Clocking on and off? I'd vote for that

April 22, 2005

Name: Philip Cowley

Age: 35

Job: Reader in parliamentary government, Nottingham University

Salary: Not enough, but more than my parents earned or expected me to earn. Association of University Teachers publications talk of academic poverty. Strange definition of poverty.

Background: Depressingly predictable - straight into academe via undergraduate and postgraduate studies.

Working hours and conditions: I have an old-fashioned belief in being in the office to work, then relaxing at home. If I ruled the world, academics would clock on and clock off.

Number of students taught: Nottingham is a generous employer with study leave and research support, so I am currently on a year-long sabbatical at the London School of Economics. Students seem like a distant memory - although I occasionally get flashbacks to marking.

Biggest challenge this year: Developing a website to disseminate my research into backbench voting ( www.revolts.co.uk ). We got 35,000 visitors in our first year online - not bad for such a nerdy subject. The recent highlight was breaking the story that Conservative leader Michael Howard had not, as he claimed, voted in favour of 22 weeks for the upper limit on abortion, but had, in fact, voted for 24 weeks.

Worst moment in university life: Probably at Hull University, when they chose not to sack someone who was revealed to have been working as a Stasi agent. That you could so abuse your position and remain in post was a depressing comment on British academe. The university in effect rewarded the person concerned: in return for a small pay cut, he was removed from contact with students for almost two years. Sounded like a good deal to me. So if there is a nasty overseas secret service looking for recruits in the Nottingham area, I'm your man!

What university facilities do you use: Assorted food outlets, the library and I occasionally glance in the general direction of the sports centre.

What is the social life like? Good. I'm part of a relatively young department that is - curiously for academe - full of well-adjusted, pleasant people.

Do you interact much with other parts of the university? Administrative parts? Yes. Academic parts? Hardly ever. Probably should be the other way round.

Next week: Philip Cowley on the dumbing-down of election coverage

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