Don's Diary

February 18, 2000

Chris Banister, former president of the AUT, now back as senior lecturer in town and country planning, University of Manchester. One of the advantages of being president of the Association of University Teachers is that you have a sabbatical year away from your normal work environment. A year may seem short but I have already noticed, on my return to the University of Manchester, that the pace is more manic and the workload heavier than it was just 12 months ago. Certainly, student-staff ratios have worsened, but have we always been so preoccupied by the research assessment exercise?

Monday

Bus a bit late this morning. In the university well before 8am - 25 per cent of the teaching staff in before me. Check my lecture material for my 9am start - find only need to make one further overhead slide. I am running an option, now taken by 50 students.

Finish my lectures by 11am - rush off to a meeting on introducing web-based learning and teaching. Get back an hour and a bit later and put my overhead slides on the web so students can make copies.

A succession of visits by students and bureaucratic items intervene to ensure that of the 100 pieces of first semester coursework I have still to mark, I only get two done. Leave ten hours after my arrival - another typical day.

Tuesday

Will I be able to make a larger hole in my marking today? Morning appears free so with luck ... but urgent priority to sort out - a student feedback. Get five more pieces of work marked.

Attend the afternoon's faculty of arts development sub-committee. I have two roles - as shadow undergraduate dean and chair of the information systems committee. Frustrations of the latter include a university financial model that means for many members of faculty staff the only computers they get are clapped-out machines provided like charity from other parts of the university.

Wednesday

Morning devoted to dissertation supervision. Faculty teaching standards committee in the afternoon - the paperwork is voluminous. The Quality Assurance Agency's supposed "lighter touch" is far from reality.

Thursday

Participate in a focus group on the transport aspects of Manchester's post-IRA bomb redevelopment. A colleague is doing the Thursday afternoon lecture this week so perhaps some marking time ... but need to attend a meeting with the dean about computer support in faculty. We all agree its inadequacy but the solutions are not obvious.

Friday

A day in London on AUT business. The train journey gives me a five-hour opportunity to get work done uninterrupted. Spend time reading and then writing a book review for a journal.

Saturday/Sunday

Type book review into word processor before travelling to a silver wedding party. It is to be a real surprise party arranged by their daughter and we have to dress up in 1970s gear, flares and all. It means an untypical weekend without any academic work to do. Still got that marking to complete ...

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