International student visas – response from home office

At the end of last year, Rebecca Finkel and I wrote to Theresa May re her plans to place further restrictions on international students – letter here I didn’t get a response at all – however, this came via Yvette Cooper (Shadow Home Sec). ‘Enjoy’

Dr Katherine Sang

Reference: T369/15

Dear Dr Sang,

Thank you for your e-mail of 05/01/2015 16:20:11 about student visa policy.

It is important to make clear that international students are greatly valued by this Government. It is recognised that they make an important contribution to the UK during their time here, and to making our education system one of the best in the world. We have an excellent offer for international students, and as a result we remain the second most popular destination in the world for international higher education students. We want to continue to attract the brightest and the best.

There is no limit on the number of students who can come to the UK, as long as they can speak English, can support themselves and have a place at a genuine institution. This Government takes every opportunity to emphasise the message that genuine international students are welcome here. Indeed the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister have done so on their visits to India, and the Minister for Immigration and Security also made this clear when he visited China.

Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data for the academic year 2013/14 shows that we have seen a 6% increase (to 165,515) of full time non-EU new entrants to UK Higher Education Providers in the year ending September 2014. Postgraduate research and taught increased by 9% (to 11,030) and 5% (to 90,880) respectively. UK and EU new entrants both increased by just 2% (+15,780 and +1,070 students respectively).

Making sure that immigrants leave the UK at the end of their visa is just as important a part of running a fair and efficient immigration system as controlling who comes here in the first place. The Office of National Statistics estimates that, in the year to June 2014, 121,000 non-EU students entered the UK, but only 51,000 left – a difference of 70,000. This is partly because students are able to extend their Tier 4 visa or switch into another immigration route in-country, and so remain in the UK.  Therefore student emigration or the lack of it is a key driver of overall net migration.

However, we continue to have excellent post-study options, which attract the brightest and the best. There is plenty of scope for students to pursue employment in the UK after completing their studies. Students can apply for a graduate-level job with a graduate salary at a company that has a Tier 2 licence. These students do not count towards the annual Tier 2 limit of 20,700 places, and they do not have to wait for a resident labour market test to be conducted by the employer. That is not all. We have set up a scheme for Graduate Entrepreneurs and doubled the number of places on it to 2,000, as well as creating a new visa for graduates wishing to undertake a corporate internship, or professional training related to their degree. We also allow all completing PhD students to stay in the UK for an additional year to work, gain experience in their chosen field, or set up as an entrepreneur.

Yours sincerely

 [name redacted]

