BITTER PILL: Doctoral graduates seeking a career in academia are finding themselves shut out.

Johannesburg - Academics staying in their university positions beyond retirement are good for mentoring younger scholars, but are hogging positions newly qualified researchers need to break into the higher education teaching and research space.

As universities try to strike a balance between making the most of their seasoned academics and “growing green shoots”, doctoral graduates are lamenting the lack of available academic positions.

Last week, it was reported that universities produced hundreds of doctoral graduates a year.

Universities were being urged by the Department of Higher Education and Training to produce more, but there were limited positions for them in academic and research institutions, while industry rejected them as being “overqualified”.

According to the National Research Foundation, 15 300 people graduated with doctorates between 2005 and 2014.

Although the majority pursued doctoral studies part-time while holding down jobs, a number of younger graduates had progressed from junior degrees to PhDs in the hope of breaking into academia.

The doctoral graduates said they had chosen to embark on postgraduate study because of their passion for science and their desire to become academics.

However, they had spent years applying for employment.

They had seldom been called for interviews - let alone been offered a position.

Sunday Independent