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Reconfiguring contract research? Career, work and learning in a changing employment landscape

By Tracey Lee, Alison Fuller, Dan Bishop, Alan Felstead, Nick Jewson, Konstantinos Kakavelakis and Lorna Unwin


This paper has been developed from research carried out within the ‘Learning as Work’ project, an ESRC funded multi-sector study in the UK (2003 – 2008)i. It discusses some initial findings from case study research which is focusing on the effects of contractual changes on the learning opportunities, working lives and career expectations experienced by contract research staff within Higher Education (HE) in the United Kingdom. The paper draws on a series of in-depth face-to-face interviews carried out with senior managers, contract research staff (CRS), principal investigators and other key staff members across three faculties, spanning both the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ sciences, in one research intensive university. These are suggesting that it is unhelpful to consider CRS as an homogenous group. Factors relating to the historical relationship between research and career trajectories in contrasting disciplines; the requirements of diverse funding sources; changing expectations regarding ‘work-life balance’; the wider labour market context, as well as the nature of specific departments in terms of management style, priorities and culture, were all relevant to the lived experiences and perceptions of our sample

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