Past master with dignified allies

September 2, 2005

Name : Michael Kandiah

Age : 41

Job : Lecturer in contemporary British history and director of the oral history programme, Centre for Contemporary British History, Institute of Historical Research, University of London. I teach and co-ordinate the centre's oral history projects in the areas of British Government policymaking, diplomacy, defence and politics. A project is focused on a "witness seminar", which can best be described as a group interview of individuals involved in a historical event.

Salary : Not quite enough to live on in a very expensive city.

Background : A bachelor in arts in economics and history from the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and a PhD in history from Exeter University.

Working hours and conditions : My hours are flexible, with clusters of very long hours.

Number of students you teach : The institute accepts only postgraduate students. I teach on the MA in contemporary British history and supervise PhD students.

Biggest challenge : Coping with scarce resources while trying to develop projects.

How you solved it : It has not been solved.

Worst moment in university life : When a senior manager was bullying fellow colleagues and me. The person concerned moved on, but not before inflicting a great deal of hurt and damage. Subsequently, I became more active in the Association of University Teachers and found that my experience was all too common.

What is your working space like? A roomy office in Senate House, a fine Art Deco edifice. What university facilities do you use? Libraries, electronic resources and college cafeterias scattered across Bloomsbury.

Do you socialise with people at the university? The majority of people I socialise with are connected with the university.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with professionally? Senior politicians and civil servants, some of whom are very aware of their dignity.

Best excuses for bad behaviour you have heard? The worst excuse comes from academics who justify their appalling behaviour because they "needed to get something done".

Do you interact much with other parts of the university? During term time the Institute of Historical Research regularly hosts history seminars that are well attended by teachers from colleges across the university and from other universities.

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