Student Migration Policy


The Labour Party and migration – disappointment and sadness

This is a blog post which has been on my mind for months, possibly more than a year. I am typically quite tribal in my politics and have a history of supporting the Labour Party. Following the General Election in 2010, I joined the Labour Party; I wanted to add my support in monetary terms rather than with just my vote and some minor social media campaigning. I was proud to join the Party and, around the same time, became active in my trade union. Although Ed Miliband was not my first (second or third!) choice for Leader, I have found him impressive at times. Increasingly, with the prospect of winning the next General Election and the emergence of some unsavory forces in British politics, I have become concerned with the direction taken by the Labour party. There are many blog posts I would like to write as a series of open letters to Ed Miliband. The dogged commitment to austerity and cutting public services may well be the focus of a future post. I’m also disturbed by comments around disability. For this first post, I decided to write about migration. I have no hope that this blog will change anything or even that it will be read by many (or any) people. Mostly, I am attempting to find a way out of my own muddled thoughts – not about migration and the unsettling turn taken in British politics. Rather, my current intention is to vote Labour in the next GE but not without reservation. This post and any subsequent are an effort to work though my concerns with the Labour party’s current position and how, if at all, these can be reconciled with my voting intentions. Migration has become a key aspect of British politics. That migration is a problem has become a truism – rarely do we see any senior figure within politics or the media challenging this dominant discourse. I was disappointed this week to see Channel 4 news, usually a reliable source of some serious news, choose to turn to Nigel Farage for commentary on the Charlie Hebdo murders. Giving voice to a man whose political success has been firmly rooted in a false narrative of being a ‘bloke down the pub’ while feeding off (and feeding) paranoia and fear of the Other. As the campaigns for the May 2015 General Election officially start, we can expect to see more of migrants being used to score political points. All parties (with perhaps the exception of the Green Party, more on that later) assume that the electorate is concerned about migration. To promise to curb migration, only let the ‘good’ migrants in, get rid of the ‘bad’ migrants, is to win votes. This is as true of the Labour Party, as it is of the parties on the traditional right. Some migrants are more equal than others In 2013, Ed Miliband promised to cut the number of low skilled migrants coming to the UK from outside the EU; in 2014, this same narrative persisted, only this time with some argued concern for the well-being of migrant workers and the protection of the minimum wage. These efforts are apparently made to combat the growing appeal of UKIP and to retain the working class (male?) vote. Attitude surveys suggest that Miliband’s reading of the electorate is not inaccurate. Approximately 75% favour reducing migration, although this is not new, and attitudes towards different ‘types’ of migrants varies. For example, we see far less resistance to highly skilled migrants than low skilled. My own research shows that highly skilled (white, male) migrants experience some considerable privilege and indeed may even be privileged through the migration process (Sang et al., 2013). Are these the migrants who politicians and the media mean? Blinder and Jeannet (2014) demonstrate that not only do most people think of ‘illegal’ migrants/asylum seekers when discussing migration, the media has an important role to play in these attitudes. Subtle changes in the wording of survey items designed to measure attitudes towards migration result in significant changes in responses. They ask what the impact on attitudes towards migration is when the media perpetually portrays migration and migrants in particular ways. Migration is not going to ‘go away’. Humans migrate for a multitude of reasons. We see huge numbers of people fleeing Syria to escape the civil war. Certain countries are caring for the majority of these refugees, while other, wealthier countries are taking few. Lebanon, already experiencing its own difficulties, expects to host over one million refugees. Fewer than 100 Syrian refugees have been settled into the UK. Upsettingly, the UK Government has also taken the step to withdraw support for search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean. A policy decision has been made to let people drown to discourage others from attempting the journey. A veneer of concern for the well-being for vulnerable people used to push forward an anti-migration agenda. Do we have a responsibility towards those fleeing hardship, war, disease? I would argue we do. This responsibility can be seen from a number of perspectives. Are we (the UK) responsible for the situation that many refugees/asylum seekers face? Would this mean we should feel greater responsibility to support them? What do I want from the Labour Party in regard to migration? I want them to stop perpetuating a narrative – and then a reality – that migrants and migration are problematic. Underpinning this is the notion that there are ‘good’ (white/educated?) migrants and ‘bad’ migrants (not white, uneducated, refugees) whose ‘right’ to be in the UK or value as human beings can be evidenced by economic contribution via the labour market or entrepreneurship. The latest Labour Party pledge begins with a nod towards the value of migration, moving to Britain needs immigration rules that are tough and fair. Labour’s election promise includes denying migrants access to the welfare state for two years. The consequences of this are gendered, as women would be unable to access state economic support to leave abusive husbands if they have ‘no recourse to public funds’. Those who are subjected to domestic violence can apply for leave to remain in the UK, but only if they are not living with their partner. Given that there is no access to welfare support, where would women live in order to be able to apply for leave to remain? Interestingly, the Green Party also calls for less migration (albeit more obliquely). However, they take a different perspective to other parties, who call for limits to the number of migrants entering the country. The Green Party’s focus is to reduce the need for migration through the creation of a ‘fairer world’, while recognising that the C21st is likely to see mass migration as a result of climate change. As such they argue that equality between nation states and efforts to reduce climate change should result in a reduction in migration. There is a recognition of global inequality. We can argue for migration for economic and cultural reasons. I certainly did in a recent (as yet unanswered) letter to Theresa May and Yvette Cooper; however, I wasn’t comfortable doing so. What is lost in the debates around migration is that we are talking about people. People who are fleeing war, looking for more opportunities, seeking relative safety and political freedom, moving to be with family members or are on an adventure. Are we really saying that a person’s value, a right to healthcare, a home, freedom from violence, access to human rights can be determined by which side of a line they were born on? I am disappointed that the Labour party has chosen to follow the herd, perpetuating a discourse of problematic migration with so-called good and bad migrants. Unlike the Green party, there is little engagement with the causes of migration. Despite this, I still want the Labour party to win the next General Election. Sadly, part of this is because I fear greatly the consequences of the alternative – a Conservative government. It’s uninspiring to be voting for the ‘less bad’ option. However, I do find encouragement in promises to abolish the bedroom tax, support for renters and pledges for the NHS. For these reasons I continue my membership of the Labour party and my voting intentions. However, I am disappointed with Labour and am reluctant to enthusiastically support them in the next few months. I hope Labour can find a way to retain its core values while winning the next UK General Election.

