Posts Tagged ‘higher education’

See Part One here.

July A month of very conflicted emotions. On the one hand, back in Berlin; on the other hand, Brexit. On the one hand, the remarkable pleasure to be gained from the Ablehnung of a Ruf, and an opportunity to reflect on the sheer weirdness of German academic appointment processes; on the other hand, Brexit, and the thought that a job in Germany might be no bad thing. On the one hand, some actual research into cheap translations of Thucydides (though not in a REF-able publication, unless the rules change dramatically in the near future); on the other hand, my most-read post of the year on, you guessed it, Brexit(more…)

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Death. Death. Crisis. Death. Crisis. Death. Death. That was 2016, that was. Good riddance, apart from the uneasy feeling that it may have been just the overture, and next year we won’t have the all-too-brief comic relief of England v. Iceland to cheer us up.

It’s all been very serious German novel. One of the themes on the blog this year has been the avoidance, if not fervent denunciation, of crass historical analogies, so I’ll save my next discussion of Volker Kutscher’s excellent Krimi series set in 1920s and 1930s Berlin [pervasive atmosphere of impending doom and dramatic irony] until the Tom Tykwer adaptation starts next year, by which time I may have caught up with the latest volume. Rather, I’ve been reminded all too often of Jenny Erpenbeck’s brilliant Aller Tage Abend (and I still dislike the English title End of Days without having a good alternative suggestion), in which the central character dies again and again – as a baby, as a teenager, at various stages of adulthood – with a constant dialectic between the hopeful counterfactual (if only this, then she would have lived…) and the inevitability of death, against a backdrop of twentieth-century horrors. That was 2016, that was… (more…)

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Ellie Mackin, who has over the last few months been posting a series of thoughtful and helpful articles on ‘Post-PhD Life’ on the jobs.ac.uk blog, has written a very honest, brave and moving piece called Falling at the Last Hurdle, about the experience of post-interview rejection: so near and yet so far, doing all you can and it’s still not quite enough – or, it’s something about you personally that isn’t right. She offers wise advice on how to learn from the experience by seeing it not as a waste of effort and preparation but as practice for next time – but is also entirely open about the emotional side of things:

Let yourself cry, if that’s your style. Let yourself feel rubbish, and eat ice-cream, and lay in bed watching reruns of House. And then, pick yourself up and make the next application, next interview better. You’ll get the job you’re meant to get, and so will I.

Discussing her willingness to admit how much the rejection hurt, Ellie observes that “I know I cannot be the only person who has cried after not getting a job they were invested in getting. Or even one they were less invested in getting.” Yes, definitely, and what I haven’t said as yet to her or anyone besides my wife and close friends is: me too. Apart from the bit about House. I prefer Community as comfort viewing. (more…)

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It Could Be You…

Once upon a time, there was a Good Boy. His parents told him to be polite and obedient, and so he was, not just to them but to everyone. They told him to work hard and always try his best, and so he did. They told him to be modest, and so he was, in the self-deprecating way that looks false to many people and irritates the hell out of them. And he came to believe, without ever really thinking about it, that if he just stuck to these principles his parents had taught him, everything would always be all right.

Mostly, it was, because Good Boys who work hard and toe the line, showing just enough imagination to get a little extra credit but never too much, tend to accumulate qualifications and go on – this being Once Upon A Time fairyland, where such things still happened with a degree of predictability – to get PhD funding and then a job. (more…)

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Free Range

As Abraham Lincoln once remarked, Thucydides is not the only historical figure to get regularly misquoted. One interesting example is the line that “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country”, regularly trotted out to epitomise a certain attitude prevalent within big business. At least in the UK, there is at best only a fuzzy sense of the original context – it was said by Charles Erwin Wilson in 1953, during confirmation hearings for his appointment as Secretary of Defense after being Head of General Motors – and little idea that it’s not completely accurate. What Wilson actually said, when asked whether he would be able to make a decision as Secretary of Defense that would be adverse to General Motors, was that he would, but that he couldn’t actually conceive of such a situation “because for years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa”. That’s a great deal more reciprocal, and less dubious – and hence less useful – than the usual version.

In universities – yes, I am going somewhere with this – there has traditionally been a similar assumption, all the way down to the individual level: (more…)

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RIP Christopher Brooke

As I think I’ve mentioned on here before, I was the sort of undergraduate who would give a personal tutor in the modern university nightmares.* Quite apart from the complete lack of social skills and the regular bursts of disappearing into a black hole, and expending so much energy on writing, music and low-level student politics rather than academic work, when I did focus on history I went to virtually no lectures.** It just seemed so pointless, going along to hear someone summarise the textbook when I could work through the material much more efficiently on my own and set it against other reading (and the nightmare moment, when I wondered if I was really in the right place, was when one lecturer cheerfully announced that the lectures would give us all we needed to know without any need to read anything else). (more…)

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Pick of 2015

It’s been an interesting experience to look back over my posts from 2015, deciding which ones to re-promote as representative of my output (not least in the hope of bumping my viewing figures up in order to beat 2013) – and to realise how little I ended up writing for rather a lot of this year, almost entirely due to pressures of work. Once again, my resolution has to be to blog more frequently, given that the world doesn’t show any sign of letting up on the supply of things to comment on.

This post, however, is prompted by one this morning from my Bristol colleague Will Pooley, offering the pick not of his own (eminently pickable) posts but of other blogs he enjoyed this year. (more…)

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