Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Alternative Academia 1.0

Apologies for the slow-down in the number of posts in recent weeks, but I recently started a new job and things have been (positively - in the best sense!) hectic. 

The beginnings of this blog was rooted in my shift away from traditional academia towards a more generalist management role within the Higher Education sector. You can read the early aims of the blog here. However, due to happy diversions, I began to blog about all aspects of the PhD process, both during and after. This was because I received my job offer in March, and my programme only started 2 weeks ago (thus leaving me time to blog about the highs and lows of a PhD).

My new job is a fixed-term graduate programme aimed at training the next generation of leaders in university management. It involves three placements, two in my home institution (University of Oxford in my case) and one in a different institution. The concept is designed to expose the trainees to a wide range of university activities. I will be based in the following area:
  1. Planning and resource allocation
  2. Library services
  3. Estates
I will not be going into details about the specifics of what I will be doing in each placement. Rather, the aim of the Alternative Academia blogpost series is to highlight various issues, for example:
  • Skills from my PhD which contribute to my (hopeful!) success in this role
  • Skills which I have gained from each placement
  • Problems I may encounter
  • Attempts to maintain an academic profile through conferencing, publications, and teaching (see Maintaining an Academic Profile)
I have not ruled out trying to return to academia, hence the continued endeavour to maintain my academic profile. But, one week into the job and I can definitively say that I as a student and tutor have taken for granted the work that goes on behind the scenes at universities. The term 'administrator' can cause derision and exasperation in academics, which is a gross disservice. The few bad experiences academics like to promote distorts the reality of a dedicated, highly competent, team of administrators/managers who keep an incredibly complex organisation afloat, enabling high quality teaching and research to occur.

I for one am passionate about Higher Education, and there are a myriad of ways to have a positive impact in the life of universities beyond just teaching and research. For the next while, that is exactly what I will be exploring.