Don's diary

November 26, 1999

Saturday

Several key staff come in to make final preparations for their teaching quality assessment. Seek final statistics on 1999 student entry. Secretary asks: "Do you want sex?" then collapses into tiredness-induced hysteria on realising what she has said. While student statistics are prepared with column headed "sex", decide biologists should stick to using "gender" for nouns.

Sunday

Write introductory talk for TQA, having been advised that it will set the tone of the visit. Send "good luck" email to staff. Have final walk around to make sure building looks tidy. Decide TQA is a good example of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle -

if something is observed, its

properties change.

Monday

Sort out last-minute teaching changes and domestic details. Give lecture and try to keep mind on enzymes rather than impending TQA. Give computer class, then on to pro vice-chancellor's welcome for assessors, then back to school for first meeting. Introductory talk goes well, or are colleagues just being kind? Even remembered to call TQA "subject review". Colleagues contact their observers at the reception - remnants of which provide evening meal for team preparing extra information requested for TQA.

Tuesday

In at 7am to collate information before 8.30am meeting with review chair. Request further supporting evidence from staff. Pick up reviewer for teaching observation. Session goes well and postgraduate demonstrator answers reviewer's questions with apparent aplomb. Go to be quizzed on "Curriculum development, content and organisation" and "Teaching, learning and assessment". Quick sandwich, then greet former students and students' employers. Evening meal is employers' and former students' leftovers.

Wednesday

Like Tuesday, but quizzed about "Quality management and enhancement" and "Learning resources". More information requested. Office looks like landfill site. Meeting with assessors raises several points. Get in pizzas for staff team as no leftovers tonight. Home in early hours.

Thursday

Finalise documents to give to review chair at 8.30am. Further detailed queries from assessors. Try to keep mind on tutorial and problems of a dissertation student. Receive request from review chair to bring final meeting forward. Is this a good sign? Meeting delayed 20 minutes - but end result ideal. Relief and excitement obvious in all staff. Give disorganised speech of congratulations and thanks at party.

Friday

Hear stories of last night's celebrations. Get flowers for secretaries and institutional facilitator. Requested to bid for additional student numbers by next

Tuesday under the quality heading. Find thesis for next week's PhD viva. Smile a lot.

Nigel Brown is deputy head of

Birmingham University's school of biosciences, which received 24 out of 24 in the assessment of its programmes in organismal biosciences.

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