Letter to Theresa May re international students

A fully referenced version of this letter was sent to Theresa May (Home Secretary) and Yvette Cooper (Shadow Home Secretary) today.


Dear Home Secretary,

Recent media reports have suggested that your department has backed proposals to make international graduates return to their ‘home’ country before applying for work visas. This is a worrying development which we believe will have significant detrimental effects on the UK higher education sector, the UK economy, and the lives of those involved. As academics employed in UK higher education, informed by many years working with international students, we respectfully set out below why we believe these plans must not be followed, sincerely hoping these concerns and points will be considered in any future decision making.

The UK’s continued reputation for delivering high quality higher education is evidenced through the UK’s significant share of the international student market (approximately 13%).Data from HESA (2012/13) shows the importance of students from outside the UK: 41% of postgraduate research students and 47% of postgraduate taught students are from a non UK domicile. These figures rise when considering full time study, where 71% of postgraduate taught students were from non UK domicile with 40% coming from Asia. It is evident that the fees paid by international students or their sponsors are a key source of revenue for the UK higher education sector. In addition, the Government’s own data points to the billions of pounds which international students bring to the UK economy in fees and living expenses. Any efforts which may inadvertently reduce the number of international students coming to the UK will have significant negative effects on the finances of the sector.

Recent academic evidence has pointed to the successes of previous initiatives to promote UK higher education to international students. Specifically, the importance of UK Government policies for attracting high quality international students from developing economies. Also, a recent Universities UK report (Foreword written Mark Field, MP) also recommends that the Government should enhance efforts to support international students to work in the UK. Further, the internationalisation of higher education opens opportunities for cross-cultural information and knowledge sharing.

Conflating dangerous narratives around migration with international student numbers and subsequent work visas is not in the interests of any government. Research shows the value that the electorate place on international students, with most voters expressing no desire to reduce numbers. Further, most voters recognise the value of international student fees for supporting UK higher education as well as the value of international students in furthering the UK’s excellent global reputation. However, a recent survey from the NUS suggests that most non-EU students already feel unwelcome in the UK as a result of Governmental policies and attitudes towards migration.

Our own experiences as university lecturers show that international students add considerable diversity of experiences and perspectives to the classroom. The knowledge sharing between UK and international students broadens the university experience for both groups. It can be argued that this is the role of education, and we have a duty of care to all students who choose to undertake their studies in the UK. More poignantly, we hear international students sharing their concerns about their future after graduation. Specifically, their fears that they will not be able to work in the UK. For many students/graduates, returning ‘home’ to apply for a visa is undesirable not only for economic reasons, but also political ones. Women students especially have shared their concerns that returning to their ‘home’ country will result in pressures to marry and have children with any hope of a career lost. Anecdotally, students have said that changes to postgraduate visa requirements may affect decisions to study in the UK. Through PhD supervision and personal experience, we know many international PhD students wish to work in the UK and often within research/teaching roles. They wish to undertake research which will be of economic, scientific and cultural value to the UK. These postgraduate students also engage in teaching and supporting undergraduate students in developing not only subject specific skills, but also helping them to prepare for the world of work.

