I have a PhD and postdoctoral research experience, and have been teaching and researching at a leading UK university for the past few years. Maybe you are a student who has recently finished exams, or maybe you are thinking of coming to study in the UK from overseas? Go ahead and ask me anything!

I'll be answering questions for the next hour or so, but will also be back online tonight (UK-time).

My Proof: Employment info and business card with specifics removed. http://imgur.com/4pQAHsM

EDIT: sorry, I'm going offline now (6pm BST) but will be back a bit later to keep answering questions.

EDIT2: This has had a lot more interest than I thought. Great questions! I'm back and will keep answering on and off for a few hours.

EDIT3: That's all for tonight, folks!

Comments: 219 • Responses: 75  • Date: 

cooneyes31 karma

Is the tenure-track system as broken in Europe as it is in the US? Here it's common to find colleges where 70-80% of faculty consists of part-time contract hires who don't earn a living wage. This article will give you some sense of what's happening.

AnotherSecretProf7 karma

I'm aware of the issues with sessionals etc in the US, and I would say that the system is better here. On the other hand, with the change in tuition fees, Teaching Faculty are becoming more common. These are basically temporary or part-time staff who pick up the slack from other (researching) academics, and sometimes they get exploited.

Milk_BeforeCereal7 karma

Do you pour milk before cereal?

AnotherSecretProf27 karma

No. How would that even work?

nifara7 karma

What's your stance on open access?

Also, how do you feel about the Russell group?

AnotherSecretProf8 karma

Hi, I'm certainly in favour of open access publishing and I think this will probably become the norm in the next 10 years. I have published open access, but only rarely because I struggle for funding and most of these outlets work on an "author pays" model. Universities kind of have to agree how this is all going to work without the risks of vanity publishing.

I studied at a Russell Group institution, but don't know a lot about how it operates and not sure how meaningful a label it is now. So my feelings are pretty neutral!

nifara3 karma

If you don't mind a follow-up? I work in a UK university in the marketing department. We see a lot of the "centre/faculty divide" - academics in schools, departments and faculties are very resistant to any effort to make things consistent across the institution. Is this something you've run into, and if so, why do you think this mentality exists? Do you think it's important to have centralised university functions, even if it's more inconvenient for academics?

AnotherSecretProf5 karma

Hmm. I wouldn't say I've seen an objection to "centralisation" exactly. But there is some resistance to creeping administration and management which people (not always rightly) see as getting in the way. Obviously there are some things which it should be more efficient to run centrally. An example: we used to have our own department webpage which we could all edit. Now it is run centrally and it almost impossible to get the central techs to change things, which means that we all have our own webpages and everything is a mess.

Xysted7 karma

Have you caught anyone cheating? And if so what was their punishment.

AnotherSecretProf12 karma

There have been a couple of incidents. In one, a first year student was found to have (probably) taken concealed notes into a test. In fact, the notes would not have helped in the slightest, so he/she was let off with a talking to. More common is plagiarism. I regularly spot the odd sentence/quote which has been lifted from somewhere else. If it is more than that, I warn the student. Once I had a whole dissertation which had full paragraphs copied from elsewhere. That student was disciplined by the university and ended up having to re-take the year.

cliffesk5 karma

I regularly spot the odd sentence/quote which has been lifted from somewhere else. If it is more than that, I warn the student. Once I had a whole dissertation which had full paragraphs copied from elsewhere. That student was disciplined by the university and ended up having to re-take the year.

This is so much more lenient than America.. If you get caught plagiarizing in the slightest (whether in a homework assignment, a lab report, a paper), you'll receive an F in the course, a mark on your transcript that you were caught plagiarizing, followed by disciplinary action from the university.

AnotherSecretProf6 karma

It is a problem. I can't comment on discipline in the US. They would certainly receive a poor mark, but I have actually had to argue with students who claim they are not plagiarising (i.e., it is not always clear cut). I thought they were too lenient on the dissertation student.

ClintonCanCount2 karma

I have told this story a few times on Reddit:

Back in grad school, I was teaching intro calc. We did our exams with two versions on two different colors of paper.

One student had, on the green form, wrong solutions to the red form's problems.

He copied off of a neighbor, who had a different color exam, and copied wrong, apparently not noticing they were different problems.

The university did not consider that enough proof of foul play.

AnotherSecretProf5 karma

I think as these comments show, plagiarism detection and enforcement is a big issue everywhere. In my institution we are using TurnItIn or similar, and students know that, but it is still too reliant on professors taking a similar approach, which they don't.

thesprung7 karma

When it comes to learning your subject, how much time do/did you spend learning things on your own to get a more rounded education? i.e. learning something about the subject not taught in class

AnotherSecretProf10 karma

Hmm. Interesting question. I'd have to say that I have a not very well-rounded education (a square education?:) in as much as that I have basically not left academia and am essentially now teaching what I learned as an undergraduate. But there are some caveats there. I've certainly learned research skills which got me where I am and that I was never taught (staying up all night programming for analysis or struggling through an old monograph in my spare time). So I have invested my own time, and most of us do.

This also varies a lot with discipline of course. Some areas are much more vocational and so might require more "well-rounded" experience.

Does that answer your question?

Dumbledof6 karma

How many tweed jackets do you own?

