Examination of Witness (Questions 160-168)|
WEDNESDAY 3 JULY 2002
160. Pretend you are one of them. What would
(Sir Gareth Roberts) I would say, make sure that you
have a good supervisor. Good supervisors
161. Are hard to find.
(Sir Gareth Roberts) A good supervisor is even more
important than a good project, I think. It really is important
that you work alongside somebody that you can continue to learn
from. You have got to position yourselves to be lucky in this
world and I really say that to all my colleagues.
162. In other words work with the right people.
(Sir Gareth Roberts) Work with the right people that
you continue to learn from.
163. There are people who have come and said,
"I have got a great supervisor and I have learned from them
and everything is just great. I will go happy in two years' time."
Is that it?
(Sir Gareth Roberts) For some people, you know, two
years working with a stimulating person, then going off to the
United States perhaps to seek some new pastures and then trying
to find work where you can exploit that research
164. Ah, brave new world this is really.
(Sir Gareth Roberts) It is. There are opportunities
there. Many of the people who stay in academe, and this goes for
lecturers and professors too, do so because they love their subject.
That is one of the things you always have to remember, that academics
are in a very privileged position very often, that they are working
on the subject that they love and they are paid for itnot
enough, I know. I have said more about that in my report.
Chairman: There are a few of them sitting around
the table who have got pretty fed up in the university system
operating cuts year after year after year, and that is probably
why they are here.
165. Even if people have had the pleasure of
working with an inspirational supervisor, and I was fortunate
enough myself to work with someone who provided me with the enthusiasm
and inspiration and so on that has lasted me the rest of my life,
nevertheless, I think that there were major structural flaws in
the system so even those who are saying, "This is the best
two years of my life and I have been incredibly lucky" would
also say, "That is because somebody protected me from what
was actually a pretty rotten system", and I think to treat
people in the way that we have been hearing this afternoon is
to treat them in a pretty rotten way.
(Sir Gareth Roberts) I agree with you.
166. We cannot legislate or plan for the times
when it goes well. We know it goes well sometimes, but too much
of it goes ill and that is what this Committee is about.
(Sir Gareth Roberts) I do agree with you and we must
not have situations like the ones we have heard of recurring.
As I say, after a couple of years being on probation if you like,
like all people tend to have in industry, a real judgement has
to be made as to what is the best career path for that person.
It really is important that they stay in a job where they can
continue to be challenged. It was Robert Frost I think who said,
"The brain is a wonderful organ. It never stops working from
the time you wake up to the time you get into the office",
and you really need to try and find a job where you can carry
on there and be happy and then you will produce much better work.
I am rather more optimistic than that rather gloomy view I think
that you have heard this afternoon.
167. I do not want to burst that bubble of optimism
but what I do find a little depressing is that you suggest that
things will be changed in two years' time but that that will be
because of an EU directive and because of changes in the requirements
of funding organisations. I would much prefer to see British universities
change their employment practice because it has to be the right
thing to do. I am rather discouraged that you feel it is only
by the application of a large stick from outside that we are going
to get to that point.
(Sir Gareth Roberts) Most people will say of course
at the end of the day that that is why they are doing it. It is
like multi-disciplinary research. Unless you push money in the
way of multi-disciplinary research it does not happen so, although
people might say, "Oh, well, we agree with it", people
will tend to stay in their own compartments. The way universities
have broken out of that is to fund research work only if it is
multi-disciplinary. In the same way I really do believe that money
talks in rewarding human resource strategies. It is going to accelerate
things if nothing else. Like you, I would like to think that all
vice chancellors signed up to this new Concordat.
168. And actually did it.
(Sir Gareth Roberts) And actually did it. When you
have another committee of this kind in three or five years' time,
I hope that the number of instances that you have heard of today
will be reduced to a minimum.
Chairman: Thank you very much for coming. As
you know, we will be putting a report out about education in schools
from the ages of 14 to 19 which we hope will be of some significant
effect too in the next generation of young people. I hope that
the Roberts Report mark two will ensure that there is a world
for them to inherit where research does not get cut off in their
prime. Thank you very much for coming.