We should be proud of the education we are able to offer international students and the contributions that these students make to economic and cultural life in the UK. Any effort to prevent these graduates from working in the UK after they have completed their studies will damage not only the UK’s reputation worldwide, but also potentially cause unnecessary and preventable harm to the economic sustainability of the UK higher education sector. Further, the UK will lose highly skilled workers who wish to add to the cultural and economic vibrancy of this country. Barriers to post-graduation work visas for international students and the potential subsequent fall in student numbers is not in the interest of the UK economy, higher education sector, and international reputation. We hope that the Home Office will reconsider these proposals.

Yours Sincerely,

Drs Katherine Sang and Rebecca Finkel

Seminar 26th March 1215 Heriot Watt: Reinventing retirement

Information for HW seminar – 26 March 2014 in Esmee Fairbairn Lecture Theatre (EF26) (12.15pm – please bring your lunch!)
Wendy Loretto Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the University of Edinburgh Business School
Reinventing retirement: is it all about work?
Across industrialised nations demographic changes have prompted a raft of policies focused on extending working lives to accommodate primarily the economic, but also the social, costs of ageing populations. This policy focus is summed up in the title of the OECD’s eponymous publication: Live Longer, Work Longer (OECD, 2006).  Government interventions, local labour market demands, together with individual preferences, have led to a ‘loosening’ of retirement, with the traditional model of ‘cliff-edge’ retirement becoming increasingly less relevant. Instead of working full-time up to employer or state retirement ages and then ceasing paid work completely, more people, particularly in their later lives, are engaging in some form of phased retirement, e.g. taking on bridge jobs, becoming self-employed and even ‘un-retiring’ (for an overview, see Loretto and Vickerstaff, 2013). This ‘redefining’ or ‘reinvention’ of retirement (Maestas, 2010) has thus far focused mainly on paid work.
The presentation starts from the premise that this is too narrow a lens to capture the heterogeneity of older workers’ expectations, preferences and behaviours. Significantly, by ignoring other forms of ‘work’ such as volunteering or unpaid care, the current focus serves to marginalise the position of older women. The presentation will draw upon a recent survey of 1500 over-50s in GB, and on other research conducted by the presenter, to examine what retirement means to individuals and the extent to which they are reinventing it.
Wendy Loretto is Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the University of Edinburgh Business School. Hermain research field is age and employment, with a particular focus on changes in employees’ and employers’ attitudes and practices in extending working lives. She is especially interested in the ways in which gender and age interact to affect work and retirement experiences amongst older men and women. Current projects include case study investigation of transitions from paid work to retirement (ESRC/MRC Life-long Health and Well-being Programme). This project links to her second research area – employee well-being at work. She is Co-I on an ESRC seminar series examining Employee Well-being in the 21st Century.

Back again

After about 6 months I am back in Australia conducting the second round of my interviews for this project. Thanks to some careful financial planning I have managed to secure a second trip to Australia and this time in Summer. I landed in Melbourne on the 14th January to incredibly high temperatures. While this should go without saying, I am going to say it anyway – don’t try and do numerous interviews on one day, in different parts of a city, in 40C+ temperatures. Or, if you must, make sure your interview kit includes water, sunscreen and plasters for your feet. Oh, and a hotel room with aircon.

