Tips on staying sane after 35 years

March 23, 2007

Name : David Martin. Age : 62. Job : Senior lecturer in history, Sheffield University.

Salary : £2,578 net last month; a 1.25 per cent increment is due this month. Plus about £250 a year as an external examiner.

Education/background : PhD in 1972, the year I was appointed at Sheffield.

Before that I'd been a postgraduate (at Hull University) and Sheffield was the place I particularly hoped to get a job. Accordingly, probably to the regret of some colleagues, I've never applied for positions elsewhere.

Working hours and conditions : The hours vary, but usually peak in the examining seasons and extend into evenings and - in spite of a resolve to keep these free - weekends. At least marking has the advantage that it can be done in a comfortable chair.

Number of students you teach : About 100 a year, although some I see much more of than others. I sometimes wish I'd kept a record of how many students I've taught. A couple of dozen were PhD students, and it has been fascinating to observe their careers as they percolate through academia or other institutions such as the Civil Service and the BBC.

What is your office space like? History occupies a miscellany of buildings a few hundred yards away from the rest of the university, opposite a large hospital. Most of the staff offices are more spacious than average - maybe one reason there's no wild enthusiasm for a move to a new building in 2008.

Worst moment in university life : A few years ago, having been admitted into the above-mentioned hospital with appendicitis, from a high window I could see my students arriving for a lecture, reading the cancellation notice on the front door of the building and turning away. No doubt I deceived myself by thinking how disappointed they appeared. One of the best moments was getting back a couple of weeks later and picking up the loose ends.

Biggest challenges : Universities are over-managed and over-assessed. The challenge is to retain a sane perspective.

Do you interact much with other parts of the university? Not as much as I should. Rather than take a five-minute walk to have lunch I usually opt for a sandwich at my desk.

Best excuse for bad behaviour : "I'm only following instructions." I'm not innocent of behaving badly, especially when I slip into grumpy old man mode.

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