Perfect perch for creative night owl

May 27, 2005

Name: Harriett Gilbert Age: 56 Job: Programme director, MA in creative writing (novels), department of journalism and publishing, City University.

Salary: Half the senior lecturer salary (mine's a 0.5 staff job).

What is your background? I'm the author of six novels and have worked for decades as a literary journalist, these days mainly for the BBC World Service for which I present The Word and World Book Club . I've taught at City since 1992 - until last year on the PGDip in magazine journalism.

What are your working hours? My working life is shared equally between the BBC and City. This means that I'm at the university three or more days a week - though mercifully (I'm a bad early riser) I can often drift in late morning as most of my teaching/ tutoring takes place between 6pm and 9pm.

How many students do you teach? The MA runs over two years and accepts 12 students a year. So, I teach and tutor 24 students.

What has been your biggest challenge this year? Launching the MA.

How did you deal with it? By breathing deeply and slowly while completing the innumerable forms involved/being grilled by the innumerable committees involved.

What has been you worst moment in university life? Leaving a large quantity of student work in a taxi. After I'd marked it.

What is your working space like? It would be a beautiful, high, light room, shared with one plant-loving colleague, were it not for the drilling overhead, the rubble being hurled down chutes outside... in short, the noise of rebuilding after a fire at City in 2001.

Which university facilities do you use? The staff canteen for the occasional espresso - or to interview applicants for the programme when the noise in my office is unbearable.

Do you socialise with people at the university? Step out of the university and, whether you turn left or right, 15 seconds away there's a pub. I socialise with colleagues and with students in both. Perhaps too much. The other evening, no sooner had I entered one than the barman was pouring me a glass of Tempranillo.

What is your best excuse for bad behaviour? On my part, or on the students?

Do you interact much with other parts of the university? With individuals in other departments, a few; but not departments as a whole.

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