Two interviews in Melbourne with women whose motivations experiences of migration to Australia were vastly different. Then I flew to New Zealand for a holiday. A week in the New Zealand sun, with some wine, sea and good company was restorative and set me up for my time in Sydney. Each week day has included interviews, either face to face or via Skype. These interviews are rather different to my first round and I am still considering why that might be. Certainly those academics whose research considers equality or marginalisation in some form seem to have a greater awareness of their position within their host country. Particularly those who identify as white. Indeed, it is clear that a number of ‘white’ participants do not conceptualise themselves as white – specifically they don’t conceptualise themselves as having an ethnicity as such. I am sure this is similar to Kimmel’s argument that men when they look in the mirror see a person, not a gendered being. However, for some ‘white’ participants, there appears to be a hierarchy of whiteness  – although the data analysis is in very early stages, it seems that a certain form of Anglo whiteness is privileged. Again the data seems to suggest that those migrants who have an ‘interest’ or hobby such as sport (especially team sports) find settling into their host country much easier than those who don’t.

I am presenting the first round of analysis from the early interviews next week at the AIRAANZ conference. I am interested to hear what an Australian audience makes of this data.

Two more interviews to go, conference and then back to Blighty.

Call for interview participants

Call for interview participants: Understanding the experiences of migrant academics

Principal Investigator: Dr Kate Sang, School of Management and Languages, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland ( Funders: The Carnegie Trust and Heriot-Watt University


I am a Lecturer in Management at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh (Scotland) and I will be travelling to Australia and New Zealand in January and February 2014 to undertake interviews with first generation migrant academics. Building on a previous study with migrant academics in the UK[i], this qualitative study will use life history interviews to understand the experiences of migrant academics based in Australia and New Zealand. This is an opportunity to contribute to our understanding of the experiences of academic migrants whose voice is frequently absent from debates on migration and careers, in particular how migratory status intersects with other characteristics to inform these experiences.

The study:

I would like to interview a total of 20 men and women who have migrated to either Australia and New Zealand (from any country) for work or personal reasons and who work as academics in any discipline (at any stage of their career). These interviews will last approximately 60 minutes and will cover:

  • Reasons for migration
  • Career history
  • Experiences of migration and working with academia
  • Work life balance
  • Plans for the future

The study has received full ethical approval from the Research Ethics Committee at Heriot-Watt University. Should you agree to participate, I would like to record the interview to facilitate analysis. Recordings will be professionally transcribed and resulting transcripts fully anonymised to protect the identity of all participants. Participation is entirely voluntary and you are free to withdraw from the study at any time without providing any explanation.

I would like to undertake interviews face to face if possible, although I am also happy to use the telephone, particularly if you are based outside of Sydney, Melbourne, Wellington and Auckland. The dates of my field work are:

15th January Melbourne

21st (potentially 22nd) January, Auckland

24th January to 3rd February Sydney

I would also be very happy to conduct interviews via Skype.

I very much hope you will be able to participate in my study. If you would like to take part please contact me at to arrange a time and date. If you know of other colleagues who would be interested in participating please feel free to pass on this information.

I look forward to hearing from you,


[i] Sang, K., Al‐Dajani, H., & Özbilgin, M. (2013). Frayed Careers of Migrant Female Professors in British Academia: An Intersectional Perspective. Gender, Work & Organization20(2), 158-171.

Gendering the Creative CfP: Gender, Work and Organization Conference (24th to 26th June 2014, Keele)


Gendering the creative: creative work, creative industries, creative identities



Deborah Jones, Victoria University of Wellington, NEW ZEALAND

Kate Sang, Heriot Watt University, SCOTLAND

Naomi Stead, The University of Queensland, AUSTRALIA

Dimi Stoyanova, University of Warwick, ENGLAND

Rebecca Finkel, Queen Margaret University, SCOTLAND


 ‘Creativity’ is the engine of post-industrial ‘creative economies’. This rhetoric encompasses not only specifically designated ‘creative industries’ and ‘creatives’, but also a much wider idea of the ‘creative’ at work in all kinds of organisations and occupations. Contemporary policies –national, regional, industry-driven – have set out to extend, evaluate and monetise the creative. While some of these government initiatives also attempt to address social diversity – including gender – in terms of equal access to work, and of cultural inclusion and exclusion, others do not. Ways of conceptualising creativity may take a wide range of forms, in which both traditional and newer are spliced together. For instance, a romantic framing of ‘arts’ and ‘artists’, based on a distinction between the creative and the industrial, is linked with ideas of art as a vocation, and of the artist as a distinctive kind of individualised genius. A more recent, 21st century vision is linked with the idea of innovation as the key to economic success, and so to workplaces specifically designed to attract and affirm creative talent. Here the ideal ‘creative’ may be imagined as a smoothly-functioning team of passionate and diverse talents.

