Tambourine man with a woolly scarf

May 12, 2006

Name: Paul Elmer

Age: 40

Job: Senior lecturer in public relations at the University of Central Lancashire.

Background: I left school at 16 and worked in journalism and public relations, including for the Government. I also fitted in the odd degree along the way and was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in 2005.

Working conditions: Since becoming a lecturer I have worked every hour God created, sometimes under pressures that I suspect the omnipotent being only darkly imagined. My international online students rarely share a time zone.

Number of students you teach/staff you manage: I manage about 60 students in our training consultancy UK Progress plus 120 more undergraduates, 40 postgraduates, carry out commercial and consultancy work and manage a small team.

Biggest bugbear: The work never ends. When I first started lecturing, a friend said: "Paul, you'll love the teaching, it's just all the rest of it." He was right.

How you solved it: I didn't. Luckily, I have great colleagues, and we pull each other through.

Worst moment in university life: I overstepped my technical ability with a multimedia lecture, started with a proud flourish and plunged the lecture theatre into darkness as it all fused.

What is your office like? It contains a valued colleague, Mary, as well as a small collection of CDs, books, a webcam, a motorcycle helmet and leathers, a student's lost woolly scarf (pink and brown stripes), a collection of coffee mugs and a tambourine I'm not afraid to use.

Do you socialise with people at the university? The coffee bar across the road has broadband and it's a job to get us all out of the place.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with? The few disengaged students who really don't want to be here. I think I'm an inspirational teacher, but if that fails I think that shouting still has a place in a lecturer's armoury.

Best excuses for bad behaviour: Age is the best excuse. How else do you explain second-career university lecturers?

Do you interact much with other parts of the university? Our learning development unit is fantastic - I wouldn't last a week without them. I love working with colleagues in the Netherlands, Slovenia, China and Canada - and UK Progress works for just about everyone, inside the university and beyond.

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