Steve Cooke

measuring the boundaries of our nation by the sun

The Oxford Old Boys’ Network


Lincoln College, Oxford UniversityToday, whilst writing my reading reflection I got one of my daily jobs bulletin emails. This one notified me of a post-doctoral fellowship available in Oxford. A post-doc position is something I’d dearly love; I’ve spent the last 10 years doing my degree, MA, and Ph.D. because I’m passionate about learning, research, and education. But especially – research. The problem is, that for someone with a family to help support, very many post-doc positions don’t offer enough. I don’t really mind that so much – after all, I made my choices in life. However, every so often I see a post-doc offered that looks so blatantly exploitative, and so geared toward privileging the rich, that it makes my blood boil. One that I received today was the worst of such adverts that I’ve seen (why do they always seem to come from Oxford or Cambridge?).

Exhibit A:

An institutional affiliation with Oxford is prestigious and useful, as is a post-doc award from there, so no doubt lots of people will want such an opportunity, and it is a significant benefit to their long-term career prospects. But who, other than the already rich can afford to take a one-two year position that only gives access to the Common Room and £200 per year? The answer is – only the rich (I love the little ‘Lincoln College is an Equal Opportunities Employer’ disclaimer at the bottom of the ad). So here’s a fabulous opportunity to further your career in academia, but one that’s completely unavailable unless you’re already wealthy. Well done Oxford for doing so well to combat the impression that you’re a university of entrenched privilege.


Author: Steve C

I work in normative ethics, specialising in animal and ethics and political philosophy.

5 thoughts on “The Oxford Old Boys’ Network

  1. Nice one Steve. How about challenging the ‘Equal Opportunities Employer’ tag? I’m sure that Vice Cable would like to know about it

  2. Hey Steve, I thought I’d stand up for Oxford. The post is for people who already have a post-doc at Oxford, but do not have a college affiliation. It says it here “The Fellowship is intended to provide a College affiliation for someone who has recently finished their doctorate and who will be continuing their scholarly research in Oxford”. That’s what non-stipendiary usually means. So, even if a person had bags of money they probably wouldn’t give it to you unless you already held a research post at Oxford. I like the blog btw!

    • Hi David – good to hear from you, and thanks for the comment. I suppose that they haven’t helped themselves to the charitable interpretation by advertising the post to the world, which is unfortunate. There does seem to be a tendancy for Oxford and Cambridge to offer less and demand more from postdocs and early career academics though.

      • Hey Steve, I’m not sure that’s true. I don’t know about Cambridge, but I think most early career/post docs at Oxford are not demanding in the sense you implied. This is especially true when you compare them to the ‘9 month teaching with no research time’ posts that most other institutions think are acceptable.

      • I suppose it could be that the adverts I’ve seen and the people I’ve spoken with aren’t a representative sample. I’ll keep an open mind, but what I’ve looked at for both institutions so far has really put me off.

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