Papyrophobe seeks splash of colour

November 17, 2006

Name  : George MacDonald Ross.

Age : 62.

Job : Senior lecturer in philosophy at Leeds University and director of the Subject Centre for Philosophical and Religious Studies of the Higher Education Academy. In the latter role, I research into the teaching of philosophy, and advise philosophers in the UK and abroad on how to improve the quality of student learning.

Salary : Less than £50K.

Background : An MA from Cambridge University, which cost me 3 guineas. I have learnt most about teaching by experimenting with different ways of doing things and talking to students.

Working hours : I cherish the flexibility and autonomy of academic life, even though I work long hours.

Number of students you teach/staff you manage : About 30 staff in philosophy and ten in the subject centre; and about 60 students.

Biggest challenge : Writing up my experience of teaching so as to conform to the criteria for a National Teaching Fellowship award.

How you solved it : Ruthlessly excluding anything irrelevant and taking the advice of previously successful nominees. Worst moment in university life: Watching a student receive a marked essay, look at the mark, crumple the essay up and throw it into the wastepaper basket without looking at my carefully written comments. Moral: never write a mark as well as comments on an essay.

What your office is like : My office has just been refurbished by a firm that has no understanding of what academics need, and has a hatred of colour. I am busy subverting their intentions. The most important item of furniture is the desk, and as a papyrophobe, I like to have cleared all paper off the desk by the end of the day. What university facilities do you use? Those for teaching and research. I'm not the sporty type, and I exercise by walking to and from work - two miles each way, over a hill and through Victorian ginnels and an oak wood.

Do you socialise with people at the university? Much less than in the days when liquid lunches were the norm.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with? People who believe that a PhD and a little experience are the perfect teaching qualification. I give them useful ideas they have never thought of before.

Best excuse for bad behaviour : I had a colleague who blamed me for wasting two weeks of his life because he felt compelled to write a detailed refutation of a memo I had circulated.

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