Cartoon of my Beautiful Career April 2015 – ‘Plus Ca Change’
Since I went on a career break in September 2014 and following my successful M.A. in Fine Art which I completed with a distinction in January 2014 I have worked towards a funded PhD.
This has not been a pleasant experience and after two years and 5 attempts to secure funding I have finally given up. It has cost me my job too.
The experience has taught me a lot about the nature of modern academia which is in some cases profit-driven, incestuous, corrupt and full of cronyism and back-biting.
I have not been successful despite having a reference from the Chicago Professor of Art, being featured in the Times Higher in an article about blurring the lines between art and research, illustrating James Elkins book Artists with PhDs, having several notable conference appearances and my first and so far only paper published as sole author in The Journal of Arts and Humanities in Higher Education as a ‘New Voice’. Finally in November 2014 I was commissioned by R.I.B.A. to write a poem for Edwin Smith Photographer at their London Gallery. This I did and included traditional Harvard Referencing in the final poem..a first for me and again blurring the lines between art and research:-)
Here the time-line of my glorious failure and the reasons I believe behind it.
Summer 2014 : Leverhulme joint application through BIAD unsuccessful but application was regarded as strong.
Winter 2014: Joint 3 Cities and V C Bursary application through my own institution. Not only not progressed but actively discouraged by the Head of Art Research in my own institution who did not like the fact I had illustrated the Elkins book and generally out-performed him along with a little matter to do with academic validity involving a previous Dean’s output. For legal reasons I cannot disclose why I was treated like this but when I resigned I did discuss it with HR and also stated as I my wife employed in the same institution I would rather resign than get embroiled in a long-winded union battle over it. I would also not be fighting the case as the individual’s father had been a high court judge….my chances of winning zero.
HR recognised I had a strong case with witnesses but as they also told me my area (drawing) was not supported as not seen as ‘strategic’ ( Textiles and Fashion is by the way) then I was basically flogging a dead horse..
During my career break I officially notified my Head of Art Research, who had by then taken on the post of the overall Head of Research in School and could thus ensure I received no further support, that I was no longer research active. He was delighted. Career wise this would eventually lead to a teaching only post ( NTU considering having salaries on this ticket to FE rates ..it pure business sense). I was effectively dead in the water re Research if I stayed and was also being asked to teach a subject I know nothing of..Animation..after being denied Graphic Design and Fine Art teaching unless dissertation supervision. I too Graphics for Fine Art and too Fine Art for Graphics or in other words..closed shops.
Hence my resignation and leaving at Xmas 2015 I had no choice.
The applications were very good by the way. I may re-purpose one day. I was on brink of submitting a chapter to a I B Taurus book on Phenomenology of Drawing that now gone.
Summer 2015: BIAD 3 Cities. To see if the treatment was just a local problem within NTU I applied directly through an institution that had previously supported me in the failed Leverhulme bid. I received no reply or feedback from them after applying and still have not received any at all it just disappeared. This despite contacting their art research admin. Cheers.
January 2016: Nottingham University- Horizon Award MRL. My application well written and gained an interview last week. Not offered funding. It may not have been best match and I have no regrets about applying. Set up had changed since a friend went on it and local community arts angle I bidding for seemed to have disappeared and been replaced by a corporate business led PFI type model. Only institution to treat me fairly to date though so bonus points for that! Also there was no age problem with the process as a 61 year old had been successful in past. However if you sending interns into corporate industry a crusty old left-wing artist not the best looking nor the most flexible option if you get my drift…
February 2016: Loughborough – same application was acknowledged as of good quality but unfortunately I did not make it through to the final three out of twenty-five for the one bursary. Why only one? Well Loughborough had chucked rest of money at their shiny London campus international funded Phds….so there you go. To just rub salt in wound they tried to trick me into accepting a ‘unfunded’ Phd by praising my proposal as of good quality unfortunately I know someone else in 25 and basically they chucked it at all candidates. Sprats and mackerels. Of course unfunded means giving them £30K minimum…amazingly generous offer when you think about it. I was impressed too. Cheers. Oh and deadline day of budget in case the new PhD Student Loans made me rethink..sharp practice worthy of a barrow boy there then…
So two years of hard work and effort down the drain and a hugely more cynical view of academia. Not to mention approx £20 K in lost wages.
I can honestly say that a lot of this treatment has to do with some of these institutions especially, in regard to AHRC funds, operating an ageist policy and they are too scared to even reply about it for being found out. Hence the evasive and nasty comments. The latest rumour I heard is that a cut off date of 40 is possible..I know 50 is too old as have heard rumours of a female candidate of that age being denied too. I found an online Scottish Government article where it stated no funding from AHRC would be given after 55 that seems about right and I do believe it come down since. The ‘mission statement’ of the research councils is ‘next generation’ no point funding the poor people who having to work until they are 70 now is it…..
The only challenge in obtaining a PhD has had nothing to do with my ability to do one and a hell of a lot to do with my age of 57 and my gender as an OWM ( Old White Male you know those oppressors from the white middle class). If I had been a woman in the AHRC East Midlands catchment I would probably have been funded by now. Let us leave it at that. The Dean I mentioned above was Head of an AHRC panel for a while …just saying…
As for my subject for Phd and its future the picture above is the book I will write despite all this and if I have to will self-publish.
If after that I turn out to be the British Ranciere after all all I can say to the above institutions is
‘Bye and Thanks for all the fish’
The same comment that led my resignation letter from NTU last September.
Farewell Academia hello reality.