The construction of gender takes varying forms in relation to the creative. In this stream call, we are approaching both as forms of identity intertwined in specific settings and historical contexts. The‘creative’ is typically constructed so that women do not become the creative stars or geniuses, do not have equal access to creative work, are not equally rewarded, and are subject to various forms of occupational segregation that reinforce these inequalities in both recognition and reward. Processes of gendering the creative are inherent in theories and representations of creativity itself and its relation to the masculine and feminine, and in the industrial, occupation and creative community practices whereby gender influences who has access to which work, and to recognition as creatively successful. Intersecting with gender are constructions of class, race, age and sexuality that complicate and extend privilege and inequality.

In response to the emergence of policy-driven frameworks for mapping the ‘creative economy’, creative work has increasingly been recognised as ‘work’, collapsing creative subjects – artists, technicians, entrepreneurs – into data sets where earnings and occupations can be surveyed. In oppositional mode, critical scholars have increasingly paid attention to forms of creative work, or‘cultural labour’ as aspects of the labour process, and raised questions about the forms of exploitation with which it is associated. Debates about creative work seek to frame it in relation to other kinds of exploitative or precarious work, while maintaining a focus on distinctive features of the ‘creative’. In particular, such research recognises that creative work is not only a type of work of developing economic and political importance, but that struggles over the creative are also struggles over the control of cultural production. However people working in many creative fields often refuse or ignore such analyses, rejecting the notion of creativity as a job. Identifying in various ways as artists with a vocation, they often work in what they see as non-creative jobs, perhaps part-time or intermittent, to fund their creative practice. The distinctions between paid and unpaid work is blurred, and unpaid positions such as ‘internships’ may be institutionalised as a way to get a foot in the door of a creative industry. Or, even if in paid creative work, they may accept low pay, extremely demanding working conditions, and precarious employment. Such patterns are also seen within established professions such as architecture where members often reflect on architecture as a ‘lifestyle’ rather than as a job or career. The language of workplace rights is frequently marginalised or silenced altogether, and forms of collective organising such as unionisation are often unavailable or rejected. In such a context, it is very difficult for women to find a forum or space to raise issues of creative work and gender equality, such as pay, status, recognition, or acknowledgment of family responsibilities.

For this stream, we invite empirical, theoretical or methodological papers that explore the ways that creative work is gendered. The gendered construction of ‘creativity’ can be seen in analyses of women’s employment within creative industries, and of ways that creativity is imagined or represented in a range of occupations and practices. Although the stream is open to any discussion of gender and creativity or creative work, we particularly welcome explorations of specific employment settings or contexts, for example, architecture, film and television, comedy, literature (including poetry) and design. We also call for speculative papers which propose innovative theoretical or methodological perspectives that can further open up studies of how the creative is gendered. We encourage writers to specify their own local contexts in which various versions of gender and creativity play out. We also encourage an interdisciplinary approach, acknowledging that the literatures of work in the creative industries, like the sector itself, have developed in and across a range of disciplines, including cultural studies, sociology and geography, as well as organisational studies. The following list is indicative, although not exhaustive, of likely topics in the stream:

·        Distinctive forms of gendering the creative in different creative sectors: How is gender distinctively constructed in different creative sectors? What are the traditions and organising processes that enable or constrain women in different ways? How are roles within a given sector gendered in terms of status and specific skills? Are there government policies that set goals for gender participation and measure the workforce accordingly?


