A master class in avoiding training

September 23, 2005

Academics are happy to undergo training - just so long as you don't call it that. Many see it as an activity beneath them, say university career development experts who are now busy rebranding training programmes as "master classes" or "briefing sessions" to lure staff onto university courses.

This was among the conclusions reached by the first major meeting of members of the newly formed Higher Education Researcher Development Group last week.

The group was set up by Wendy Stainton-Rogers, academic co-ordinator of the Open University's Research School. She said: "Terminology is incredibly important, and we have to be very diplomatic."

She cited a course offered by Pauline Kneale at Leeds University - J"A Chair in 10 Years" - Jas a prime example of how to lure academics. "By calling it that, it brings in the bright young things who would not come if you said, "We are going to train you to get your act together,'" Professor Stainton-Rogers said.

She added that she had set up "consultation sessions" to attract OU staff to training.

Members of the group also called for:

* more rewards for principal academic investigators in universities who manage and mentor

* more "integrated development programmes" backed by senior managers

* "management development programmes" for staff.

Universities should also be more honest with researchers who are unlikely to thrive in academia. "It's a question of being supportive of them and changing the ethos that to go and work outside is not a failure but a choice," Professor Stainton-Rogers said.

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