I made the effort today to read through reports on the spending cuts announced yesterday evening. It’s clear that they are going to have particularly pernicious affects on the poor and the disabled, but I was actually surprised to find that they’ll have a pretty clear affect on my own situation.
Usually I find it hard to register such often vague, veiled and complex economic announcements in terms of my own position, but presumably because the cuts are so wide reaching and so brutal it’s been rather easy to see how this will affect myself and other archaeologists.
On a day-to-day level, the increases in travel costs will make it increasingly expensive to visit my partner in Brighton and will increase the burden of travel costs within London. As these form the third and second largest parts of my budget respectively, this is likely to have a noticeable impact on my day-to-day spending. If it really does result in the predicted 30% rise in costs by the time I finish, that’ll have a major impact on whether I can afford to spend all of my third year in London. If I have to chose to live at home, that’s likely to have a negative impact on my work due to restricted access to books, papers, laboratories and pastoral support.
Considering the longer term and what will happen to me after I graduate the 40% cut to university teaching budgets and the fact that I am a humanities/social science person suggests that the academic jobs I might have hoped for after graduating will be few and far between.
I could fall back to public sector heritage management, which I have been doing on and off between university courses, but I think we all know that’s likely to be disproportionately squeezed. Cultural Resource Managment/Heritage is likely to be seen as non-essential like libraries and youth centres, and unlike them no one sees the HER/SMR or County archaeologist on the high street. The public aren’t likely to protest if HER/SMR staff, who are often on short contracts, aren’t renewed and those centres slowly slip into mothballs. So no job there for me.
I don’t have much experience excavating, but I might pass as a finds or post-ex specialist for a unit. However beyond the large public works still supported by the government (I’m looking at that A11 expansion!) I don’t see a lot of promise for private sector archaeology either. The field hasn’t picked up much since 2009 when redundancies were particular active, and if Osborne’s gamble doesn’t work and the private sector doesn’t pick up the slack then new buildings won’t go ahead and work will be scarce for archaeological units. With a good chunk of archaeology’s well-qualified and experienced work force already unemployed, I don’t fancy my chances hitting that field.
The only ray of sunshine in my job prospects upon graduation is the free museums, which the goverment is continuing to support (for how long I am uncertain). So the British Museum, who actually employ people in my specialisation, is still a good destination. But of course the local museums who run off council support are likely to again suffer the axe labelled ‘non-essential’, so I don’t fancy my chances there much either.
With the predicted 40,000 job cuts for teachers, it’s not even like I could re-train for that!
In short, it looks like a pinch in the short-term, and devastation to the majority of my job prospects in the medium-term. We all guessed the government didn’t value archaeology, heritage or humanities teaching for more than lip-service and its potential for beautiful photo opportunities, but I didn’t expect it to be so clearly demonstrated.