11 February 2022

 

The Political Studies Association Early Career Network (PSA ECN) recognises the importance of the forthcoming industrial action undertaken by the University and College Union (UCU). We echo the stance of the wider PSA, in expressing our full support and solidarity to PSA members, ECN members, and other colleagues who will be taking industrial action this term. Colleagues are understandably concerned about working conditions and precarity which many across the discipline are experiencing, especially early career researchers (ECRs). 

These issues are particularly pronounced amongst the experiences of ECRs, including doctoral students whose positions often awkwardly straddle the roles of both staff and student. ECRs face many concerns: from completing their PhDs within their funded period, the insecure contracts they are increasingly employed under, to the pressure of pursuing postdocs, and the generally expensive nature of doctoral studies. Indeed, a ​​survey conducted by Vitae and the Student Mental Health Research Network (Vitae, 2020) highlighted that around two-thirds of ECRs are very worried about their future and finances. The ECN is currently undertaking work to feed into improved understandings and support with regards to the specific concerns Politics ECRs face. 

We also recognise that many ECRs face extreme difficulties in choosing whether or not to take strike action. Precarity can make it costly to speak out and take action against precarity. We emphasise our compassion, support, and solidarity to ECRs whose existing precarious conditions mean that they cannot afford to strike.

We will postpone some ECN activities out of respect to those on strike and to enable them to get involved in the future. 

Our Chair, Taylor Borowetz, adds:

We centre issues of pay, equality, workloads, and casualisation both as they afflict U.K. higher education as a whole, and as they affect the material circumstances of ECRs. Those of us who work as teaching assistants know all too well that our working conditions are students' learning conditions. We are also aware that taking industrial action can disproportionately impact those under financial stress. We encourage everyone, taking industrial action or not, to learn about the issues at hand and help us imagine more just, inclusive, and transformative education.”