The Department of Sociology and Policy is pleased to announce two vacancies for full-time permanent posts, tenable from 1 February 2019 (or as soon as possible thereafter). One post is available at Lecturer (Grade 8/9); the other post is available at Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, or Reader (Grade 8/9/10).

This blog is intended to provide informal information and advice to prospective applicants regarding what we do, who we are, and the sorts of things we hope that a new colleague will be able to add to our Department.

Our staff and our research
We are a medium-sized Sociology and Policy group, and have expanded rapidly over the past 5 years or so. We now have 14 permanent academic members of staff, alongside three Teaching Associates. Of this staff group 8 are women and 9 are men. Of the promoted staff – senior lecturer and above – 4 are women and 4 men; the Department’s two Professors and one Reader are all men. We would welcome greater ethnic diversity in our staff group; we also welcome staff with disabilities, and will provide support and reasonable adjustments as needed. Aston is a “two ticks” employer, which means that it has committed to offer an interview to all disabled applicants who meet the essential criteria for a vacancy.

Most of the staff group are relatively new to Aston; in fact, only two of us have been at the University for longer than 5 years. So, while Sociology and Policy has a long and distinguished presence at Aston, it feels that we are creating something new and exciting. A number of us live either in Birmingham or within easy commuting distance – some do live further away but tend to find overnight accommodation close to the University for two or three nights a week to ease the strain of commuting long distances. A number of colleagues have young families or other caring responsibilities.

We have a strong commitment to research and an active and rapidly developing research culture. All permanent academic staff are research active, we research in a variety of fields, and our research interests are diverse; take a look at our staff profiles (http://www.aston.ac.uk/lss/staff-directory/). As a staff group, we nonetheless share a commitment to research that is concerned with matters of (in)equality, diversity, and social justice, and have a strong and critical interest in policy, defined in quite broad terms. All of us are interested in the policy or ‘applied’ dimensions to research, and we share an active and growing interest in social research methods and social theory. Many of us have held external research grants from funders like the ESRC, the EU, and the British Academy, and we are achieving notable success with funders from the public and third sectors. The last academic year was our most successful ever for external research funding and we would expect our new colleagues to add to our growing profile of funded research as we go forward.

We are also all committed to developing the Centre for Critical Inquiry into Society and Culture. The Centre provides a focus for our research and allows gives us access to resources to support this, such as those needed for preparing bids for external research funding, or for organising workshops and seminars. We also benefit from the School’s generous provisions for study leave, as well as School support for impact activities, monograph writing, and large grant applications. All academic members of staff have an annual allocation of funds to support conference attendance and other research-related activities. The University has committed to submitting Sociology and Policy to sub-panel 21 (Sociology) for REF2021, which is a very significant endorsement of the growing stature of the Department and to sociology’s long-term future at Aston. Our progress towards REF2021 is strong and our new colleagues will be expected to contribute fully to our emerging REF submission.

Our students and our teaching
Our student body has grown rapidly over the past 8 years and we now have a sizeable body of undergraduate students (around 360 FTE across our programmes). These students are very diverse ethnically and socially, with female students in the majority. We are proud of this diversity and we are strong supporters of the University’s widening participation activities and of an inclusive higher education more generally. A large proportion of our students come from the West Midlands, with many others coming from other large cities around the United Kingdom. They are overwhelmingly state educated. We have a small number of non-UK students, including students from outside of the EU. We have a much smaller number of students on our two taught postgraduate programme, which we are currently redeveloping. We also have a small number of graduate students.
We are all committed teachers and routinely seek to improve our practice. We regularly observe each other’s teaching, many of us hold higher education teaching qualifications or are working towards one, and we organise staff teaching workshops to help us reflect upon what we do and to disseminate good practice. Several colleagues have won teaching prizes, as did the group as a whole when it won an excellence award from the BSA and Higher Education Academy in 2013. Our students are very positive about our programmes and teaching, and we tend to do very well in the National Student Survey in Sociology, and increasingly well in Social Policy. Student assessment of individual modules also tends to be very positive and our teaching is clearly valued highly. Although our classes can be large, we still manage to maintain good everyday relations with our students.
The wider environment
What also makes us distinctive is our position within a relatively small School of Languages and Social Sciences, in which we have regular interaction with staff from a number of social sciences and humanities disciplines – Politics and International Relations, Languages and Translation Studies, English and Applied Linguistics, History. Sociology and Policy staff are involved in a number of collaborative cross-disciplinary research projects and we teach on a number of well-established cross-disciplinary joint honours programmes. The most recent addition will be a joint honours programme in Sociology and History, starting in September 2019, where we are expecting to recruit strongly. We are also working with the newly established Aston Medical School to deliver core teaching in social science and medicine.
In the immediate term, the successful candidate will be asked to teach core courses in Sociology and Policy. However, we are particularly interested in applications from candidates who can help us internationalise our curriculum, develop new programmes, and complement our existing research clusters. We would also welcome candidates with experience in quantitative methods. Teaching will involve a mixture of lectures to large groups, seminars and possibly workshops. We also schedule 4 office hours each week for student consultations, plus time for dissertation supervision and for meetings with personal tutees. The successful candidate will also be expected to take on an administrative role, appropriate to their level of experience and expertise.
If you are interested in applying for our posts, here are some things to consider:
• The key documents in shortlisting will be your answers to the questions on the online application form, which will be scored according to how well you meet the criteria, as well as your CV. Make sure you look carefully at the person specification before applying;
• Remember, we consider our teaching to be very important, so it is worth thinking carefully about how you would ensure Aston students have a challenging and positive learning experience;
• Shortlisted candidates will be invited to Aston for a combined interview and presentation as well as meet and greet sessions with current members of academic staff.
• During this you will want to show that you can communicate you teaching skills and experience in a clear and succinct way, how you would engage students and colleagues, and how you would see yourself fitting in within the research clusters in our department. Normally the first question will be about why you want to work at Aston and so it would be worth giving serious thought to this in advance.
• The date for interviews of shortlisted candidates will be held on Wednesday 28 November 2018.

If you have any questions then please feel free to contact me using the address: g.a.hayes@aston.ac.uk . I’m also happy to chat with you further over the telephone or Skype.

Dr Graeme Hayes, Head of Department of Sociology and Policy (September 2018).