AnotherSecretProf4 karma

None! I'd quite like one though.

roryarthurwilliams5 karma

Do you share the opinion many now have (including former university staff who cited this amongst their reasons for resigning as far back as two decades ago) that universities pander to international students by having lax language requirements etc in order to siphon as many people as possible of their cash with exorbitant international fees? Do you agree that such practices harm domestic students who are forced to do group work with people who can barely speak the same language as them, let alone provide worthwhile contributions to the work? Does this practice devalue the institution and the degree?

Athingymajigg3 karma

As someone who has just graduated from university where there were approximately 50% foreign students on my course, it was not really that big of a problem. The majority of these students could speak English just as well, if not better than most of the domestic students. Admittedly there were a few that really couldn't be understood but the chances of getting grouped up with one of them is much lower than getting grouped up with a lazy sod that could speak English perfectly and did less work anyway.

Besides as we were told many times, a large reason of doing group projects is learning to work with people that you may not get along with or just wont do any work etc. I'm quite likely going to be working with people that cant speak English very well and the very rare occurrences of this has given me some practice in dealing with this situation.

I think there was ONE group project where I was grouped up with someone that I couldn't communicate with in the whole three years that I was there. This was also during the first semester of first year which didn't really matter towards my overall grade. By the time second and third year roll around the students have been in the country for at least a year in which they have usually picked up the language very well.

AnotherSecretProf3 karma

I think roryarthurwilliams is expressing a common problem that people have been having. UK institutions have been very successful in recruiting overseas students and, honestly, I do think that in some cases that has had a detrimental impact for everyone. There was pressure to lower the English requirements in my university, which is ridiculous. I do think that many students benefit from the international environment, but we should take care to support them (e.g., with supplementary language classes or an induction term). One interesting upshot of the change in fees is that there is now less emphasis on international recruitment.

50shadesofmmr5 karma

Hi Anothersecretprof, Iam a phd student in australia and I wanted to know whether the rumour that professors are usually not collegial within academic departments. I have heard stories where academics are usually portrayed as petty and don't get along well with each other. Is it true that professional politics in academia is petty and the atmosphere is very un-conducive for ideas and good research to emerge?

AnotherSecretProf6 karma

Hi, thanks for the question. I think that there is a bit of politics in most departments, and sometimes that gets in the way, but I doubt it is any worse than other professions. My current department is pretty good for that, but here and in most places I have been there is the odd professor (normally senior) who people avoid or who makes enemies by throwing their weight around. But I've also been in very collegiate environments, so it varies. I would say that, particularly early in a career, it is better to make an effort and be collegiate, as I definitely agree it allows ideas and research to emerge.

cressidaa4 karma

1) is it a profession you would recommend?

2) what is your stance on Oxbridge vs other unis? Is there actually that much difference?

AnotherSecretProf8 karma

1). Yes! If you like being a student, and can be motivated and remain interested in your subject, absolutely. The truth is that most PhDs now won't get to be permanent academics, so in a sense I am lucky. There are bad points of course, but I'm glad I am where I am.

2) I suspect there is a bit of a difference, though I don't have much experience there. They are rich in talent and money, making them much more able to compete with world-class and US universities in terms of research. They also have their pick of the students, and they have clung to teaching methods that most other unis cannot provide. That said, there are many other great places to be, and indeed some subjects where Oxbridge is not the best.

cressidaa7 karma

What tips would you give for a student who wanted to become a permanent academic?

AnotherSecretProf2 karma

Well, obviously you have to be devoted to your subject and that takes some hard work. Once you get to (post)graduate level, unfortunately, it is all about publications (at least in my discipline). This means that you should try to submit and publish things early, don't wait until you are finishing your thesis. My other advice would be to collaborate with lots of people, but to not be afraid to drop the collaboration which don't produce results.

qwop2718281 karma

Hey, I've found myself doing a PhD on an experiment which is at a stage where papers are unlikely to be published in the next few years. It's looking like I will have very few, if any papers with my name on by the time I finish.

How vital is it that I publish over my PhD if I want to go into academia? To what extent do you think I can make up for it during postdocs?


AnotherSecretProf2 karma

I suppose it is not vital, but it can be tough. This is obviously a shame, and if you are in a field where projects take a long time to come to fruition there may be less pressure. Another good reason to diversify and network a little (e.g., towards the end of the PhD) is that you can spread yourself a little wider, so if that project you've been working on for 10 years doesn't come off you will have other stuff on the go.

restatic4 karma

Can you operate a projector? I do corporate/government/education AV and I've never seen a group as clueless around technology (and plain common sense) as academics. Is there a disdain in your peer group for common sense?

VexedCoffee3 karma

I work in edtech and can confirm that professors do not know anything about technology!

AnotherSecretProf2 karma

Ha, it depends on the professor and on the tech! I can operate a projector and am fairly computer-savvy, but it varies a lot. I have stood awkwardly while colleagues struggle to load something in front of a class of 200.

Voidbinder3 karma

In what field do you hold your PhD? Did I miss it, or has this really not yet been asked?

AnotherSecretProf5 karma

I'm in a science faculty in life sciences but won't say more than that just now!

mailorderoctopus3 karma

Hi! I'm interested in becoming a professor myself for history. Do you recommend becoming a professor? What's your favorite thing about your job?

