Great views, good food, lonely work

April 29, 2005

Name: Maurice Howard

Age: Into the fifties

Job: Professor and, until recently, head of Sussex University's department of art history.

Salary: A personal chair four years ago and I did not make huge demands.

Background: No experience of higher education in my family but huge support from them. Local grammar school, history at Cambridge University, MA at the Courtauld Institute, PhD took ten years with a full-time job from the age of 24. Early posts at Pennsylvania State University in the US and St Andrews University, then Sussex. Honorary fellow of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Working hours and conditions: A small amount of teaching but masses of people management: PhD supervision; managing links with partner institutions; curating a university collection; serving on committees; and reading for publishers. Therefore, long hours here and in London.

What students do you teach and what staff do you work with? Undergraduates and MAs. I work with huge numbers of people across the School of Humanities and beyond, but spend as much time working with colleagues outside the university these days.

Biggest challenge this year: Basically, clearing the decks of conference papers, book reviews and so on to get down to the task of completing another book. I find the solitary world of writing a self-absorbed activity and I prefer other means of communication.

Worst moment in university life? When I was warden of a hall of residence at St Andrews, the indignity of standing in night attire shouting at rowdy students at 2am (they were about two years younger than me).

What is your office like? Quite spacious and I have always had rooms with good views: the Sussex campus is one of the most beautiful anywhere.

What university facilities do you use? Fantastic private enterprise food outlets.

Do you socialise with people at the university? My art history colleagues, past and present, have been among my closest friends. But it's hard, when you share profound beliefs and values, to sometimes have to judge and to be judged by the same people professionally.

What is the social life like? I think we all have the sense of loyalty to bars or cafes nearby.

Do you interact with other parts of the university? More and more administratively, less and less intellectually and socially, but I am working hard at creating occasions for the latter.

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