Three visiting lecturers explain their motivation

July 21, 2000

Thirty-four-year-old Robert Cole is investment editor at The Times and has taught financial journalism for two hours a week at City University, London, for the past six years.

Cole, previously at The Evening Standard, made his teaching commitment a condition of accepting his new job and is happy that his employers have seen his half morning out as an important philanthropic activity.

"I did the course myself, but the reason I teach on it is because I enjoy it. It's rewarding in terms of seeing people pass on to bigger and better things and one hopes one has had a little to do with that.

"I don't think just anyone can become a lecturer though. To explain an issue to other people one has to possess a good understanding of the subject. Teaching has done me a great deal of good and continues to help in other aspects of my life."

Marcel Berlins, broadcaster and former legal civil servant in the Lord Chancellor's department, has taught media law at City University for the past seven years.

"I teach them about law as it applies to journalists: libel, privacy, copyright and contempt. I only do two hours a week, but what I get out of it is real people. I'm a freelance broadcaster and have a weekly programme, but I write it and say it into a vacuum with no interaction. My column in The Guardian is the same: no interaction. This is one of the few things I do with an immediate rapport. I encourage the students to interrupt because I'm not a formal person and don't read from notes. I get lots of interruption and that leads to discussion and I enjoy that."

Berlins maintains he has a butterfly temperament and so enjoys a portfolio career. He has never been tempted to give last year's lecture as the law changes so quickly. "One is constantly trying to keep up, especially with media law and the internet." Transport engineer Steve Atkins believes visiting lecturers have much to offer engineering students, "who are often fed a rather dry diet of text and maths".

Atkins worked as a university lecturer at Southampton University for 12 years, but now works for Southampton City Council. One of his special fields of research has been the effect of street lighting on urban crime. When he first left, the university did not immediately fill his post so he continued to lecture there. He now gives just one or two lectures a year. "I think someone with a strong academic background who can translate some of the current ideas in the engineering world into language students can understand can make a useful contribution as a visiting lecturer."

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