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Posts Tagged ‘higher education’

It’s that time of year again, when I look back over the previous twelve months of blogging and wonder why I bother. Levels of interest and engagement, on every single measure, continue their inexorable decline – the fact that it’s only a 20-25% fall from the already-feeble figures of 2021 is due almost entirely to December, with the combination of my regular Blogs of the Year post piggy-backing on other people’s talent and popularity and a bit of gratuitous snark about #Receptiogate (now removed after a take-down notice from the alpaca whose image I used without permission). Maybe the blog post as a genre will make a come-back as a result of the immolation of Twitter; more plausibly, I should be thinking about how to re-tool my prolix ramblings for the world of TikTok… (more…)

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Dog Eat Dog

What should an academic career in the humanities look like today – beyond “not like this”? The question is prompted in the short term by the fact that Mary Beard, to mark her retirement, has taken the opportunity to promote discussion of the academic precariat and the extent to which things have changed over the course of her own career; but if, like me, you use Twitter partly as a means of networking with younger colleagues and early career researchers, this is a topic which has long been pretty well impossible to avoid. One way of trying to think about it, from a not-as-old-as-Mary-but-still-moderately-decrepit-and-comfortably-established perspective, is to wonder about the ideal against which the present situation is being compared; what is it so much worse than, and when did it all change? (more…)

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It’s always nice to learn that someone has found something you did a while ago useful – yes, I know there are giants in the field who get thoroughly sick of being told how they’ve transformed the understanding and indeed life philosophy of another dozen junior scholars this month, but us provincial types have more modest horizons. This month, I’ve actually had it twice. Someone liked an obscure thing I wrote on ‘historiography as trauma’ in Thucydides and has done the hard yards of a proper analysis of the theme in relation to the Sicilian Expedition rather than just tossing out a few random ideas on the topic – so, watch out for the new piece by Bernd Steinbock. And then I heard about what may prove to be my greatest, if rather unsung, contribution to the world of learning… (more…)

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Folks, the tone for 2022 has already been set, and I think it’s a pretty clear indication that we should simply go back to bed for the next 362 days: two British newspapers, which still to the best of my knowledge claim a degree of seriousness of purpose, have published articles claiming that the University of Reading has cancelled Semonides. You can imagine the furore: an author whose work has defined and shaped Western Civilization for millennia, beloved by every British schoolchild who first encountered his enchanting imaginative world in primary school, essential for a true understanding of philosophy, politics and cosmology – and they DARE not to assess students on every single line? They’ll be coming for Anacreon next, mark my words. (more…)

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Everything Changes

If I had the artistic talent, I would actually have a go at drawing the H.M. Bateman-style cartoon: a gathering of sleek, well-fed people in sharp business suits, enjoying lavish corporate hospitality in a shiny modern building, variously shocked, horrified, apoplectic and overcome with laughter at one of their number who is blushing awkwardly in the centre. The title? ‘The Vice Chancellor Who Admitted He Was Not Currently Planning A Gratuitous Institutional Restructuring Strategy In Pursuance aof A Transformative Ten-Year Strategy’.

(Obviously this thought is prompted solely by the University of Sydney’s proposal to abolish arts and social sciences departments, and the various UK universities seizing the opportunities presented by the plague to invest in redundancy payments and consultancy fees, and not at all by any vague rumours about what my own institution may be planning). (more…)

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Head Hunters

I have been head-hunted! Not, alas, for a lucratively-endowed chair in Thucydides Studies at the new University of Austin, despite all my best efforts to promote this icon of neocon power politics and the innate cultural superiority of paunchy middle-aged white men. No, it’s for an academic leadership position – which would involve dealing with a lovely group of colleagues (just in case whoever put my name forward reads this and makes the deductive leap), but would also involve trying to manage modern historians and archaeologists as well. You know that simile about herding cats? Okay, you know what simile cats use for the same phenomenon..? (more…)

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I’ve been having flashbacks to that time in my previous outfit when I was sent to have a word (with extreme prejudice) with a Faculty Education Director who’d stopped answering emails. Professor Kurtz was a fine academic manager, combining military efficiency with a broad background in the Humanities, the Arts and Sciences. He viewed his career as the dedication of his talents to bringing our values and way of life to those darker, less fortunate people – students. He’d been sent out to survey student ideas about feedback and assessment, after rumours of NSS discontent had reached senior management. (more…)

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Gone Fishing

Sometimes, however much you need to take the weekend to rest and recuperate, just do a bit of reading or music and spend time with loved ones, there is a task that simply can’t wait. Actually it should have been done last weekend but you were then too tired to do more than a bit of preparatory work, and of course there was no time during the week with all the regular demands of teaching and meetings and seeing students; so, regardless of the consequences for Monday, it’s bye-bye Saturday and much of Sunday…

I’m referring, of course, to the pressing need to press this year’s apple harvest into juice, for cider-making and pasteurising, before it all rots. (more…)

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We’re back in the season of lecture fetishism. ‘Workshy’ lecturers are being ‘ordered’ back into the classroom to provide ‘proper’ value-for-money education rather than cut-price online stuff, while apparently the university life of a Times‘ columnist’s offspring would be ruined by having too much online learning. What’s striking is how far their conception of what should be restored is the sort of lecture that went out of fashion, at least outside basic introductory courses in the hard sciences, decades ago: to quote the old joke, the lecture as a means of transferring information from the lecturer’s notes to the student’s notes without passing through the brains of either. And, as I commented last week, some of the defences of the shift to online learning are equally ignorant of what actually happens in lecture rooms these days. It really feels like a debate about the current state of popular music between adherents of 7″ flexidiscs and proponents of cassette singles; not just total indifference to the content (hey, maybe someone should suggest to the Times that it’s easier to promote decolonisation and cultural Marxism in in-person classes where there are no recordings…) but utter ignorance of how technology and techniques have changed, and what the real issues are. (more…)

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I’ve spent a fair amount of time recently preparing next term’s teaching – it’s been one of those weeks when the lingering effects of the plague make me incapable of stringing coherent thoughts together for more than five minutes at a time, and the better prepared I am for the new academic year then the bigger the chance I may be able to get writing done then, if the brain finds its way out of the doldrums. Bibliographies, guidance on assessment tasks, seminar texts, thumbnail pictures for the VLE. And then we come to the description of teaching and learning methods, and summary of how students will be expected to engage with the modules… Hmm. Can I get back to you on that? (more…)

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