Weighing up Futures: Experiences of Giving up an Academic Career

exiting academia

Associate Professor Ruth Barcan of the University of Sydney is seeking participants for a study about the effects on professional and personal identity when established or aspiring academics choose to leave the profession early or find themselves drifting out of it.

This project is a small-scale attempt to explore via interviews the processes of weighing-up and decision-making involved in the renunciation or divestment of formalised academic work. For some scholars this might come as a concrete decision to leave the profession; for others it might be a process of oscillation or drift that only later comes to function as a kind of de facto decision.

While the project will inevitably canvass the features of contemporary academic life that may be encouraging or forcing people to leave the profession early, its principal focus is on processes of weighing up and decision-making, and the extent to which a sense of academic identity persists after leaving or giving up on academic jobs. It aims to give a fleshed-out view of crucial moments in the negotiation of academic identity and the futures that open out rather than merely to repeat well-rehearsed critiques of the contemporary university.

Who does Ruth want to talk to?

Ruth is interested in hearing the experiences of established academics who have made the decision to leave an academic career; sessional tutors and convenors who have exited the “casual periphery” (Kimber 2003); and recent PhD graduates who were once interested in pursuing an academic career but have decided that it is not viable or not for them; and scholars of all kinds who are in the process of making up their minds.

What is involved?

Participation involves an audio-recorded interview (all names and details anonymised) of approximately 30-60 minutes’ duration. Interviews will be in person, by telephone or via Skype, depending on the participant’s preference and the logistics. Interviews will be conducted by Ruth or by Karen-Anne Wong.

Written responses
Alternatively, given the very large number of response we have received, if you would like to send some responses by email, please download the relevant questionnaire and email your responses to Ruth, along with a signed consent form. Thank you so much!

Further Information

For further details about what participation entails, please consult the Participant Information Statement or contact Ruth on or the project’s interview co-ordinator Karen-Anne Wong on

Ruth Barcan works in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney. She is the author of several works on academic labour, including Academic Life and Labour in the New University: Hope and Other Choices (Ashgate Publishers, 2013). See her profile here.