Explaining the inner workings of the university to outsiders is complicated enough my family and friends don’t get what the university is, or how it works and often enough the comments that I have “stayed” in university are flung at me as if this is a simple, cosy sinecure. Ignore the fact that we have an incredible series of qualifications (both formal and informal), ignore the fact that we have internal politics, real budgets, tough evaluations and working conditions which do not match our salaries – no other group works for free as much as we do – ignore all that. Just remember that universities can, and do, treat many of their valued workers like shit.
Degree in hand, loans coming due…the degree holder asks a question to which the system has no answer: If I have been a splendid teacher and scholar while nondegreed for the past ten years, why am I suddenly unsuitable? Nearly all of the administrative responses to the degree holder can already be understood as responses to waste: flush it, ship it to the provinces, recycle it through another industry, keep it away from the fresh meat.
Several of my friends have written their PhDs and are still struggling to get fixed jobs in academia despite several years of teaching and research experience. Martin over at Aardvarcheology has written his experiences at getting hired within academia.