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Last Updated: Monday, 23 February, 2004, 17:30 GMT
Biologist retrains as gas fitter
Dr Karl Gensberg
The academic is leaving behind research to become a gas fitter
A molecular biologist at a leading university, disillusioned by low pay and a lack of career opportunities, is retraining as a gas fitter.

Dr Karl Gensberg says he is "angry and frustrated" with a series of short-term contracts and a salary that after 10 years had reached 23,000.

The University of Birmingham academic says his career change will improve his pay and his quality of life.

But he says he is deeply unhappy to have to abandon his research.

Lack of security

Dr Gensberg, who will finish his training as a gas fitter in June, told BBC News Online it was not just the pay levels that had pushed him into abandoning an academic career.

Fixed-term contracts, without the prospect of a career structure, and having to "scrounge" for research funding, had left him angry with the state of higher education.

"I just want to have a life - and not to have to keep thinking of ways to get more funding. Pay is an issue, but I couldn't even get a permanent contract," he said.

But he says that he still regrets leaving behind research work which could have benefited treatments for arthritis and cancer.

And he says the lack of security and poor pay facing academics is "enormously damaging" to the overall level of research in the country's universities.

Pay dispute

Dr Gensberg's decision to become a gas fitter was prompted by a chance conversation with the man who fitted his boiler - who, it emerged, was earning much more than the academic.

The University of Birmingham says Dr Gensberg is leaving the university at the end of a fixed-term contract.

This week, across the United Kingdom, the Association of University Teachers is holding a series of strikes and protests against a proposed new pay contract.

University week of protest begins
23 Feb 04  |  Education
Q&A: University pay
23 Feb 04  |  Education

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