The geographies of academic life

The second week of interviews has come to an end, with over half of our data collection complete. I don’t think we’ve reached saturation point yet, although some trends are starting to emerge. One aspect which is particularly interesting is the physical location of academic work and how this is an influence in the working lives of academics.

We are familiar with the need for academics to travel to conferences, often overseas. This form of mobility is difficult for those with any kind of caring responsibilities. Conferences rarely provide childcare and I have yet to hear of any university or funder costing in childcare or other family costs which would be incurred if academics were to take their children to a conference. Our previous post suggested that attendance at events, such as conferences, is important for networking and the development of confidence in research skills.

There is another aspect to academic life which is emerging from the studies – where we live. For many academics, mobility is key – and this may include migrating to another country, or moving within home country. For those with children this mobility can mean moving away from support networks, such as grandparents, who can assist with childcare. Academics who do not live within easy reach of a broader family network must rely on other forms of childcare, including formal paid care and sometimes friends. Of course, there are cost implications of being reliant on formal childcare. In addition, the lack of informal childcare, such as grandparents, may have an effect on academics’ ability to maintain a life outside of work, for example, spending time with their partner.

The distance between home and work is also an important issue for academics. Those who live close to work may be able to make use of nearby childcare. For others, the working day is extended with considerable travel to different sites for example, one child at nursery and an older child at school. How this labour is managed within families can depend on a range of factors, including, working hours, flexibility of work and access to car/public transport.

The interviews are providing an insight into the dynamics of academic working life, parenting and the relationship to men and women’s careers. Looking forward to completing the interviews and becoming immersed in the data!

 

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