What’s the scariest thing in the world of higher education? This was the question we put to our Twitter followers on 31 October, expecting to indulge in a bit of Halloween fun.
However, the tweets that emerged under our #HEhorrors hashtag offered some unexpected insights into your workplace fears – from the lighthearted to the deadly serious.
Some tweeters’ higher education fears are surprisingly brief, even for Twitter. “The QAA” is the anonymous @orbette’s nomination, while Ingo Frommholz (@iFromm), senior lecturer in the department of computer science and technology, University of Bedfordshire, plumps for “students”. He is, of course, “just kidding”.
Linda A (@vaibabe), criminology lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, conjures up an image to strike fear into the hearts of any university employee. “The staff kitchen – especially the fridge” is her particular terror. “Writer, workshop leader and coach” Jane Matthews (@janematthews) believes that particular suggestion will get “nods of recognition not just in HE but every office everywhere”.
Andrew Keenan (@andrew_keenan), education and welfare manager at Imperial College London Students’ Union, has some words of warning about his place of work. “The SU bar, filled with sports teams, late on a Wednesday evening” is his nightmare, and he gives the reason too: “#jagermeister”.
Back in Nottingham, Linda A is less concerned about hanging out on student nights – but is worried that the chances of doing so are getting increasingly slim. “Not getting a leaflet about a nightclub as you walk through campus because you look too old” is the second of her #HEhorrors.
Simon Cook (@glacio_cook), lecturer in physical geography at Manchester Metropolitan University, bemoans the amount of “pointless blumin’ paperwork”, while higher education internal audit specialists Uniac (@uniac_audit) think the scariest thing about universities is not their financial accounts, but their toilets.
“Having the departmental photocopier throw a hissy fit when all the people who know how it works are teaching/in meetings” elicits shivers from Liz Gloyn (@LizGloyn), lecturer in Classics at Royal Holloway, University of London, while Charles Musselwhite (@charliemuss), associate professor of gerontology at Swansea University, blanches at the recollection that “you’ve called a student Dave all year, to find out he was actually called Chris as he submits his assignment”.
Others’ fears strike a more serious tone. Kenton Lewis (@kenton_lewis), partnership manager at the Higher Education Academy, worries about “the paying of lip service” by universities “to widening participation and social mobility agendas”, while “hierarchical mission group based snobbery between institutions” also make his #HEhorrors list.
Meanwhile, Anna Notaro (@notanna1), programme leader in contemporary media theory at the University of Dundee, is fearful of academics becoming too conformist. “The scariest moment in HE would be one when academics resign to ‘playing the game’ instead of changing it,” she tweets.
#HEhorrors tweets offer unwelcome flashbacks for David McGillivray (@dgmcgillivray). After reading a few, he says, he was reminded of being back in his “first class as a lecturer trying to read off handwritten notes with shaky hands”. A terrifying thought.
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