering the discipline in which you work (attending conferences etc) and (4) performing any administrative duties as required. Is there anything that I'm missing.
You've asked the question to a forum of users who are mostly pursuing postgraduate education. A large proportion of whom are toiling away at their PhDs in order to get the dream academic job. And sadly, most of us, despite the YEARS of low pay and sacrifice to get the job, won't actually get the job.
No wonder we're a bit snippy about someone wanting to get the academic job without going through the hell that is a PhD! It's a right of passage into academia. And no, not everyone has one. The academics who don't are abso-frigging-lutely incredible. And have achieved a lot in a glistening career outside of academia.
So, bewildered is right. Route 1) time travel. Route 2) be awesome. More awesome than you are probably imagining. Route 3) suck it up and get thyself a PhD.
I say this as someone who is finishing her PhD while working full time. I haven't had a day off in 6 months (not even at the weekend). Hell, I only allow myself a max of 2 evenings off a week. And even with all that dedication, I fear my chances of getting the dream academic job at the end of it all are slim. So yeh, your post irked me somewhat. I'm guessing it did others as well.
The person you cited has years of high quality public policy experience not just an MSc. That is what makes them hire-able. What do you have to offer beyond a MSc that makes you so outstanding that a department would risk hiring you without the expected level of qualification - that's what you'd have to ask yourself.
OK you're missing quite a lot about what the job entails, which is why I think you are also romanticising it a bit.
It's a 60 hour working week on average. I don't know any academic who actually manages to take all of their annual leave.
You would be expected from day of appointment to produce 3* and 4* outputs for the REF - you would be trying to do this without any of the methods training a social scientist gets in their PhD, meaning this would be a real struggle given how central methods are now to your field.
You would have annual targets for income generation that need to be met - there is a 12% success rate for the main funder in your area so a large chunk of time is spent writing grants which are not funded.
You will be expected to produce research with real-world impact, which means devoting time to engagement activities (there goes another chunk of your free time).
Then you have reviewing, PhD supervision (without a PhD you'd probably not be allowed to do that so would get more teaching/admin instead), presenting at conferences etc to round off the research side of the role.
A third of your time is teaching - I am giving 40 hours of lectures plus seminars this year. That's quite a lot of prep. You won't only be teaching in your specialist area of course - particularly as without a PhD you'd struggle to claim a specialist area.Personal tutoring - that takes up a lot of time as counselling services are so over-stretched that a lot falls back to academic staff. Continued....
Along with the teaching is of course things like spending weekends doing your fair share of the open days. Putting masses of stuff on blackboard / moodle etc. Marking - providing increasingly large amounts of feedback in the vain hope a student might appreciate it and raise your dept's NSS score. You will be required to gain a teaching qualification usually in the first two years. Your teaching will be judged on your evaluation scores and you will be expected to achieve a certain level. Lots of university teaching is delivered by hourly paid or fixed term usually 9 month contract staff by the way (many of whom have a PhD and are working for about minimum wage when you add up what hours they work compared to those they are paid for - again with the highly qualified workforce around you'd have to make a very good case why you are special).
Then the other third is admin. Degree programme management, quality assurance (lots and lots of this and the TEF promises more), admissions, employability work, managing study abroad/ internships etc. Four times a year you get to account for every hour you've worked that week - depressing how much of it is admin.
All of this is done in a working environment that is poor - university management is often poor and target culture is just as prevalent as it would be in a sales job. Google Stefan Grimm to find out what than can mean in practice. The wages are also not that great unless you get to professor. This blog might also be of interest https://academicirregularities.wordpress.com/ . Basically it's not what most students think it is like.
You also need to factor in the competition, which in your area is strong. To get an interview for a permanent post in Politics / Public Policy, increasingly you need top quartile journal articles, preferably a postdoc to show you can get research funding, teaching experience and the PhD. You'd need some really amazing professional experience for it to count as equivalent.
Thank you bewildered: I think that as far as the original post is concerned, that, as they say, is that.
