I’m pretty open about the fact that I work for the University of Bradford, inside that building pictured above (usual disclaimer: I can’t speak for them officially and my views may not be the same as those of my employer). And I’m proud to work for them too. Because it’s not just about doing a job and getting paid for it at the end of each month – I get to do a job I enjoy with many other benefits, both monetary and non-monetary.
Today I’m going to write about the many benefits that working for a university can provide. These are mainly based around my own experiences, and may not apply to all universities.
Many companies offer discounts for students. Indeed, British students whose university student union is part of the National Union of Students (NUS) can sign up for an NUS Extra card which typically gets you 10% off in many places.
Some of these discounts are also available to university staff as well. Apple has had an Education Store for many years; whilst its discounts aren’t as wide ranging as they used to be, students, lecturers and staff can save money on Macs, iPads and AppleCare. Microsoft offers Office 365 University, which allows university staff and students a 4-year subscription to Office 365 for £60. Normally, this would cost home users £60 per year, so at 75% off this is a great deal and one that I’ve already taken advantage of.
Bradford also offers its staff discount travel on public transport. Normally, a monthly M-Card would cost me £104.50; instead, the university buys an annual card for me and then deducts around £70 each month from my salary. And staff get cheaper gym membership at the large, well-equipped on-site gym and swimming pool.
And sometimes there are things that you don’t have to pay for at all. Through work, I can access our site license for Adobe Creative Cloud, which means that I’m allowed to install almost any Adobe app on my home computer free of charge, as long as I remain an employee. This includes programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat and others which would normally cost megabucks.
Many universities are part of eduroam, which offers students and staff free wifi at every participating university. So I can go to the University of Manchester and access their wifi using my login details from Bradford – useful when watching bands play at the Manchester Academy. It’s usually encrypted using WPA-Enterprise as well, so it’s safer than most public hotspots. And sometimes it even works in unexpected places, like the coffee shop at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.
On a smaller scale, if you use Dropbox with a .ac.uk or .edu email address, then every time you refer someone to Dropbox, you get double the bonus space. It works retrospectively too.
The less-tangible benefits
The discounts that you get from working at a university are great, but if they’re the sole reason that you choose to work in the university sector then perhaps you need to look again at your priorities. Because there are many other reasons that don’t involve money.
Firstly, you will be working for an organisation that teaches the nurses, doctors, midwives, teachers, engineers, pharmacists, lawyers, dentists, scientists, mathematicians, meteorologists and social workers of the future. These, and many others, are all careers that require a university degree, and as a university employee you will be playing a part in the making of tomorrow’s professionals.
You also get to work with inspiring people. One of my colleagues, Professor Diana Anderson, has been lecturing since the 1960s, is now in her seventies, and yet last year developed a new blood test for detecting certain cancers whilst still lecturing undergraduate students and supervising PhD students. Others have modified an existing cancer drug to make it more effective, or are developing new cancer drugs. Not only my colleagues a joy to work with, but they are doing research that has the potential to save or improve many peoples’ lives in future.
And there are the general benefits of working for a public sector organisation; all staff at Bradford are eligible to join a trade union, and our pension schemes tend to be better as well.
Whilst my employment experience has only been with one institution, I feel that universities are a great place to work for. There’s at least one in every major town and city, and there’s around 5000 job vacancies on jobs.ac.uk, the shared job listings site for the education sector. Have a look and see if there’s anything going at your local university.