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Equal opportunities

I keep applying for jobs. It has been a constant of my life since before I finished my PhD. While I have been employed most of this period, my contracts have ranged from one year to four months, to part-time, and so I cannot rely on staying employed without applying for jobs constantly.

Even when I am offered a job, I keep applying for jobs until I have a signed contract in my hands, because such offers have been overturned in the past. And once I do have a contract, it is generally for such a short period, and the application process in academia so long, that the work on new applications starts again immediately.

Now, you could legitimately question how academia is helped by young academics using so much of their time on job applications instead of actual research in what could (otherwise) be some of our most productive years. And I could go on at length about that, but it is not my topic today.

Today, I handed in an application to a Norwegian higher education institution which shall remain unnamed because I would like to be offered the job. And before I get to my point, I will say one thing for applications to Norwegian institutions: they all use the same system, which you will recognise as a miracle if you have tried applying for jobs in the UK, where every university seems to stake its pride on having invented a new and more convolutedly strange online application system which requires you to fill in anew each and every time not only all the places you have worked and what you did there, what you have studied and what you studied, and what you have written and where you have talked about what you have written, but also anything from your high school grades and which subjects you studied, to (I imagine through logical extrapolation) a list of your teachers and their grades in descending order. That is rather a long sentence. I apologise: The rant seems to have started prematurely.

Back to my point, the Norwegian online application system ensures that once you have entered your details, you do not have to re-enter them (simply update them if there is something new to add); and you can upload any documents required by the application. It is a wonder. You still have to work on the supporting statement, but it is a wonder.

Today's application used this system. In addition it required you to print out your application and submit it as a paper copy. Not one paper copy, but five paper copies. This in addition to

5 copies of your CV (to a large extent included in the application itself)
5 certified copies of your degree transcripts and certificates
5 certified copies of testimonials
3 copies of up to ten examples of scholarly work
1 copy of a description of said scholarly work
1 copy of a list of published works

Please note in particular the 3 copies of up to ten examples of scholarly work. One scholarly work will generally run to more than the rest of the copies put together. Sometimes much more.

All of this could have been uploaded to the wonderfully wonderful website, but it must be printed off and sent through the post. All of which costs money. Potentially a lot of money, depending on
the length of your academic work
how and where you have the chance to print them and
how far you have to send them.

Multiply any sum with how many applications you have to hand in (the average age for being hired in a permanent position in Norway is well into your 40). The sums can become forbidding.

This is not the first time I have seen this in Norway (less so in Britain, but it is not unheard of), and I thought I'd point out that it is absolutely ridiculously stupid.

I was lucky enough to go straight into a job when I finished my PhD. The job, while consisting of a series of temporary contracts, paid very well by my standards, and I put money aside. In addition, I am married to a man with a permanent job (who came with a printer of his own). And should all else fail, I have two parents with access to moderate resources that I could draw on in a pinch. I am rather privileged. And I find this irksome in the extreme. I cannot imagine having struggled through a PhD only to immediately face the gap in employment, having reached it without the backing of a family with money to spare (and I won't even get into the absurdity of a system that makes you rely on a partner's good fortune in having studied physics rather than English literature). Let's not even get into the possibility of struggling with a family, debts or other complications (disabilities that make it that much more complicated to move about and transport paper, for example).

The end result of what I assume is an attempt to save money on printing costs is to undermine a system which should (emphasis on the should) be based in equal opportunities for all applicants.
Tor, Anja likes this


Anders K.,  01.09.14 21:54

Ah, but don't you know universities love to make people print multiple copies of irrelevant text. It's what they do. It's what they live and breathe for and it's what you'll be doing for the next 40 years if you get this job. It's only natural they would want to filter away the applicants who don't have the boredom stamina to print, envelop and send off excessive amounts of paper with meaningsless information written on it, with no guarantee that it was ever actually useful in any way.

What would happen if they hired someone who might one day stand up and say "Let's do this in an easy way, not the same extremely tiresome way they did it fifty years ago"? I'll tell you what. Chaos would ensue, and a whole lot of uncomfortable situations along with it.
Camilla, Ulf likes this

Tor,  03.09.14 22:15

I had a pleasant surprise about these things when I handed in my thesis. The administration told me that previously, I would have had to send two paper copies to the external examiners, but since that is obviously stupid they now send it out on email instead. Progress!

Anders K.,  04.09.14 21:25

I wish they had email when I went to university. But that was way back in 2005. I remember asking the informations lady if the forms were available online. She started slowly chanting from somewhere in the back of her memory "W ... W ... W ..."

Well, this is nice, I though. They actually have the forms online! This will save me hours!

"Dot ... U ... I ... B ..."

Getting closer, I thought, while elaborately noting the chain of letters in the corner of a paper sheet.

" Dot ... N ... O."

That's it? I've been to the university website, but nobody at all can navigate that place. Everybody knows that! This doesen't save me hours! Don't you have the url for the place where the forms are?

"It didn't work? Did you remember to write w w w first?", she said.
Camilla, Tor likes this
job applications
Last edited by
Camilla, 31.08.14 21:41