AnotherSecretProf4 karma

While it is not a job for everyone, I do recommend it and it has great perks when you get there. I think one of my favourite things about the job is that you can basically be your own boss and keep learning. For example, I recently spent a whole week learning a new technique. I chose to do this, nobody told me to, and nobody really complained that I wasn't doing anything else. That is a real luxury, and while there are many pressures, there are not many jobs which are this self-guided.

alevei3 karma

I am due to begin a PhD in History in 2015. I would love to one day go in to academic teaching and research as my career but I know how few make it. Any advice for me at this early stage?

Thanks for doing this btw!

skedaddle13 karma

I don't want to hi-jack /u/AnotherSecretProf's AMA, but I'm a Senior Lecturer in History at a UK university (finished PhD in 2012) and can offer some advice.

1) You'll need to publish in order to get a job. You should aim to have at least two good academic journal articles published by the end of your PhD. These things take AGES to peer review and work their way through the system, so you should think about submitting to journals as early as you can. Don't wait until your work is finished and perfect - accept the possibility of rejection and jump in.

2) Present your research at as many conferences as possible. A lot of people do just one or two conference papers during their PhD - I did more like fifteen. Some of these were a waste of time, but others led to invites to write articles/book chapters and allowed me to meet people that I'm still working with years later - the problem is that you don't know which conferences will create these opportunities. So, maximise your opportunities and present your work as often as possible. Don't be afraid of reusing material - you can always find a way to tailor it to the specific themes of the conference.

3) Get some teaching experience. You need to balance this with all of your other commitments, but you need to tick as many teaching boxes as possible in order to get a job: run seminars, ask to give a few lectures, mark essays, and seize any opportunity to run a module (particularly if it's one of your own design).

4) Apply for prizes. There are a lot of essay prizes and small grants that are only open to PhD students and Early Career academics. Scope out all of the ones in your field now, then have a plan for when you intend to apply for them. It's so easy to lose track of these deadlines and then miss out on the opportunity to apply for them. Prizes are often linked to articles, so you get a publication out of them too!

5) Develop a social media presence. Twitter is full of historians and can be a great way to get yourself known before you're ready to publish. Consider running a blog.

In short, immediately start to think of yourself as a professional, practicing academic. Do everything you can to maximize your chances when you enter the job market, but be prepared for the possibility that you might not make it - so much of it comes down to luck, and I know lots of brilliant historians who worked incredibly hard and just didn't get the opportunities.

AnotherSecretProf2 karma

Hi-jack away! This is all brilliant advice.

mybrotherisgay2 karma

What's a day in your shoes like?

AnotherSecretProf3 karma

One of the problems I have with my job is that there is no very fixed routine. I will often check emails or do some brief work at home before heading into the office at 8 or 9. If I have a lecture I will prepare and teach and that will take most of my time. Otherwise there might be meetings with students or colleagues scheduled. While at work I might read a paper, procrastinate (reddit), write etc. I try to take breaks though I don't tend to eat lunch. I normally knock off at 5 or 6 and try to cycle or run to work when possible. I will sometimes work a bit at home too, but there is normally some room for something fun in the evening.

thrillho942 karma

What advice would you have for someone about to begin applying for PhDs in the UK beyond grade? (currently on the boundary between 2:1 and first). About to go into a masters year in Physics at a Russell group uni, and currently working at an industry based internship for summer, and I hope to study a PhD in the theory side of physics, although with my current grade that may be a little ambitious!

AnotherSecretProf3 karma

Well, it sounds like you are doing all the right things, so well done!

Obviously degree class matters, but there are plenty of 2.1s who go on to get PhDs. The difficult thing will be getting a funded PhD position, but your experience will help there. Make contact with some academics at your MSc institution and express interest in helping with their research, or just finding out more. That way you will be on their radar, and you will also get to find out what parts of the subject push your buttons. Don't be afraid to email other people in the field at other unis either, then apply for any positions you see advertised.

bizzre2 karma

What was your best moment while in lecture?

AnotherSecretProf9 karma

The only one that I can think of right now is that I showed a sort of demo on the projector and one of the students was so stunned that she started a whole discussion with me which roped in other students who hadn't seen it. This sort of interaction is rare. There was also the time I sneezed into the mic, that was exciting.

namchie2 karma

what is your opinion of the university system in the UK compared to a country like Australia's university system?

AnotherSecretProf2 karma

I know almost nothing about the aussie system, though I suspect it is somewhat similar. The UK system is good, but it is currently going through some changes. Historically it has been very good, but now there is more of a division between research-intensive places and teaching, and more of a move towards the private funding arrangements common in the US.

tinyuglyworld2 karma

It seems that university is now the expected immediate next step after finishing college/sixth form, and as a result there seem to be an abundance of students taking courses that are far more general in their scope of potential application; Do you see this harming the courses that are more specialised in nature?

Also, I'd be curious to know if there are students that manage to claw their way into university through self study without A Levels, or if that's just flat out impossible.

