It seems one of the casualties of higher education reform, and the austere times that pre-empted it, has been working conditions for academics. Writing for Vitae, Rob Hardwick says: “In a culture that accepts and permits unpaid research work and demands outstanding publications, and in a climate of ever tightening research budgets, how long will it be until voluntary postdoctoral positions are advertised?”

It’s a situation feared in the UK – one which is becoming a reality as Charlotte Blease, an early-career researcher tells us, but in the US, the tenure system is said to have “all but collapsed.” A 2010 report by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) speaks of “contingent faculty” - adjuncts, teaching assistant, postdoc researchers and others - and sets out the conditions in which they work: “Faculty serving on a contingent basis generally work at significantly lower wages, often without benefits, and in positions that do not incorporate all aspects of university life or the full range of faculty rights and responsibilities. The tenure track has not vanished, but it has ceased to be the norm.”

[Read more: guardian]