Who got that job?

April 16, 2004

Clive Barnett, 36
Lecturer in Human Geography
The Open University
Job advertised in The Times Higher on December 6, 2002

There was one glitch when The Open University finally interviewed Clive Barnett in spring last year: he had just been promoted to senior lecturer at Bristol University.

"It was the only job I'd leave Bristol for," he says. "I like what the OU stands for - giving people excluded from higher education an opportunity to study - and I like the way teaching and research pull together rather than apart."

The OU geography department was expanding the number of research-active staff in anticipation of the next research assessment exercise, and there was a strong field of candidates.

Phil Sarre, head of geography, says: "Clive was front-runner. He had an extraordinary CV and some innovative publications."

The department is unusual because it deals only with human geography and sits in the social science faculty. Barnett was attracted by the faculty's reputation for radical, critical scholarship. "Lots of people I'd read as a graduate student have worked there," he says.

The nature of distance education involves collaboration in the construction of courses that have to last a long time. "There's a lot of teamwork, mutual support and joint research," Sarre says.

Barnett, who started last October, lives in Bristol and commutes to Milton Keynes for two or three days a week.

He says he is collaborating in a way he's never experienced before.

"Courses are written at the cutting-edge of research and it is intensely collaborative. It's scary being a new person but wonderful. Having a job at the OU is not like having the same job but somewhere else - it's an entirely new job. You have to learn all over again."

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