AnotherSecretProf3 karma

I do think that there are issues with university becoming a "default option" that people just glide into. But I'm not sure about the solution, and I don't think that people are necessary going into more general courses. More likely is that people are being steered into more vocational sounding courses (for instance the growth in criminology and ergonomics rather than sociology and engineering). I think there would probably be merits in people taking a bit longer to decide what they want to do. It is rare, but not impossible, for people to come in without A-levels. There are some routes via BTEC and other diplomas.

english-rose873 karma

There are an increasing number of courses to widen access, such as foundation years, for people who wish to study but don't have the 'normal' a-levels. Have a look around if you're interested, it's never too late to learn.

AnotherSecretProf2 karma

Very well said, thanks /u/english-rose87 !

cypres20032 karma

What is your research interests ? Is, by any chance, in the field of CS?

AnotherSecretProf3 karma

as in computer science? No, although I consider myself quite interdisciplinary and have some research which include computational methods and collaborators.

maxyyb992 karma

Do you think university is worth it? In terms of cost vs benefit and etc

AnotherSecretProf3 karma

My short answer is yes. But the long answer is that it depends a lot on what you want to do. Most of the economic analysis suggests that graduates earn more, although the benefits are becoming less because more and more people (in the UK) have a degree. It is much harder to quantify the intellectual and personal growth which people can attain at university. However, it is certainly not for everyone and I know people (students and friends) who would have been better not going.

QuirksNquarkS2 karma

What field do you do research in? How many publications did you have after your PhD? Were they published in what you would consider to be the most reputed journals in your field, second most? Same question but for post-doc?

AnotherSecretProf2 karma

Hi, I'm in life sciences, broadly. I had a few publications during my PhD and perhaps 10 after my postdoc. They certainly weren't in the most reputable journals, but a couple were in good places.

QuirksNquarkS1 karma

What would you say then, were the most important factors in your being hired to your current position?

AnotherSecretProf1 karma

Well, there are three things they care about really. Publications, Grants and, as a distant third, Teaching. I had some pubs and potential to get more, as well as to get some funding.

AceFreebie1 karma

Is it Crow or Jackdaw?

AnotherSecretProf8 karma

They are different birds, right? Shit, what's a Jay?

b154951 karma

If I pay you some money or karma, will you mail me a diploma with my name on it?

AnotherSecretProf2 karma

You know, we don't even do that and a "diploma" is seen as a lesser qualification here. But online study is becoming more and more easy!

theacidbull1 karma

What are your thoughts on the comments made by Tim Hunt concerning female students? http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/jun/11/nobel-laureate-sir-tim-hunt-resigns-trouble-with-girls-comments

AnotherSecretProf8 karma

Hi! I'd have had to be living in a hole if I hadn't seen that story!

I think everyone (himself included) realised that what he said was dumb, and he has been punished for it. There are enough barriers for women in science without dumb (and obviously incorrect) statements like that.

tennis19871 karma

Do you think it's right that Hunt has lost his positions whilst Bahar Mustafa has retained hers?

AnotherSecretProf5 karma

I have to say I didn't know who that was. From a quick google, it seems a very different situation.

I'm in two minds about Hunt. There is a feeling from some that he was harshly treated by UCL. But it is not like he has lost much really, he is in his 70s and will probably still be involved when this all quietens down, he'll still be able to "do science" which is what he should be about.

boatdrinks0 karma

What barriers are there for women in STEM?

AnotherSecretProf6 karma

I'm no expert on this, but there is evidence that women are steered away from STEM subjects from an early age and that this continues in higher education. I don't think sexism is a big problem in my department, but there are aspects of the job which may put off women who could end up making the next breakthrough.

boatdrinks0 karma

...there is evidence that women are steered away from STEM subjects from an early age and that this continues in higher education.

Can you please produce this evidence?

AnotherSecretProf4 karma

I'm detecting that you may have a counter opinion on this, which you are welcome to voice though might be better on a different sub.

Here is a report on young women choosing science in high school: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/68725

Here is a paper on women in STEM in higher education: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272775710000750

letsmakeart1 karma

What made you pursue academia/research as a career?

In HS, when applying to university, I always thought it was something I'd be interested in maybe pursuing. Absolutely wholeheartedly believed I'd at least go to grad school. I'm now halfway through my undergrad and can't imagine spending even an extra day than is necessary in school for my degree.

AnotherSecretProf2 karma

I never intended to do this as a career, and even when I was an undergrad I didn't think about it 'til the end. In some sense, I "fell into it". But I did a research internship and realised that I could get paid for basically doing the same goofy stuff and telling people about it, so apart from all the advantages I've said elsewhere, it was pretty attractive!

FudgeRounds_N_Coke1 karma

Did you receive any pedagogical training during your education? If not, does your university provide that training to lecturers? Do you believe this type of training should be necessary?

AnotherSecretProf3 karma

During my PhD/postdoc, no, I received very little. However it is now much more common to be given training both while being a student and to junior lecturers. In many places you have to do a short course on pedagogy when beginning. If you are a stellar researcher, most places won't care, but teaching performance is definitely becoming more important. I think a little is necessary, particularly if you receive poor student evaluations etc.

sirwobblz1 karma

What should I know about the LSE before moving to London in a couple of months?

AnotherSecretProf1 karma

I don't know a lot about the LSE! Sorry! I think it is a good place though, and combines some really excellent departments with the hustle and bustle of central London.

RepDetec1 karma

Do you wear tweed? It seems like you would wear a lot of tweed.

