60 year old male reveals hidden age bias in application processes
"I am an assistant lecturer at a British university and was enthusiastically encouraged over several months by my head of department and his Director of Research to apply for a tenured post. Negotiations about the exact nature of my future employment were discussed in some detail, even down to how many days I would work for the department, whether I was likely to produce an REF-able book by the deadline of summer 2013, how much time I would have available to write, and how I might contribute to the department's research aims. At the same time, the head of department started to come under pressure to employ only a candidate with a PhD, because the university wanted to enhance the department's research profile. I do not have a PhD but I have been active in the field all my life, and have in fact published more widely than any other member of staff - not in refereed journals but in professional journals that cover the field in question. When the advert for the job was eventually published, it made possession of PhD an essential criterion, not a desirable criterion, and as a result my application was immediately filtered out of the selection process. A very much younger candidate was chosen, with very limited proven impact."
"PhDs are rather rare in my field, and were even rarer when I was at university. Since the arrival of HEFCE in 1993, however, PhDs are becoming much more common, to the point of now being the minimum entry requirement for even junior or "early career" lectureships. As a result, there is a built-in bias against giving tenured employment to anyone of my age, because I grew up in a climate where PhDs were not expected and not normal."
[This made me feel] "Very, very miserable: I had been given the impression by the staff in this department that their enthusiasm for me would carry me through, and that they really saw me as a fully-functioning future member of staff with a huge amount to contribute. I told my wife that a new phase of my life was about to take off. Even my Director of Research had been delighted at the idea of someone of my age and experience becoming an early career lecturer - an event that could have expanded the nature of early-career academic research as performed by young academics."
"I already knew that the stakes were loaded against people of my age in the jobs market, but I had not realised that this loading was institutionalised and not just personal. Often, people don't choose older candidates because there's a natural tendency to favour the young, who are also more easily manipulated by older staff (especially in the contest for promotion) but also more easily forgiven for mistakes. I did not realise that the bias against older candidates was also a reflection of formal processes."
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