Time and space in short supply

March 10, 2006

Name: Michael Preston-Shoot

Age: 54

Job: Professor of social work and dean, faculty of health and social sciences, Luton University.

Salary: £70,000

Practical training/education: Qualified as a social worker and psychotherapist. I have a first degree in history and a PhD. I was a social worker before becoming a social-work academic. I was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in 2005.

Working conditions: My working conditions are good. I have an excellent group of colleagues and a positive atmosphere and culture to work in. My working hours are long (nothing unusual there), partly because I remain research active and committed to teaching, alongside my role as manager and leader. I also chair the Joint University Council Social Work Education Committee, so I am active nationally on behalf of social-work education colleagues in higher education institutions.

Number of students/staff you manage: I manage about 100 staff. I work closely with a corporate management team, with faculty staff and with governors (I am a staff governor). I teach social-work students (groups of up to 60) and other undergraduates (anything from small seminar groups to classes of 100).

Biggest challenge/bugbear this year: The biggest challenge was becoming a dean. I have no bugbears really - I enjoy my work.

How you solved it: Learning from other deans and senior managers; listening to and learning with faculty colleagues.

Worst moment in university life: Watching some universities undermine departments and subject disciplines; and once being part of a university that did not listen to serious and well-founded staff concerns.

What is your working space like? Crowded, because I have not fully unpacked my boxes after moving to the dean's office.

What university facilities do you use: Library, canteens.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with professionally and how do you cope with them? Civil servants who have political agendas and who do not appreciate how busy we all are in our ordinary jobs. I cope by meeting deadlines as much as possible, trying to be reliable and consistent and offering gentle reminders that quality takes time.

Best excuses for bad behaviour you have heard: "I did not receive the e-mail."

Do you interact much with other parts of the university? All the time - as a manager, researcher and a staff governor.

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