Thanks also for the reminder about dcscience though- it's great reading even for (or perhaps, especially for) non-science types.
I think there is a slight misunderstanding here, though I thank you for your help – it has opened my eyes in many ways, and I’m sure others who have been reading this thread. I am not seeking a position now, at my relatively young age and holding only an MSc and 3 years of experience, but I am seeking to formulate a long-term strategy so that I can take actions in my career/personal development activities which would maximize my chances of securing an academic job, without a PhD, over the long-term. I was also open to the idea that this may not be feasible, and would then look into studying for a PhD part-time, which is the only financially viable option for me. I would not disagree with your description of Razzu’s experience as ‘high quality’, but it is certainly not ‘first class’ or ‘stellar’. He has served mostly as an economic adviser and an economist in government departments – thousands of others do this, too, and the economic analysis of policy, whilst important, does not represent the entire discipline and can be limited in scope compared to a pure policy analyst. An example of truly first class policy experience – excluding politicians – would be Geoff Mulgan, former Chief Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister, founder of a think-tank, and Director of a major public social and innovation unit in the Cabinet Office and Downing Street. My feeling is that, given that Razzu’s level of experience is attainable, and he has been offered a full professorship, lecturer or reader positions would be open to those who had attained even less than him. Continued....
Thank you for all the detailed information – academic life does seem harder than I imagined, but no problem at all for someone with a strong work ethic. The target-driven culture was not something I associated with academia, and I pictured it as a highly autonomous world, more where a given department resembles a collection of individual entrepreneurs rather than a metric-driven organisation. I also did not realise that grant income plays such a large role, and I was shocked by the death of Stefan Grimm, and his experience, though I do not know if it is generalisable. Ultimately, all of the activities you mentioned mean engaging with the discipline you love, helping to support the personal, academic and political development of students (which is a big motivation for me), and publicising your work, which seems to me like the most tedious part. All other things aside, 60 hour weeks are fine for me – I want to work hard and contribute as much as possible. Though, I have heard different accounts from my previous lecturers, who told me that they have significant work-life balance, significant autonomy, and that the job would be ideal for someone with small children. With reference to the REF, if I can’t produce that kind of quality on a consistent basis, then I don’t deserve to be an academic, and in that sense this is reassuring about the sector as a whole as it must ensure that low-quality researchers are weeded out at the earliest stages of their careers. I don’t want to spend time marking to improve the university’s survey score, but because I love working with the material, and I want to help students, who sacrifice a lot to be there, to improve their academic skills and understand the level they’re working at. With regard to research techniques, I already have an MSc in which I have conducted quantitative and qualitative research, and have also done this in my career, and will continue to do so. I will specialise in my career.
People who have a successful academic career without a PhD usually have highly pertinent external experience, are in particular subfields where 'equivalent experience' really means something (often highly technical roles/fields such as programming), and are often from an earlier generation.They are very rare, and trying to find a generalisable formula for their success in order to emulate their path is unlikely to be a fruitful pursuit.
If you really want an academic career (and many more people do than are successful) then you should optimise your chances. This means doing a PhD at some stage. Fewer than 10% of people with PhDs manage to stay in academia long term, so be realistic about the odds of success without one - it is not simply a case of 'hard work conquers all' as most PhDs are earned by just that, and it is still not enough. Stick around on this forum and you will see multiple cases where effort still hits a brick wall.
There is more than one way to do a PhD. Yes, most people struggle by on a studentship, but there are ways of doing it while employed full time as staff or 'by publication' for long established research staff who have earned their stripes via their work. Look into the available options at a few universities.
If you frame the PhD hurdle as simply a financial one, you overlook the skills/experience acquired during the process which would be necessary for an academic job. It is unclear how you propose to develop those skills outside of academia. If I were you I would apply for a research assistant job, get a proper feel for the nature of academic life (Masters degrees give you little exposure to the full reality; your perception of some aspects seems a little rose-tinted) and explore alternative routes to a PhD from within academia. If it's the career you really want, then starting working in it is probably your best bet.
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