A writer who grew up in Socialist Serbia and ended up working in British academia:
Daughter of a self-managed workers’ paradise, I excel at my job. I criticize and self-criticize, I censor and self-censor, I compose self-assessment sheets about self-managed time, I sit on teaching and research committees, I attend meetings and take notes, I know that literature has hidden and insidious meanings. […] My communist upbringing, my upbringing in communism—to be able to live with myself without believing in anything I say, to be able to accept things without asking too many questions—has certainly stood me in good stead throughout my working life.Vesna Goldsworthy, Chernobyl Strawberries
In the art of the long meeting, British university workers easily outdid anything I’d encountered in my socialist upbringing. The sessions were often longer than the communist plenaries, the acronyms just as plentiful, the put-downs just as complicatedly veiled in oblique metaphor, the passions just as high, even if the stakes were often infinitesimal.
Obviously, she’s exaggerating but there’s definitely something to the analogy.
3 thoughts on “Quote of the Day”
Have you ever talked to a British academic about bureaucracy? She might not be exaggerating that much because those people do some absolutely insane stuff. They have a system where faculty from other universities come in to regrade a portion of the final exams from all of the courses every so often to ensure that grading standards remain high and consistent across the country. And they do some enormous nationwide exercise every couple of years to quantify and rank the research productivity of every department at every university. Everyone is apparently pushing themselves like crazy to make sure as many papers as possible get published in time to be counted in the next round of productivity rankings. I believe departmental funding is somehow linked to the productivity scores and departments can find themselves in serious trouble if their scores slip. I’ve talked to two different people about this at conferences and it all just sounded totally nuts.
I wish anybody cared, even just a tiny little bit about publications and grading standards at my university. We have departments that hire undergraduate students to teach because you can pay them a minimum wage. Undergraduate students are teaching instead of professors. Compared to this, worrying about research productivity sounds like a dream scenario.
We are so screwed.
Uggg, undergrads teaching is not great.
Concern about research productivity is definitely a good thing, but from what I was told, they spend so much time time writing and reading long reports about research productivity that it seriously cuts into their time for doing research.