Saturday, bloody Saturday: now it's all right for grafting

'Share' project diarists divulge how they are losing their weekends to work. Rebecca Attwood reports

February 24, 2011

Ah, Saturday...a break from the daily grind, a chance to spend time with family and friends, have some fun, catch up on domestic chores or simply to pause and reflect.

Not necessarily, if you are an academic.

Diaries that university teachers are keeping about their working lives as part of Share, a research project, show that for some, Saturday is just another working day.

"It makes no difference to me whether it's a Saturday or a Sunday or any other day of the week: there is an impossible pile of work to get through (and always some bureaucrat thinks up another blasted form that needs filling)...I inevitably work seven days a week," one diarist writes in an entry dated 15 January.

"I work every weekend during semesters," agrees another scholar.

A third reports rising at 7am on a Saturday to get a head start on their marking, while a fourth expresses resentment about a "three-line whip" from their department to attend a weekend admissions event.

Others point out that the nature of the job means that their work is never finished.

"I do things and think about things connected with work every day of the year...The experiences I have as a professor infuse my entire life," writes one.

Not everyone sees weekend working as a bad thing - it can be "a very fertile work day", and another sometimes spends Saturdays in the office, "mainly because it's quiet".

"I like to think that if I work on Saturday, it's work I want to do, which usually means reading," writes another.

But not all academics share these views - as one diarist in particular makes clear: "I DON'T WORK ON SATURDAYS EXCEPT IN EXTREME EMERGENCIES AND I'D QUIT RATHER THAN ALLOW THAT TO CHANGE."

Other activities, such as family - or football - can take priority.

"A family problem left a small child in hospital and I was literally left holding a baby while mother was away...Family are much more important than work," one reports.

And some like to avoid doing much at all: "I like to sleep a little later. My wife likes to get up and get things done...though I see the value in her agenda, I usually have other things I'd rather be doing (like napping)."

Finally, one diarist fears that by not working, they are failing to live up to the stereotype.

"I almost felt that I ought to at least think about maintain the image of the overworked academic.

"However, to be truthful...I did nothing work-related this Saturday. I spent a good portion of the day clearing up the loft."

The Share project, funded by the Higher Education Academy, is investigating the ways in which academics represent, share and evolve their teaching practices.

Researchers are now looking for university teachers to submit their "stories of change" by 4 March.

"We're seeking stories of educators changing their practice, stories of success or frustration," explained Sally Fincher, professor of computing education at the University of Kent and leader of the project.

For more information or to take part, visit:

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