AnotherSecretProf1 karma

Alas, I don't own any!

lord_dong1 karma

I'll be finishing up my MEng this next academic year, and a funded PhD seems to be on the cards.

What I want from a career is be happy to wake up and go to work, and be able to earn a comfortable wage. I think academia could offer me this.

One thing that's putting me off, is the postdoc positions. It seems that their primary job is to churn out a load of papers, and once they manage to regularly get funding, they can get offered a staff position.

Also, what is your opinion on integrated masters degrees? It takes the same amount of time to do a Bsc, then an MSc as it does for the MEng, its just that the MEng can be funded by student finance. I guess I feel a bit cheated as I've done the same work that someone with a BEng and an MSc, but the MEng is looked down upon in comparison.

AnotherSecretProf1 karma

I don't think you should feel worried about an MEng relative to a separate masters, particularly if you are going onto PhD. If you have a PhD then nobody will care about your masters, and in other avenues I think masters matter less than you might think.

Being a postdoc can be great, you get independence but still get to do interesting work. You are right about churning out papers but in some disciplines there are long term research positions (super postdocs if you like) where you are more secure. In most sciences you need postdoctoral experience to get a good academic job, but there are always exceptions.

wagamamalullaby1 karma

I am currently studying at a Scottish university (3rd year undergrad, moving into 4th in September), and I would love to pursue a PhD. But my degree is an MA, so it's a 4 year degree, but I leave with a masters.

My question is, do academics distinguish between these 2 types of masters: what I am doing ie a 'fake' masters (as I have heard some people refer to it as!) vs a post-graduate masters? And is this degree MA enough to get onto a PhD course?

AnotherSecretProf1 karma

Funny, another question about integrated masters. I think it would be enough, particularly if you have some research interest and experience.

rikkirocket1 karma

Why did you choose to include "Dr." on your business card vs just having your degree (John Smith, Ph.D.)?

pancakes4breakfast5 karma

It's normal practice to address someone with a PhD as "Dr. MyName" in the UK. It would be very unusual to leave it off the business card.

"MyName, Ph.D" is an American style of address and is much more unusual in the UK; I've never seen anyone in the UK use that.

rikkirocket1 karma

I figured that the case which is why I asked.

I know a lot of people in the states that will not refer to themselves as "Dr. Smith" because they don't want it to be implied that they are a medical doctor or use Dr. John Smith, PhD in correspondence because it appears pompous to say that you have a doctorate twice (they would just use John Smith, PhD).

Of course in an academic setting (e.g., class) it would be totally appropriate to address the professor as Dr. Smith when asking a question or something like that.


paulmclaughlin1 karma

It gets a bit confusing, as when medical doctors here in the UK are promoted to consultants, they aren't referred to as Dr Whatever anymore - they're just Mr(s) Whatever.

AnotherSecretProf2 karma

I agree with all this. One of the other questions asked about the "Dr." title. Honestly, whenever I see a book authored by "John Smith, PhD" I automatically assume that they are a quack or it is a pop-science book. I rarely use either, but in a teaching context I am Dr.

Blitz12441 karma

What advice would you give to kids going to college soon?

AnotherSecretProf3 karma

Hmm. Your use of the words "kids" and "college" in that sense makes me think you are in the US system, so my advice may not be super relevant. My advice would be to ignore all the crap piling on pressure about getting a job. Study something that interests you. You will get skills and experience and college/university is a privilege where you can meet great people and have some time to work on something in depth. Make the most of it!

hamid3361 karma

what tax band or range are you in and what age range? could give 5 year range if you want, thanks just curious about money in academia

skedaddle1 karma

Not the OP, but here's the standard pay spine for UK universities (the table shows the figures for the last few years - just look at the right-hand column for the latest ones):


When I got my first permanent lectureship (aged about 25) I was on something like point 31. A promotion to Senior Lecturer (which usually happens after a couple of years in the job) took me up to point 37. Outside of these promotions, you advance one 'point' up the scale each year until you hit a ceiling. At that point, you'd need to have done something to justify progressing to the next band - such as taking on additional admin/leadership responsibilities, publishing, getting grants, etc. The top end of the scale is obviously reserved for senior management and very experienced professors. Most full-time, permanent academics are probably earning between £32,000 and £50,000.

However, in order to earn this kind of salary you have to get a full-time, permanent lectureship. These jobs are extremely difficult to get, and often require young scholars to work for several years as poorly paid teaching assistants and take lots of temporary contracts all around the country. It can be very hard to survive these years, but once you're in the system the salary is fairly good.

AnotherSecretProf3 karma

This is all correct, though the terms may vary a bit between institutions. I am not yet a senior lecturer (soon!) but am around point 39/40 on the spine. I believe we earn a lot less than our US counterparts!

manysams1 karma

I graduated with a 2:2 in biochemistry last year and want to get a job in academic research, maybe as a lab technician at first but hopefully doing my own studies later down the line. What advice would you have for someone like me with poor grades trying to muscle my way into a good lab?

AnotherSecretProf3 karma

Contact someone doing research you are interested in, and ask if you can volunteer first, that way you can get some experience and hopefully convince them that though your grades are not the best you are serious. With experience and a reference then you could apply for paid positions. I suppose you could also think about an MSc.

manysams1 karma

Thank you for the reply! I don't really have the money to work for free or pay for more study, do you think they would accept someone with industrial lab experience? Like a QC or pharmaceutical lab.

