Nine-to-five vs 24/7 universities

I nearly choked on my Sugar Puffs today.

I was reading today’s copy of THE. Malcolm Gillies, retiring embattled VC of London Met, had written his last Opinion piece on VC “consorts”.

He mentions that there are two types of universities: those with a 9-to-5 ethos, and those with 24/7 expectations.

This was when the Sugar Puff incident happened.

Pray tell, Malcolm, where are these “9-to-5” universities. Is “universities” even the correct word? Perhaps “university”?

Where is this Camelot? Does it have staff parking for more than 5 vehicles? Does it have coffee shops that stay open during summer? Does it have research support staff that aren’t perennially away on annual leave during the summer?

C’mon, Malcolm, we’re all dying to know….and by dying I mean having a coronary at my desk and being found by the cleaning staff at 6am…..


A certificate in teaching does not mean you are an effective teacher

Having basically been forced to add “knowledge exchange” activities to my staff review and development plan for the forthcoming year because, apparently, it is part of the university’s “mission statement”, I know exactly what is coming next.

“The university wants to follow the Uni of Huddersfield’s example and have 100% of its academic staff hold an HEA teaching qualification……”

I can vaguely understand people who don’t know any better thinking that this bit of paper makes you a “better” teacher, and that new staff to teaching may get some benefit from it, but seriously!

When exactly am I suppose to find the time for this?

Is not 10 years of teaching experience enough? I’ll admit I wasn’t great in the beginning but I got better year on year. But you could say that for any profession. A PGCE does not make a good high school teacher….ask any high school student.

The rise of the HEA teaching qualification is probably proportional to the decline in mentors at universities. In the good old days, new staff would be paired with a seasoned academic who would give you advice on everything and anything, read your papers and grant applications and critique them, give you career advice, give you tips on admin, and sit in on your lectures and give you advice.

You don’t need to spend a year gaining a certificate that doesn’t actually train you in how to teach. You’ll get that from doing it and students have to be realistic that teaching is a skill that is acquired through doing it. I’ve noticed that students own dire presentation skills and being confronted by them never seem to lead to that dawn of realisation that actually teaching ain’t so easy. The HEA certificate just replaces the old mentoring system. And it gives an excuse for universities to ditch peer review of teaching because….well, there is no need….100% of our staff have a certificate that proves they are effective teachers.


What exactly is a psychology degree worth?

I know that you will be about to think that I have a personal vendetta against Sian Williams. I’ll admit I don’t like her. I find her a lightweight “journalist” only interested in false declarations of emotion, sensational headlines, and with a penchant for crocodile tears.

But, given that she seems to drop this almost mythical “MSc in Psychology” into every interview of late, I thought I would actually visit the university webpage and find out exactly what it is as I am not familiar with such an MSc. I’d also read articles implying that she is looking to move into a career in psychology, which I thought was odd, as most MSc’s in Psychology do not give you GBR.

Anyways, this one does! But, this is what a few years ago we would have called a “conversion course” or “GBR course” and it would certainly not be considered an MSc.

But, it got me thinking. Why would anyone spend £27k on tuition fees for a Psychology undergraduate degree over three years in England when you can do an MSc postgraduate degree for £6k in one year?

And, what worries me more is, how can a one year postgraduate degree, of which I assume only 9 months is actually teaching based, equal a three year undergraduate degree? If you really genuinely can do an accredited degree in 9 months why are we encouraging students to plow tens of thousands of pounds and three to four years of their lives into something that they can get for a fraction of the price in a fraction of the time?

Put it this way, would you want someone with 9 months training offering expert psychological advice to your child?

Society is the problem in campus shootings, not students with mental illnesses

I’ve blogged here before about THE publishing scandalous articles explicitly blaming students with mental health problems for shootings on campuses. I even sent a letter to the editor last time outlining the faulty logic in the argument and the evidence against the authors of the articles’ claims. They failed to publish it.

They are at it again.

Obviously they took my wrist slapping last time to heart.

The article, again, points the finger at students with mental health problems or who are “troubled” or “disturbed”.

This approach of universities blaming students seems to be very consistent with the dominant model in the psi-disciplines in the last few decades which places your problems within you…that you are “abnormal” or “biological deficient”. You are the result of your faulty neurochemistry or wonky brain architecture.

It’s too easy, and lazy, to blame the individual. That way we don’t have to look at our own culpability or that of wider society. It is easier for a government or chancellor of a university to throw some money at the problem in terms of more money for drugs or “early detection screening” (the biggest myth in modern psychiatry) rather than realising that it is society that is the problem.

The latter requires a great deal of thought, money, infastructure and resources to fix a broken system or society. It also allows us to deflect blame from ourselves onto others.

Cold callers at the door…..AGAIN!

I’m so flippin’ annoyed!

After saving up a deposit for 10 years to buy a nice house in a nice area it seems I can look forward to an endless parade of charities and businesses knocking on the door….every flippin’ day!

After spending my life as a scruffy working class oik I finally move to an affluent area and everyone and their ma who has something to flog makes a beeline here.

The businesses aren’t too bad.

But flippin’ charities! They will not take “no” for an answer…..”just sign up to a month and then you can cancel it”….what is the point of that? I’m guessing these guys are on commission as I never get the impression they really care so long as you fill in a direct debit form.

Just go away!

I bet they don’t do this in Easterhouse!

Shouldn’t university be about seeking knowledge for its own sake?

There has been some terrible Arts & Humanities bashing of late. Apparently, a degree in one of those subjects won’t get you a job!

I find it incredibly sad.

I might be an old fart now seen as I’ve just passed the 15 year mark since graduating from an undergraduate degree (BSc!), but is that all a degree is about now?

As far back as I can remember, I wanted to do a degree. I’ve always been crap at anything practical, but the one and only thing I was ever good at was retaining knowledge. I wanted to do a degree because I wanted to learn, I wanted to acquire knowledge, and I enjoyed (and still enjoy) it immensely.

I feel that, if you want to know how things work, study science. If you want to know about the world, study A&H. The smartest people I’ve ever known have been philosophy students who can critique and challenge every argument or POV I have. They have a unique way of looking at the world, of disassembling something and building it back up into something new. I wish I could do that.

Even in the current climate, even 15 years since graduating, I still passionately feel that university is about acquiring knowledge, not just in your chosen field, but in several different fields (at least initially in the first year or two).

And, if you still think all of that is bullshit, think of it like this. An analytical/logical way of thinking works well for solving the problems “out there”. A science degree *might* set you up for that (I say *might* because many of the science students I’ve known over the past 20 years have been the stupidest and most illogical people I’ve ever come across, but think themselves “smarter” than everyone else because they are a “scientist”).

But an experiential way of thinking will set you up for a lifetime of good mental health. Although many A&H disciplines also encourage a critical way of thinking (consider your sources!), there is a more common sense or gut intuition about many theories put forward, which indicates a more experiential approach.

And, given the choice between a 100k a year job and good mental health, I know which one I would pick….