Carpet tiles and excuses after a night on the tiles

April 27, 2007

Name: Chris Southgate

Age: 42

Job: Senior lecturer in the School of Natural Resources at the University of Central Lancashire. By night I'm director of the Kenyan-based Maasai Centre for Field Studies, a teaching and research facility in southern Kenya used by international student groups for residential fieldwork. Fortunately I don't need to commute - the latter job involves sending countless letters promoting the centre and liaising with schools and universities to develop itineraries and organise logistics.

Salary: My principal position pays about £35,000. My other role costs me a proportion of that sum.

Practical training/ education/ background: BSc (hons) from what was Anglia Polytechnic University; an MPhil from what still is (I believe) Cambridge University; and finally (so far) a PhD from Manchester University.

Working hours and conditions: Incalculable hours preparing for lectures, dealing with students and lying awake at night worrying about the grades I've been promising our programme administrator for the past two weeks. Because part of my job involves taking student groups to locations as exotic as Kenya and the Isle of Wight, it is very difficult to know exactly how many hours are involved. But - and excuse the cliché - the job is what you make it.

Number of students you teach/staff you manage/work with: 150 students across our department, on courses in geography, environmental hazards and environmental management. The number of colleagues I work with seems to diminish every other month, although, in a rather puzzling way, the staff-to-student ratio seems to stay constant.

Biggest challenge/bugbear this year: Being told that my colleagues and Iwere going to have to relocate to a different building just two weeks after my embarrassingly tatty office had been decorated and re-carpeted.

How you solved it: I'll be taking the carpet tiles with me. On principle.

Worst moment in university life: Coming into my office each morning at 8am before it was redecorated.

What is your office/working space like? Now you are rubbing salt into the wound.

What university facilities do you use? All credit to my employer for providing a generally impressive range of resources for the staff and students here. I seem to use the refectory a lot, while my office-mate frequents the gym each lunchtime.

Do you socialise with people at the university? Indeed. Regular post-work meetings to discuss key issues in higher education take place among colleagues; usually in the Lamb and Packet around the pool table.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with professionally and how do you cope with them? I suspect that I'm lucky to work in a profession where "difficult customers" are few and far between. The endless e-mails from companies trying to sell me Viagra and from Nigerian millionaire former ministers trying to offload their wealth on me occupy valuable time, but the "delete" button on my computer is all it takes to deal with them.

Best excuses for bad behaviour you have heard: Most excuses for bad behaviour I hear revolve around excessive alcohol consumption. Students also often offer the same excuse.

Do you interact much with other parts of the university? My colleagues and I are far more involved these days in cross-disciplinary initiatives. Joint delivery of international fieldtrips is the area in which I'm most closely involved.

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