Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Academic Wilderness

*Update: I'm already well over half-way to covering the costs of my registration to attend the International Medieval Congress in Leeds, 2016. Thank you so much! Please help me reach the finish line! See fundraising campaign here.

I've written about this before, but I do think it is worth stating again. Trying to continue to engage with academic pursuits when working outside of academia is so hard. It is far more challenging than I initially thought.When I started my alt-ac job, I thought that I would just be pressed for time to do all the additional things I wanted: publish a monograph, present conference papers, network with colleagues...

While time is always precious, I very naively did not factor in money. Yes, cold hard cash keeps the academic wheel turning and keeps many people on the outside looking in.

While I was a PhD student, there were many avenues to funding different endeavours such as research grants, travel grants, etc. While there are some that apply to those without academic affiliation, they are too few and not well advertised. Now that I am outside of academia, the pressure is really on. Admittedly, I was eager to say yes to opportunities that arose because conferencing and publishing are things that we are told to do if we want to succeed.

I have now found myself in the position of begging strangers for financial help. This feels awful but at some point you have to put your pride to one side. Currently, I have three main academic financial burdens:
  • IMC Registration Costs and Travel: £135 + £80
  • Harlaxton Symposium Costs: £400
  • Monograph Image Permissions: £400
Luckily, there is a potential funding source for Harlaxton. I have applied for a grant for my image permissions. If I don't get that though, I may have to resort to removing the images from my monograph. And, I have resorted to a GoFundMe campaign for Leeds. And since I was invited to present by the Oxford Medieval Diet Group who have helped me immensely in the past, I don't want to let them down. 

This is a plea for more understanding. Conferences offer reduced fees for students, maybe they should do the same for unaffiliated attendees and speakers. Academic publishers rarely pay an advance, but perhaps they should help with image funds where possible. That's wishful thinking, I'm sure, but something has to give! Academic endeavours cannot remain solely the preserve of the academically employed or the rich.


  1. I think perhaps those who are teaching (or working in any area) part-time whilst trying to forge an academic career have more need for this kind of campaign than an individual in full-time employment. Academia is notoriously difficult to get into, and it is fantastic that you are working so hard - juggling full-time work with all these extra projects is no small feat - but 'begging strangers' seems more a reflection of your own personal financial management than anything else.

  2. I absolutely appreciate and take that comment on board. People who are on precarious contracts, adjuncts, or are only paid P/T are obviously more in need of campaigns like this. But I resent the judgement that it is due to poor financial management that someone in full-time employment would need help.

    1. You don't know how much I earn, the expenses I have, potential debt, etc. Really, you cannot go around making such ill-informed statements about strangers' personal finances.

    2. If I get no financial support, the cost of 2 conferences and publication images costs comes to in excess of £1000. Maybe that's not much to you, but it's a lot to me. Especially considering that I am in my first FT job without the backing of savings.

    I am sure there are people more worthy than me, but at least I am trying. And comments like that will only serve to discourage those who seek alternative ways to stay in academia.


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