Greener pastures in the Emerald Isle

NUIG From 1st December 2020 I take up a new post as a Lecturer (‘B’ Above the Bar) in the Business Information Systems group in J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics, National University of Ireland, Galway.  It will be almost 17 years since I was appointed as a Lecturer in the Information Systems Institute (ISI), University of Salford, in January 2004.  Salford was at around No. 50 in the UK rankings at that time, and the IS Group I joined likely No.2 in the country.  As an Early Career Researcher with a new PhD, I was awarded a 30% research allowance, which grew over the succeeding years, hitting 60% at one point.

During those 17 years, however, the ISI was absorbed into the newly created Salford Business School, which experienced many years of poor leadership and low morale.  The institution as a whole has struggled over the past decade, falling in the UK rankings, and times have frequently been quite hard for an IS researcher. Nonetheless, I was promoted to Senior Lecturer, then Reader, during this time, and, briefly, in the past couple of years, to (Interim) Associate Dean Research and Innovation, in the School, and these have been in some ways the most rewarding years of all, with better leadership and better morale.

Yet, due to the decade of austerity in the UK since 2010, having seen my salary fall, in real terms, year in and year out, I will now receive a decent pay rise when emigrating to Ireland, despite my title falling from Associate Dean back down to Lecturer.   Also, the pressures of UK policy for Higher Education seem set to shrink the sector down to a top group of research-intensive universities, in the coming years, with the rest forced either to partner with, or become Further Education Institutions – with little if any research going on in them at all.  Salford – at No.103 in the UK rankings this year – seems more likely to be in the last category, than the first, and my research allowance for this academic year at Salford was set at 20% – the maximum allowed in the School. It will 40% – the standard for a Lecturer (B Above the Bar) – at Galway, in a thriving IS group with a strong research culture.

So, there is push, as well as pull, in my career, to leave an Institution that is struggling against severe headwinds, and to join one – at whatever level – that is already an established and leading research-led University (ranked 238 in the world!).  Equally, I must add, as the UK continues its march off the cliff of Brexit, with the potential for the break-up of the union to follow, and much economic pain with it, the prospect of returning to the EU is extremely welcome.  Finally, I must say, it’s a no brainer, however, when the beautiful Atlantic coast of Ireland is compared to the grim and often depressed urban sprawl of Greater Manchester.  And I’m already used to the rain.

Even when the gain is clear the pain required to get it is often dear and emigrating in the midst of a global pandemic is a challenge in itself.  I’ve got warm feelings of gratitude and comradeship for many of the colleagues I have worked with over the past 17 years, who I now leave behind in Salford, and working relationships I will miss. There are some great people there, and it is a shame for them that things in the UK are as they are.  But the pushes have become too strong for me to bear, and the pulls too enticing to resist, and the time has come for me do what many others have been doing during the years I have given to Salford – to leave for pastures greener.