Diaries of doom, gloom and anger

Share survey records scholars' shocked reaction to Browne and the CSR. Rebecca Attwood reports

November 4, 2010

"I burn with indignation", "a grave error" and "incredibly depressing": such are the responses of rank-and-file academics to the Browne Review and impending funding cuts.

Lecturers are keeping monthly diaries about their working lives as part of Share, a research project led by the University of Kent.

In an entry on 15 October, the week in which Lord Browne of Madingley published his report, one diarist writes: "Here, writ large, is the business model of higher education...I am normally an equable sort of person, but this is too much."

Another reports reading about Lord Browne's recommendations in Times Higher Education and concluding that "it seems to mean the almost total privatisation of higher education - depressing stuff".

On the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review, one participant says that they "can't begin to comprehend" the "enormous cut in government spending on HE teaching".

Another predicts that the retrenchment will prove a "probably irrecoverable disaster ... for us all (apart from bankers, financiers and the rest of the rich)...I do not see much future for universities in this country any more."

Equally irate is the lecturer who says many friends are searching for posts outside the UK, and another who writes: "Cutting so brutally so productive a part of the economy sounds like a grave error to me."

Alongside the financial gloom and doom, the diaries also highlight seasonal pleasures, including the ubiquitous start-of-term cold. Other challenges faced during the course of the day include conducting PhD vivas, struggling to learn the names of new students, and dealing with a lack of interest in class.

One lecturer - teaching an advanced mathematics class at 8am - reports finding students "particularly dead this morning", adding that "Friday mornings do not seem to be particularly good for them".

But others discover that students can be too interested.

"One of the new mature students seems to have an Enid Blyton-style schoolgirl crush on me, sending me little notes and cards and telling me how brilliant I am," one academic writes. "I have copied everything to her tutor and asked the tutor and senior tutor to share in her handling so as to dilute her affections!"

The diaries, details of which are revealed in a project newsletter, also disclose end-of-week rituals.

"It being a Friday, three of us decided it was a night for a quiet drink - we call it a juice night."

Another is on the road by 4.15pm: "I can't wait to see my son but I feel a bit desperate about what I haven't got done today - and won't because I will need to listen to his stories about his first weeks at uni. Bugger the guilt for once."

rebecca.attwood@tsleducation.com

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