I have had similar experiences to those that Toby Miller describes in being told to keep a daily log of his activity (“My university has asked me to keep a diary of my work, and I hate it”, 19 November).
UK institutions fundamentally distrust academics and believe that if they were not monitored and documented via a bureaucracy that reports to another bureaucracy then the faculty would be looting the institution.
Having spent many years at US institutions, I agree that such monitoring would not last a day and 99 per cent of people would simply refuse to do it. When I was at the University of California, Los Angeles, I thought I had seen maximum bureaucracy, but it is almost non-existent compared with the UK, where a faculty member cannot even hand out a syllabus unless it has been checked and validated by some “external examiner”.
I remember being bemused by this and ran into my “external examiner”, who was a senior lecturer at another university. She sheepishly told me that she had to “approve” my course materials (she was, ironically, using one of my books in her class).
The research and teaching excellence frameworks basically tell academics that they are not trusted to do their jobs and that the market for excellence does not work and that a bureaucracy that is mainly filled with academic non-starters and academic failures is more attuned to what excellence is than the people who actually have to compete in that market. So I commend Miller for pointing out yet another absurd aspect of the UK academic scene.