AnotherSecretProf2 karma

Yes, I would have thought that relevant industrial experience would be attractive to those looking for a paid RA, and it can't hurt to ask.

imsonottelling1 karma

I don't know if this has already been asked, if so I apologize. But do you have any tips for someone who is interested in pursuing a PhD?

AnotherSecretProf2 karma

Some of this has been covered. You need to have enthusiasm and dedication and show interest in research during your undergrad. Try to build a relationship with a prof, 95% of undergrads do not. And make sure you really want to do it (talking to current PhD students is a good way).

gruntbeefsteak1 karma

Hi there,

Sorry if this has already been asked and also sorry for using you as a career counselotlr but I am stumped. I am just about to complete my masters in psychology and would love to go down the further education teaching route. However I can't for the life of me work out what kind of teaching degree I would need to undertake to teach adults.

What would now be the best thing to do next? And what route did you take?


AnotherSecretProf2 karma

Hi! In the UK, most people in "Higher" education have PhDs. So you would need to think about whether you want to go down a research route (what I did). If you would prefer to teach in a college or A-level or similar, you'd probably want to do a PGCE. Your university should have careers guidance, go talk to them!

karmelaangela1 karma

Are you confident that at the end of the semester your students learned from you?

AnotherSecretProf1 karma

I would say that I am confident that those students who wanted to learn learned from me. My view is that university is about engaging with a topic and I avoid chasing people who don't engage. However, those who do should come away with new ideas and information which they can take further in their own study.

funwithnopantson1 karma

Has your university ever encouraged or implied that it's good to be more lenient when grading/feeding back to international students, at least in the first and second years, as they pay more for tuition? To, for lack of a softer term, treat them as cash cows? Or has this been know to happen?

AnotherSecretProf3 karma

I can say that this has never been implied to me, no. I've commented about international students a bit elsewhere. I think perhaps the "cash-cow" thing happens more at masters level where, for some, there is an expectation that since they have paid they should get a degree whatever. But, our standards are normally upheld and marking is anonymous and I've not seen them treated unfairly leniently.

jod2441 karma

Hi! I'm from the U.K. and about to start a Master's degree after just finishing as an undergrad. I'm thinking of doing a PhD after that and I can't think of anything more perfect than becoming a lecturer and teaching the subject I love. The only thing that is putting me off is the workload and increased amount of bureaucracy and marketisation of universities. The latter issue has particularly been something that my lecturers have said has put them off and one even stated it as a reason he retired. Are these problems that you have encountered yourself and, if so, how did you overcome them?

AnotherSecretProf3 karma

Good question. It is difficult because I don't really know any different. If I had been teaching without any red tape in the 60s I'd probably be pissed off now with my workload. The workload can be high, and you need to balance priorities, but I don't think the bureaucracy is too bad. Maybe talk to a younger faculty member in your area and see how they feel.

sekai-311 karma

What is your opinion on those foreign students who were all recently kicked out of the UK for fear of having faked English Language certificates? More than 12,000 were sent back, some of whom may not have even cheated. A large majority weren't refunded or were promised they would be but haven't received anything.

Also, what do you think can be done to curb the high amount of cheating from students? There are multiple companies in the UK that can produce a guaranteed 2.1 essay within 48 hours for a fee. Are you usually able to tell who's cheated in essays by using techniques like this or similar? How do you handle it if the company denies writing the essay?

AnotherSecretProf2 karma

12,000 sounds like a lot, do you have a source for that?! I'm not familiar with the case, but yes there is an issue with EL testing which could be tightened up a bit. Unfortunately the UK government is generally trying to discourage people coming here, but that is another story…

I think "high amount of cheating" is an exaggeration. In another question we've talked about plagiarism detection. I've never (knowingly) seen an essay that was written by a company (but then I wouldn't know if they were doing what they say). So the best way to get round that is by using exam testing, which most (all?) degrees do. You could get maybe 30% in our degree by paying for someone to write your essays, but sooner or later you would get found out in an exam hall and fail.

cy61 karma

Where do you see yourself in 15 years?

AnotherSecretProf2 karma

Darn, that's deep. I'm not good at planning and am generally not as ambitious as I should be. But enough about my issues…

…I guess I see myself as a more successful professor who is happier and writing books that people read!

cy61 karma

I ask because when I tried to answer the question for myself, the answer worried me. I was full time faculty but finding tenure in a location I wanted to live was too difficult. Also, I felt like the science in my field was essentially a circle jerk. I went into science with ideological pursuits and left because it was a job.

AnotherSecretProf2 karma

I guess I'm still interested and feel free enough to pursue my research that it wouldn't depress me too much if I was still here in 15 years. I have the equivalent of tenure so I have some security and it isn't just a job for me right now.

NeoxGG1 karma

Do you think anyone who has a Masters degree and wants to do research afterwards can success in research?

For example or as a first step doing their PhD

AnotherSecretProf1 karma

I think most people with a Masters can handle the content of a PhD (the "difficulty" if you like). The missing ingredient is dedication and commitment. If you have done a taught masters for a year or two, and are used to being told when to write a paper and what to write it on, you may find a PhD very different. You may need other "hands on" skills too. But, if you are willing to commit the time and stick with it for several years, there's no reason why you can't get a PhD.

specialkkurtis1 karma

Hi, thanks for doing the AMA. Much appreciated.

