The difficulties of digging up files

November 4, 2005

Name : Roger White

Age : 46

Job : Senior lecturer and deputy director of the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity at Birmingham University, and aca-demic director of the Ironbridge Institute. I'm responsible for developing postgraduate teaching and research. I also work for the university's commercial offshoot, Birmingham Archaeology.

Background : Degrees from Liverpool University in ancient and medieval history and archaeology and a PhD from Liverpool. I lectured at Liverpool in 1991-93. In between I worked on the Wroxeter Roman City in Shropshire and then won a Leverhulme Trust Research fellow-ship. I then dropped into a commercial role with Birmingham Archaeology, where I was on short-term contracts. The Ironbridge job came up in 2000. It took me 18 years to get security of tenure.

Working hours : Sixty to 70 a week. There are 80 people in the department and I have to have regular meetings. I am also a representative on many committees for bodies such as the UK Archaeology Heads of Department and with the Institute of Field Archaeologists.

Number of students you teach/staff you manage : I manage about 40 archaeologists and have about 12 undergraduates and usually about 18 postgraduates.

Biggest challenge : Keeping the plates spinning.

Worst moment in university life : Running a conference this year where my session co-organiser didn't turn up.

What is your working space like? Complicated. I have two offices 40 miles apart. The right file is never in the right office!

What university facilities do you use? IT, the Barber Institute of Art, the Winterbourne Botanic Gardens and the Lapworth Museum of Geology.

Do you socialise with people at the university? I'm not a great pub person because I'm asthmatic and hate smoky atmospheres. I have also watched too many fellow archaeologists drink themselves to ill health. The downside is that I don't get the chance to catch up with colleagues.

Most difficult customers : I try to get on with everyone. Worrying about what other people do is ultimately sterile. I'd rather concentrate on what I do.

Best excuses for bad behaviour : I don't think there is an excuse for bad behaviour.

Do you interact with other parts of the university? I'd like to do more but it's time-consuming and involves more meetings.

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