Don's Diary

December 21, 2001

February

Attend a long interview with the vice-chancellor in response to my earlier letter asking for a review of my role at the university. After serving more than ten years as dean of school, I need a change, and so does the school.

New blood is essential for an academic institution to continue to thrive. The v-c is not keen on my suggestion that I rejoin the army of teachers in the school, and, having had a love-hate relationship with central bureaucracy over the years, I do not wish to add to their numbers.

With some trepidation, I accept voluntary redundancy. The agreed date, July 31, seems a long way off.

July

The end of my last full week at work - how quickly it has arrived. There is a brief gathering in the school office of those staff still around, which means the admin staff, technicians and a few academics yet to depart for sunnier spots.

I and a colleague are leaving. We decide to support the education of a child in Africa, and the collection of more than £300 means that we have enough for at least two years' donation to the charity we support.

Feel slightly tearful as I recount to colleagues the enormous changes that we have made together over the 11 years that I have been dean of school.

July 28

An email arrives asking if I would be interested in a possible project at a new Nigerian university.

July 30

Drive to York for meeting of the Institute for Learning and Teaching and call in at (what is still) my office. My invitation to colleagues to help themselves to those books left on my shelves has been taken to heart, and almost all have gone. Someone has also taken my nameplate off the door - obviously anxious to make sure that I really do go.

August

I am redundant, no longer dean of school or on the payroll of the university.

Make a trip to the JobCentre to find out how to "sign on". I have visions of that famous scene in The Full Monty with thousands of unemployed workers waiting to be offered nonexistent jobs. The reality is a carpeted room, only two others waiting and a briskly efficient clerk who gives me a "Job Seekers" application form and an interview appointment in seven days. I promise, in the meantime, to search for work.

October

A final briefing in London about the Nigerian project. I have been invited by the governor of Nasarawa state in Nigeria to pay a visit to advise on the establishment of a new state university, to be managed by a British university. I know Nigeria a little, having been there on British Council contracts, and so I am invited as a (no fee) consultant by the charity coordinating this project.

November

Ushered into the governor's lodge in Abuja for dinner and a long discussion about "his" university. His state, a new one, is largely without any higher education, and he has committed himself to establishing a university as quickly as possible. This will be no mean feat, as it is freely admitted that this state has a poor overall educational infrastructure.

Over the next three weeks, I visit the colleges and other institutes in the state. They are staffed by well-qualified and dedicated people struggling with a huge resource deficit. Some colleges were closed during the years of General Sani Abacha's military rule and have only recently reopened after a decade of neglect.

I am enthusiastic about setting up the university, but I wonder if they can avoid establishing yet another heavily underfunded institution that does not give the students the education that they so urgently need.

December

We report our findings to the governor. He is convinced about the value of education in general and the need for a new university in particular. It just has to happen. And, because he says so, it will. I hope they will invite me to be a permanent member of the management team.

David Knibb was formerly dean of the School of Mathematics and Computing at the University of Derby.

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