I'm in my second year of a EngD at UCL and actually having my upgrade viva tomorrow so I'm thinking about my future.

I'd love to stay in academia. I love the environment and love research. However, I'm pretty sure I'm not good enough to be a full blown academic. I've had some success: fully funded, good grades and been published twice, but I just don't feel like I'm good enough.

Questions: * What are the options for someone to stay in academia without being a full blown academic/lecturer? * Do you have any advice for improving my confidence in academia and improving my chances of staying in the university environment?

AnotherSecretProf1 karma

Options for staying without being a full-blown lecturer are probably specific to your discipline. Talk to a faculty advisor or careers advisor at UCL. One thing I would say is, don't get down about "being good enough". I had a student convinced she would never pass a viva (someone told her that once). She passed first time and with flying colours. The good news is that teaching positions are likely to become more flexible, and there is much more awareness that industry and academia should work together. So perhaps you could work in industry but maintain links with a university, or work in university research administration.

peppi_881 karma

I'm just coming to the end of my PhD in New Zealand and looking into postdoctoral work in the UK. I've heard several examples that the work-life balance of postdocs in the US is non-existent, with postdocs being expected to work ridiculous hours, weekends etc. So I was just wondering please what the work-life balance is like for the average postdoc in the UK? I realize it will depend on the research group but just wondering what the overall expectation/ethos is.

AnotherSecretProf1 karma

I think at the top institutions in the US the work is intense, and way more so than in the UK. It is better here, but being a postdoc can be a bit thankless and many work long hours because of competition afterwards. But most of the postdocs I know still have time for leisure!

fiddlyfoodlebird1 karma

Do you have any advice for applying for funded PhD places?

AnotherSecretProf1 karma

Hi, there's been a bit of advice about this in other replies e.g., http://nr.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/3aamss/i_am_an_academic_and_lecturer_assistant_professor/csawu9r

Try to find out as much as possible about the supervisor, the project, and what they want. Read some of their papers and email them, that way you'll be able to show you have what they want in your application.

chawk121 karma

How much emphasis or pride do you take in the rankings published by the Guardian and the Complete University Guide?

Is it something that staff members care about, or is it taken for a grain of salt within your profession?

AnotherSecretProf1 karma

These are mostly something that managers and PR people in the university care about. I wouldn't say I DON'T feel pride if we do well, but academics are a cynical bunch and we know that there are many different ways to calculate and game the rankings, and they don't all reflect our own priorities.

PackerBoy1 karma

Hi, I'm a college student from Italy. I'd be interested to come to the UK for a major after graduating, how does it work in your experience?

AnotherSecretProf2 karma

Hi, I'm assuming you mean for a Masters level degree. There are plenty of international students on many courses, and EU students pay less than non-EU students. You will apply, and may have to prove English language skills. For some people, it works very well!

quinnkitty1 karma

Hi! Quick question from an American student thinking of studying in the UK (as a mature student doing undergrad) - I love the Oxbridge programs in terms of the tutorial style of teaching and campuses for mature students, but I know they are super difficult to get into;are there any other universities who use similar teaching methods?

AnotherSecretProf1 karma

There are not many other universities which offer tutorials in the same way that Oxbridge does (not sure about the mature student arrangements). You could look at Durham or Kings College London, but that is a good question to ask if you go on any open days or talk to any admissions people!

quinnkitty1 karma

Argh! Oh well, I will definitely look at both of those schools. Unfortunately, living in the US and being a poor college student means going to open days just isn't practical. Thanks for the response!

AnotherSecretProf1 karma

Yeah I get that. Many of the institutions will visit recruitment fairs in the US, might be worth looking into where they will be if you want to talk to someone in person.

got_that_travel_bug0 karma

I am in the US an looking to complete my Masters in the UK. I found a program I am very interested at University of Edinburgh (Nationalism), so I've started doing some research, but its so hard to get a non biased answer from the school. My major question is how difficult is it for students from abroad to be accepted into a taught program? As far as my academic record goes, I graduated with my undergrad in 3 1/2 years with 5 honors and a 3.56 GPA.

What time of programs or organizations should I be looking into for funding/scholarships/grants?

Lastly, what tends to be the most frequent issue international students face due to missing a step in the process? to clarify, what is some small issue that just happens too frequently because students are too focused on the big picture?

Thanks for doing the AMA!

AnotherSecretProf0 karma

Why do you think that they would be biased? Surely they want you to come?! I would say that if you are paying fees it is not very difficult to get accepted into a taught program. I'm afraid I don't know how your GPA maps on to our typical grading system, but if you have a reasonably good degree you shouldn't have a problem.

Edinburgh should help you look for potential funding (though it may be hard to come by). Try contacting their International Office if the department is not being so helpful.

I can't think of an obvious "step" that international students miss (and not sure what you mean exactly).

got_that_travel_bug1 karma

Thank you for replying.

By biased, I mean everything is spun in a positive light (obviously), but I guess I am best prepared when I know of the potential negatives, so I can work around them. Clearly a school website wouldn't post anything negative, but I guess I'm looking for honesty regarding the logistical issues that might occur for international students. I should have thought out that question a little bit more, apologies, I will contact the international office.

