Disillusioned by the perceived state of academia/Higher Ed...opinions needed? Watch

Badges: 14
Report Thread starter 5 years ago

Just to start, I would like to state that the information I give here is not based on facts entirely. But by a few peoples viewpoints (of which I gather have worked in academia and related research roles) that culminate together to form this perception that I seem to have materialized in my head over the past day or so.

Now, I appreciate that what I am about to say may be subject to people picking holes in my argument, but that is exactly what I am hoping for. Perhaps for people to criticize, in order for me to gain a greater understanding or even to enhance perspective?

Here goes....

I am a current undergraduate student in my second year at university (albeit not a amazing Russel Group institution), but nevertheless a fairly respectable place. I am enjoying my course, and I have worked hard to get here etc.

I am passionate about my education, I love the environment, the ethos and the whole kind of 'buzz' if you will of academia. Now I appreciate, that to some, especially those on the professional side of the field (lecturers, doctorate-level students, post-doc etc) it is a much different feeling. Maybe one akin to slogging your guts out, in the hopes that one day you will publish some fantastic research and you will become a global sensation. Obviously this is at one end of the extremes. The sort of feeling whereby you slowly wither away in bitterness and envy at your more academically successful peers.

The adage "publish or perish" springs to mind. Although I am not actually sure of the truth behind this. I can imagine some members of the academic departments across the UK's universities shriveling at the thought of this concept. Then there is the element of bullying within the academic environment and the whole shunning process between peers (if in the event there is a colleague with a less than perfect publish record).

I am not saying that all university's are like this, but some days I may go into uni and you look at some of the lecturers that walk around. You see them sort of dragging their heels in the flooring, with the look of death on their faces. Sometimes even bitterness, as though to have a chip on their shoulder's.

Then I read articles online (like bloggers entries) about issues relating to academics. For example, detailing a researchers career, and about how he had become bitter and enthralled at the system. Urging promising post-grads away from the ambition of ever going into further study or academia. Is this the right message to be sending?

Is it accurate? What do we all think?

It got me thinking about my own education, in terms of is university really all it seems? Are there really hidden demons in the shadows? In regard to bullying of colleagues, bitter lecturers wanting to step on those more vulnerable? Hatred and a general sense of malice. It has even made me feel pretty down, in terms of carrying on with my degree. I have a sense of conflict, between my passion as someone pro-education, and that of someone lacking in self-esteem and potentially believing in what I see or hear.

After all we should never believe what we read online should we? There again, there is no evidence to prove or disprove claims.

The point I am trying to convey to you all is...do we think that academia is a place were people (both students and lecturers) try to stand on the shoulders of each other in order to climb the ladder to success? Essentially screwing each other over, much like in the corporate world?

I mean, it really is a sordid affair. Because people may work hard all their lives in academia and get paid a small amount for the projects they complete. Slaves to the institution- by which contains corruption and banal regurgitation of others works.

I appreciate that this post has a negative spin on it, I am just trying to rationalize my thoughts for you all to respond. I think what I intended to say was that I just feel a sense of being 'wrapped up in cotton wool', I feel hurt that people would express such distaste to the pinnacle of education, which was once the cornerstone of all learning, is now a place for bullies, bitter but hopeful people.

Also, the daily grind as an undergraduate of having to go to uni and put up with arrogant, narcissistic viewpoints of my fellow students. Like the only voice they hear is their own. I don't even bother to speak back or argue. I just listen, take the criticism. It grinds you to a halt, when you have to listen to egotistical students, or intolerable arrogance that amounts from bruising such a person's ego. The whole system has sucked the life and soul out of me, its like one big competition for the 'Mr arrogant of the year award'.

Then there is the side of me that says, don't give up. Don't listen to the gossip put online, in the media, and by bitter members of university. Because then this ironically would mean that I am just another lost sheep of society. Always following the crowd.
And...I suppose to some extent this is/or shouldn't be the mind of an educated person.

What are your thoughts at my waffling?
Origami Bullets
Badges: 19
Report 5 years ago
Your lecturers probably look downtrodden for one of two reasons
- you're not at a research intensive university. The best researchers (tend to) end up at research intensive universities, so chances are that they're not where they'd like to be career-wise
- there's a lot of behind-the-scenes-stuff going on with management, and the university itself has managed to annoy their workforce (not least through a derisory pay rise).

With regards to your own education - stick it out and then move onto the next phase of your life. Doing anything else at this stage would be a very expensive mistake.
Badges: 16
Report 5 years ago
There are difficulties in accademia in the moment. Don't forget there have been things like recent proposed changes to accademics pensions, and there was a recent strike by some accademics. Pensions changes are usually resented in all professions.

As well as this, there have been changes in the way universities are funded. With more funding coming directly from fees, this can make students more demanding. However, accademics have no more time than they ever did, and (in general) departments have no more money than they did previously. I know certain universities have suggested that the fees cap is too low, as degrees/universities are very expensive to run. The full cost of a science degree is much more than £9000.

There may be more pressure to produce research in some institutions, as this is how a lot of funding is now allocated. Being an accademic has always been a difficult, time consuming career (especially, historically, for women). In some ways, things are actually improving now for some people.

However, I don't really see how this affects you as an undergraduate, unless your lecturers are passing their pressures onto you (which is unfair/unprofessional).

The point of university is not neccessarily to go into accademia. That's only something you should persue if you are really passionate about researching a particular area. And, yes, applying for grants will be part of the process (because how else would research be funded?) and yes it is a competitive process. However, it is also a useful one. It makes people think about how they are going to do their research study, and what is actually possible. It weeds out completely impossible/unethical research proposals at quite an early stage, if the university's own review procedures are flawed.

Fo undergraduates, the point of university is getting a degree. You aren't expected to produce world changing research. At this stage, dropping out would probably be a mistake. You wouldn't be able to access much funding in the future. Therefore, you should think about it very carefully. To be honest, it might be better if you just focused on your degree, and not worry about what you will do after potentially gaining a post-grad qualification. You should research careers that are open to you outside of accademia, as this may give you new inspiration and drive. A lot of research in some fields is now done through industry.

Quick Reply

Attached files
Write a reply...
new posts
My Feed

See more of what you like on
The Student Room

You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.


University open days

  • University of West London
    Postgraduate Open Day - Ealing Site Postgraduate
    Thu, 20 Jun '19
  • University of Warwick
    Undergraduate Open Day Undergraduate
    Fri, 21 Jun '19
  • University of Bath
    Find out about life at the University and discover our diverse range of Undergraduate courses. Our course areas include the Sciences, Humanities & Social Sciences, Engineering & Design, and Management. Undergraduate
    Fri, 21 Jun '19

How did your AQA A-level Chemistry Paper 3 go?

Loved the paper - Feeling positive (207)
The paper was reasonable (312)
Not feeling great about that exam... (72)
It was TERRIBLE (45)

Watched Threads

View All