Up at dawn - and home in daylight

September 1, 2006

Name: Ranald Macdonald

Age: 54

Job: Professor of academic development and head of academic practice in the Learning and Teaching Institute at Sheffield Hallam University. Awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in 2005 and co-director of the Centre for Promoting Learner Autonomy.

Salary: Sufficient, though I could always spend more on travel and my garden.

Background: BSc applied economics, MA economics and then worked as a bank research economist. Teaching part time for the Workers' Educational Association got me interested in adult learning. In 1984, in my early thirties, I packed it all in (goodbye to the cheap mortgage and non-contributory pension) to take a PGCE, during which time I did teaching practice at Sheffield City Polytechnic, where I was offered a job. Apart from four years at Derby University and two and a half at the Open University as a member of the national co-ordination team of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, I've been at Sheffield Hallam ever since.

Working hours and conditions: I don't bother adding them up as I work so flexibly. In winter, I try to get home during daylight on a couple of days a week to walk my two border collies and then work until 8 or 9pm. At the weekend, I'm regularly up at 6am doing a couple of hours before the rest of the house stirs. My wife reminds me how few people have as their epitaph "If only I'd spent more time in the office."

Number of staff you manage: A team of seven educational developers in a department of 23.

Biggest challenge this year: Coping with the National Teaching Fellowship, the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning co-directorship and chair on top of my job, together with frequent requests to run workshops, give keynote speeches and so on outside the university.

Worst moment in university life: Giving up teaching students in 1994 (but not the marking).

What is your working space like? Open plan, which I found difficult at first, but it does make it easier to meet others.

What university facilities do you use: The coffee bar - great for networking.

Do you interact much with other parts of the university? That's what my job is about and I couldn't be successful without extensive networking.

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