·        Exceptionalist discourses: How do some creative professions frame themselves as unlike any other profession, as entirely unique and incomparable? What are the gendered consequences of this framing? How does this exceptionalism deflect critique?

·        Embodying the creative: How is creativity is embodied as gendered? How is creativity performed through dress and demeanour, bodily comportment, and body art such as tattoos, as markers of belonging to a‘creative’ sub-culture, of creativity and hipsterism. This question could be addressed by visual methodologies, and other interdisciplinary approaches such s fashion studies and the sociology of clothing.

·        Theorising creativity as gendered: How is the subject of the artist/ creative gendered? How does the (female) muse relate to the (male) genius? How are inspiration, aspiration and the sources of creative ideas gendered?

·        Methodologies for studying gendered creativity: How can we explore innovative methods for studying and understanding the creative industries and creative labour? What methods are most appropriate, for example, visual, aesthetic, ethnographic?

·        Claiming the creative: How are ‘creative’ identities allocated and recognised? How is the‘super-creative core’ constituted in relation to the ‘below the line’ people, i.e. the ‘crew’, support workers, and administrators? What systems are there of awards, grants, training, and networks and how are they gendered? Who are the gatekeepers to these resources and who receives them? Who in a profession or occupation actually gets to be creative at all, and why?

·        Authorship, attribution and credit in collaborative work: What are the gendered implications and effects of these practices? What is the effect of publications, awards and organisations insisting on a single creative figurehead?

·        Intersectionality:How does gender intersect with class, ethnicity, disability, and sexual orientation for those working in the sector? When and how does ‘diversity’ signal ‘creative difference’ as opposed to marginalisation?

·        Against management: What are the gendered effects of tendencies in creative professions to actually and actively resist management and perceived managerialism, including any kind of equity initiatives? How is the rhetoric of egalitarian sociality exploited to foreclose questions of personal patronage and uneven access to resources?

·        The creative profession as cult: What are the gendered effects of some creative industries scenarios of intensive work where your colleagues become your only friends, your romantic and business partners, and your family?

·        Creativity and vocation: What are the effects of the ‘calling’ to the creative professions? How does gender intersect with vocation to intensify sacrifice on the part of women in terms of pay, conditions, status?

·        Imagining and organising gender equality in creative work: What would decent work in the creative sector look like for women? How do women organise in guilds, professional groups, unions or lobby groups to raise issues of gender equality in this sector? How do women organise creative projects with men or other women that open up new opportunities for women to lead, collaborate and develop skills in spaces of great equality?

Abstracts of approximately 500 words (ONE page, Word document NOT PDF, single spaced, excluding references, no header, footers or track changes) are invited by 1st November 2013 with decisions on acceptance to be made by stream leaders within one month. All abstracts will be peer reviewed. New and young scholars with ‘work in progress’ papers are welcomed. Papers can be theoretical or theoretically informed empirical work. In the case of co-authored papers, ONE person should be identified as the corresponding author. Due to restrictions of space on the conference schedule, multiple submissions by the same author will not be timetabled. Abstracts should be emailed to: Kate Sang


Abstracts should include FULL contact details, including your name, department, institutional affiliation, mailing address, and e-mail address. State the title of the stream to which you are submitting your abstract. Note that no funding, fee waiver, travel or other bursaries are offered for attendance at GWO2014.


Presenting this work at conferences

I have been fortunate to present the early findings from the migrant academics study at two conferences. The first was the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion conference (EDI) in Athens at the start of July. As an aside, this is a conference I would recommend. It is very friendly and the range of work presented is inspiring. The feedback I received on my paper was some of the most useful I have received for a conference paper, no doubt because it was a stream specifically for those researching migration. Many of the people in the room were shocked at some of the experiences I had collecting the data and this led to some interesting discussions. Largely people were interested in why some academics felt free to express such racist views and whether these were views participants would have expressed at ‘home’. The feedback also suggested I look at the literature on critical whiteness studies and the social construction of both whiteness and blackness.

