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Academic Career in Chinese

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I don't have any first hand experience as an academic of Chinese studies, however I have been involved in academia for a while and know a few people who have gone (or tried to) down this route.


Sadly, Tiana's story sounds rather familiar to my ears. In the UK at least, trying to get funding now for a PhD scholarship is incredibly difficult and completing a PhD doesn't guarantee a place in academia as a profession. Even if you do secure some sort of position, they are usually monthly or yearly contracts on a pro-rata basis. As you've probably realised yourself, this is even more difficult in the humanities subjects. As others have pointed out, Universities are trying to cut costs everywhere which means less positions available for academic and lecturing staff. Sciences seem to have a lot more going on in terms of funding and viability of academic careers.


I considered a similar path myself, and you may be braver than me, but personally I didn't like the uncertainty of studying for 4+ more years after my undergraduate without at least a reasonable chance of securing employment. I don't mean to paint such a dismal picture of a career in academia, but I would say definitely at least have a back up plan.


Regarding language ability, depending on your specific research area, I think they would at least expect a high reading level to be able to read native materials. If you're pursuing this in the UK, obviously the majority of your research and publications would be written in English.

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@ LiMo:

I don’t know what “academically fluent” means but the ability to teach and fluency are not necessarily the same. In my case when I was teaching, I exploited my strengths as someone who has learned the language in a systematic, explicit way and also someone who is able to  understand and explain the students’ difficulty; I also exploited the strengths of my colleagues as native speakers of the language for their natural ability in the language.


@ tooironic:

- I certainly don’t ignore the part the university has played but there are better times for me to go into this aspect. And from what I’ve already said, try reading between the lines, if I wasn't explicit enough :). Think also about what I said somewhere in the thread that it’s a smart move by China to use local institutions to do the bidding for them. There are certain reasons that make this a smart move.


- The other thing that you mentioned is the possibility of redundancy. Redundancy is a fact of life but do you really think the fact that the whole team of established staff in Chinese at the university was replaced by a force from outside, completely foreign to the institution is a genuine case of redundancy? And did you read the statement by the British Association for Chinese Studies that I quoted?


If you try going through the thread again, I think you may get better answers for your questions than what I’ve done here.

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Yeah, I thought that might be a bit ambiguous but it garnered the response I was looking for anyway  :D Thanks, that's clear.



Thanks, that's good information. It's a real shame. Perhaps we always feel that we live in the worst of times, but man do employment prospects suck at the moment. :(   I may just continue and hope that my passion and drive will suffice eventually. Here's to hopes and dreams eh!

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I'm about to finish a philosophy PhD. Although it's not Chinese, it's in the same boat. The employment situation in academia is not a cyclical thing. In the humanities very few people are going to get a job that isn't causal tutoring or lecturing. I suspect around one in one hundred PhD's will ever make it into a permanent position. So when people say they're going to try and start a humanities academic career I always chuckle. If you study in order to get a job, especially in academia, do not, ever, ever, ever, study a humanities subject. Doing a humanities PhD is a sacrifice for your personal love and nothing more. I feel that I am lucky because my PhD has never been about finding a job so I will avoid the disappointment others will face.


As for the work life in your average Western university: you actually have large amounts of personal freedom about what research you pursue. Getting funding for it however is a whole other question. Funding is extremely tight and more than likely you'll mainly make your living by teaching large classes of completely disaffected students. You'll have to readjust your moral values too. You'll be under large amounts of bureaucratic pressure to pass plagiarising and illiterate students to keep the numbers and income up. Speaking of, a good part of your time will be taken up doing administrative tasks for the endless "assessment and evaluation" exercises carried out by your government and university bureaucracy.


If you really want to make Chinese an important part of your life while still surviving it's probably best to find a non-academic job that gives you enough free time to pursue Chinese as a personal interest.

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The funny thing is I've been hearing a similar thing from people in the natural sciences (online). Working years at PhDs and post-docs, running up huge debts whilst drawing meagre earnings. Maybe the humanities are even worse. It's a daunting prospect but people do make it don't they. I myself often chuckle at the people who go on these talent shows hoping to be the next big thing. Sad to say I'm starting to empathise with them a lot more. :/

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