Don's diary

November 9, 2001

Not a good start to my first day in a new job. I arrive at work to find I have left my official university tie trailing out of the back door of the car, dragging it through the rain and grime all the way. So I buy a new one from reception, failing to negotiate frequent-user or friends-and-family discount.

My office looks deceptively trim and quiet, as if it is plotting something nasty for me; lots of strange legal documents and a relaxing absence of much to do with student matters. Somebody has anonymously sent me a good luck bunch of flowers, I wonder who?

An epic four-hour meeting from 5pm to 9pm rounds off the day - at least I warned my wife there would be more evening work in this job.

I have finally worked out what most of the keys in the drawer are for. But there is still that strange empty feeling because I have no student cases to deal with. Letters addressed to "university secretary" appear in my in-tray: yes, that must be me.

Following a meeting with the vice-chancellor, I chat to colleagues in the office about what they do - nice bunch. Having been educated in the ways of tea and coffee etiquette, I now know who is really in charge.

I spoke too soon: a sudden student case takes up the rest of the day.

A query forces me to bone up rapidly on property purchase. Scary.

I go down to see former colleagues in Academic Registry and try (unsuccessfully) not to gloat because they are up to their ears in enrolments.

I spend the morning reading (well, skimming) through files in the office, including that of the board of governors. I must remember not to describe myself in public as "clerk to the BoG", and committee papers are certainly not "BoG papers".

Attempts to move my desk to a new position fail miserably. It looked better where it was; to hell with feng shui. Maybe a pot plant for the table though... I must convince myself that work is more important than office layout. On further consideration, I decide I have too much experience of displacement activities to waste it, so I make the coffee.

I have just discovered how many committees I am actually involved with, either as secretary or member: ! I shall probably need more than the two pens and one pencil (broken) that they gave me as a starter kit.

A letter arrives addressed to "university secretart" (sic); well I suppose that must be me too - presumably it comes under "such other duties..."

Three meetings end to end, including induction sessions all afternoon for the new governors - am I teaching or learning?

Gosh, a week gone already. Still, so far so good... only another 597 weeks to go.

John Gledhill was academic registrar at Coventry University for nine years and has just moved to the post of university secretary and clerk to the board of governors. He is author of Managing Students , Open University Press, £15.99.

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