These discussion helped me go back to my data and reverse the questions we usually ask – why are there so few women in senior positions? Why are there so few ethnic minority senior academics? etc. Instead, perhaps we should ask ourselves why there are so many white male academics in senior positions. I have some ideas as to how my data may illuminate that, but I need to think it through more before I can expand on that.

Last week I presented a further, theoretically informed, consideration of my data – this time to the Work, Employment and Society conference at Warwick Uni. A different audience this time which included a number of migrant academics. There was some discussion of ‘identity’ and whether this is fixed or flexible with migration. Again the racism expressed by respondents was a cause for much discussion – both in the stream and in more informal chats afterwards.

The next phase is to write up for publication. I have been warned that the work may struggle in peer review given that it critiques the dominant culture in academia. I have experienced how well this can go down with reviewers before, including suggestions that the lack of women and ethnic minority academics in senior roles is because ‘they’ are not good at research. It means I need to identify appropriate journals, within the confines of the ABS list.

Presenting work at conferences can be a demoralising experience, especially if no one turns up. However, these two experiences have helped me consider my data and where I want to take it in future.

Analysing the data

I’ve been back from Australia and New Zealand for just over two months now and I am beginning the process of analysing my field notes. I took very detailed notes during all the interviews, although I will get the recordings transcribed. Now begins the process of identifying the themes which are emerging from the data, as well as anonymising the participants. One tricky bit is remembering the pretend names I made up!

I am enjoying writing up the study. I presented some descriptive data at the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion conference in July. The discussion was fascinating with suggestions that I look at the literature on critical whiteness studies as this may explain some of the things I identified. There have been some interesting discussions around the ‘ranga’ incident and whether it constitutes racism, prejudice or just something I found offensive. Interestingly there have been a number of articles recently about ‘gingerism’. I hate the term, but I do think we need to address why people with my colouring are disparaged and abused by so many. The assertion it is humour or banter makes it hard to fight against, and all the more dangerous. Reducing abuse, bullying etc down to a problem with the recipients’ sense of humour helps to create an environment where mocking the different or the marginalised becomes fair game for humour. It is very hard to argue against the accusation that you just lack a sense of humour.

I hope to present my work at the AIRAANZ conference next year, so currently working out how to get back to Aus and NZ. I would be interested to hear the opinions of those in Aus and NZ, particularly given the critical lens it throws on academic culture.

Back in Blighty

Well here I am back in the UK. I actually landed last week but have spent the last few days doing laundry and all the other delights. Plus catching up with friends, which has been great. I can’t believe this time last week I was on a plane, being driven to distraction by a child kicking the back of my seat.

I had the chance to interview two more academics before I left – both relocated Brits based in NZ. Now I have to work out how to get my recordings off the recorder and off to a transcriber. I have ideas in my head as to what I will write about – hopefully two papers at least – one on academic masculinities and a second on whiteness in academia. I have to decide on appropriate outlets. I have a couple of conferences coming up to help shape my ideas. I am also hoping to present my work at a conference in Australia which I think should be valuable. Unfortunately the semesters and teaching are at odds with the Australian conference season, but hopefully I can work something out.

The next thing is also to consider whether to broaden the study. Should I interview migrant academics in the US for example? Where would I get some funding from? I also have to consider the ongoing projects I have with colleagues which we need to conduct and write up.

I enjoyed my time in Australia and NZ and I miss them both already. The journey home was a bit dramatic, but the price I had to pay for the lovely month before. I am so lucky to get to do these things. I know many feel that academia is a struggle and filled with negativity. Undoubtedly there are unpleasant changes in the sector and we do work in a stressful occupation. Despite this, we get to think and travel. I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to do the work I do. In my talks around NZ I tried to emphasise the pleasures of our line of work and the choices we have to make over the best use of our time. I know not all agree with me, but I feel even more strongly that we work in a sector with considerable benefits, but which we need to remain protective of. The importance of union membership, solidarity with our colleagues and the protection of academic freedoms are key I believe.