Having joined academia after a career in industry, I am shocked about the ludicrous amount of paperwork (“I quit! Why I am leaving UK academia”, Opinion, 25 July, www.timeshighereducation.com). A few years ago, I looked at how I spent my time – about 10 hours on admin (including pointless meetings) for every hour spent teaching, creating materials for students, researching, tutoring and so on. It has got much worse since then.
Most academics spend their evenings and weekends answering the never-ending stream of emails that demand that this or that form be filled in. This work could easily be done by the ever-increasing number of admin staff. But no, these folk seem to exist to demand more admin from academics, not to support academic staff and leave them free to do what they were hired to do in the first place.
I am seeing vast swathes of experienced, respected and talented people take “early retirement”, pushed out by the relentless drudgery and the preference for bright young things (also known as cheaper employees), with no industry experience.
Like other commentators, I have observed the pressure to award higher and higher marks. Where once a first would have been given to only the truly exceptional, now it is seen as appropriate for the averagely good. It has become almost impossible for a student to fail, even if they never bother turning up, and even then, that is seen as the fault of the academic who has to produce endless reports on how they will do better to engage the students who do not attend in the first place.
I would be joining the rats leaving the sinking ship if I could afford to, but wage stagnation and rising retirement ages mean that I will be writing thousands of words each day to fill out forms that help no one for the foreseeable future.