I guess I do have one other question: In the states, its pretty much expected that grad students work as Teacher Assistants for a small stipend since most programs demand too much time for the student to work a regular job. In general, is this the same in the UK? I would be funding myself and would not be able to live a year without some sort of income, but I know visas can get tricky when it comes to working in another country.

AnotherSecretProf1 karma

Oh, and I see that I didn't answer your question about working visas. Hmm, not sure how that works, you may be able to work part time if you are on a student visa, but you should check that.

AnotherSecretProf1 karma

Hi. There are certainly teaching assistant positions and some research postgraduate funding comes combined with a teaching position. It would be less common for taught masters students to do this, but many will work part time elsewhere, and you could also potentially do your degree part time.

sheath20 karma

I'm in my 6th year as a doctoral student, but my main interest lies in British Literature and I've considered relocating in order to be closer to some vital resources. How difficult is it for someone educated in the US to get a faculty teaching position in the UK? What additional considerations, qualifications, or resources might someone from the US need to take into account? Could you describe the application process?

AnotherSecretProf1 karma

I think it is very feasible for US people to move to faculty positions here, and I have several colleagues who have done so. They generally compete well with UK candidates because PhDs are shorter here and so they often have better CVs. You would want to do a bit more homework about the system over here and the institution (e.g., find out who funds work in your area and how that works). The application process is pretty straightforward and somewhat less arduous than the US, I believe. After an application form, letter and probably some statements about research and teaching, shortlisted candidates will often all be invited on the same day and give a short (<30mins) job talk plus an interview.

VexedCoffee0 karma

How difficult is it for an American to get a funded, humanities related phd position in the UK?

I've looked into it a little bit but it's kind of confusing since your education system is rather different from ours.

AnotherSecretProf1 karma

Hi, I'm not in humanities, maybe /u/skedaddle can chip in. It is probably difficult as PhD funding has declined in the system in recent years. There are basically two possibilities. One, a prof/department has some money for a project and advertises. Two, you yourself contact the prof and apply for something together. Being American shouldn't count you out of either of these things, and if you have a good CV you might look better than an equivalent UK undergrad.

_MissingNo_0 karma

As an American, should I pursue a humanities masters degree in Europe, specifically the UK?

AnotherSecretProf2 karma

Well, I can't really answer that for you! Some advantages might be: that it (could) be cheaper, that you'd get to travel, that it (might) take less time. While I am in favour of learning for pleasure, you might want to think about what you want to do afterwards too, and whether a masters is necessary.

jcw99-1 karma

OP i am slightly suspicious of your proof and the way you answers the questions dose not match the stile the Oxford professors i know would. Please don't be offended but we have too meany fakes hear on redit to just leave it at this. Would you be able to edit and provide additional proof?

AnotherSecretProf2 karma

Is there a system for you to contact the mods or something about this? Sounds like they should be answering this. You can request proof if you want.

To answer your first question, I blacked out the university because I want to remain anonymous (which also makes proof difficult).

To answer your second question, I am more than slightly suspicious of your own style. Is this satire? I don't think it is a spoiler alert to say that I am not an Oxford professor. However, I also don't think you should suggest I am not legit based on my "stile" (sic).

roflocalypselol-2 karma

What's your opinion on the MSAs and rampant antisemitism on campuses? Is it safe for American Jews?

AnotherSecretProf2 karma

I had to google this to find out what it meant. Is this a problem in the UK? I hope not. I think (hope?) it is a tolerant atmosphere in most UK unis.

roflocalypselol1 karma

It is, and unfortunately the BBC and Guardian won't cover it. I was wondering if you'd witnessed anything personally.


AnotherSecretProf1 karma

I've not witnessed anything personally. I think you are implying that newsmax is more reliable than the BBC, not sure about that!

plausible-rationale-9 karma

My brother has his PhD in political science, I have my Juris Doctor. All customs and traditions aside, which of us has a better claim to be called Doctor?

My degree is a professional degree, much like an MD. His is more in line with an "everyone gets a medal" degree. I mean, philosophy? Get your shit together!

Side note: I practice law, he is a director of blah, blah, blah (boring) and associate professor at some hippie liberal land-grant college in the north east which is very highly ranked according to whichever ranking publication they bribed that week. In his field, when he isn't part of some drum circle or whatever the hell else people with doctorates of philosophy do, he is highly accredited, published, quoted and otherwise held in high esteem.

Side side note: if you say me, I'll show him this. If not, he will never get to see all the nice things I had to say about him and his field.

AnotherSecretProf4 karma

Ha ha.

There's plenty of "proper doctor" jokes between me and friends (especially medics). Not that I really care unless you are a TimeLord, I believe that originally Doctor was a term derived from teacher and reserved for those with a PhD by research. And that later it was co-opted by medicine. I'm sure someone will correct me if that it wrong. So I guess I'd say him, though I don't really know what your qualification is.

plausible-rationale-4 karma

Excellent time lord reference.

My qualification is this: my degree says doctor. In plain black text.

Thanks for entertaining me, I hope I was equally.

AnotherSecretProf3 karma

You are most welcome, Dr.