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The Pequod
Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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New Essay

Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more


Campaign Against PhD Students Being Forced to Work for Free

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Just a quick note to highlight a new Facebook campaign group that has been set up, to share horror stories of PhD students being asked to teach or do other work for free. In the wake of financial pressures, and with a ready surplus of PhD students, some universities are increasingly asking their graduate students to teach tutorials, deliver lectures, and even convene and run entire courses without any payment (or with nominal payment below minimum wage). Universities get away with this by the same branding tactics employed by large corporations which run "internship" programs, claiming that such work is "training" and a necessary route to ultimately paid employment.

Casual contracts have been a blight on the sector for a number of years, and the UCU has a long-running campaign to stamp these out. However, the emergence of this grass-roots Facebook group seems to suggest that the problem is growing rather than being resolved.

As with internships which have received such a bad press in recent months, no PhD student should be asked to work for free, doing the job that lecturers would be paid to do. Even to get to a PhD stage, graduates will have at least a first degree and probably a masters qualification as well. They are highly skilled if junior academics, and deserve to be remunerated accordingly. One suspects that undergraduates paying £9000 a year would be less than pleased to find out that their teachers were being asked to mark work or plan and deliver lessons for nothing. It is in the universities own interests that this practice is stamped out as quickly as possible.

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Posted by Alistair at 8:20 pm

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