Post-Ph.D Positions in Post-Brexit Britain?

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Well… that was (and continues to be) one hell of a week.

So GB is in a position where the referendum results say that we want out of the EU*. Just like that, whatever stability we had in our government seemed to be knocked over like a 6-year-old losing their tantrum at a game of Jenga. Currencies have fluctuated, the number of reported racist incidents has increased, and various multinational corporations have already started to seek shelter in other countries – temporarily or otherwise. People also seem bemused by the manner in which voting works (i.e. “I voted for leave but I didn’t think it would win!”), and seem to be waking up to the fact that politicians will happily set fire to things and then run away denying that there ever was a fire in the first place … but that’s for another rant.

The world of academia is far from immune to what’s going on. Over this one week, messages have been sent from vice chancellors up and down the country explaining that we need to ‘continue as we are,’ ‘focus on REF,’ ‘look to 2020,’ and the like. Nonetheless, it’s hard to be in a business-as-usual mindset when there’s a 2-year countdown timer that could start at any moment. Given the fact that (understandably) no VC can say for certain if things such as freedom of movement within the EU will still be in place, and the status of EU funding for students (let alone research projects), we tend to err on the side of caution and prepare for the worst. As this wonderfully-constructed website shows, we could be in for a very bumpy ride in academia-land.

All of this was in my mind beforehand, but it really hit home yesterday as I was reading through a new book:

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This a really well structured book, and it covers a lot that really needed to be drawn together in the realm of sign linguistics. There are plenty of examples from numerous sign languages, further readings, and exercises (although all contributors are hearing researchers, which is causing quite a stir in the community…). In short, it acts not only as a great reference guide, but as the superb companion to an undergrad (and maybe even postgrad) sign linguistics module…

…and then I stepped back for a second.

Before Brexit happened, I was concerned about my position of what to do post-Ph.D, as would the majority of doctoral students out there. My dream is to be a lecturer, and reading this book spurred on ideas of how I can create a well-structured, immersive course to get students of linguistics really into this area of study. In the field of linguistics, that’s a pretty hard dream to realise right now, and when you add the fact that the research and funding landscape is now so uncertain, alongside my specialism being in a minority language of the UK, and using a theory that is only studied (and even welcomed) in a handful of locations… then my chances seem to have dropped from “a slight glimmer of hope” to “better luck next lifetime, loser!”

While nothing is set in stone, the outlook seems bleaker than ever.

Of course, I’m more than happy to keep the optimism going for my fellow linguistics colleagues, or any Ph.Der of whatever flavour, but the sum total of recent events coupled with an urge to leave the UK after what was possibly the biggest act of self-immolation ever… yeah.

It’s not a good time to be a (linguistics) Ph.D student in the UK.

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*Disclaimer: I vehemently voted for remaining, and I’m happy to be a 48%er!

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