Tuesday, February 16, 2016


I have to say that I have little sympathy for the sentiments expressed in this article on the Guardian's website of an academic bemoaning his role of dean:

While I do have understand the frustrations senior academics can feel when administrative tasks and bureaucracy can interfere with research and teaching, no one can be under any illusions that academics are expected to juggle multiple roles these days. Just read this article about the new trend towards having to be an "academic superhero" to survive (not necessarily succeed I hasten to add) as an early career researcher:

As the article from the Times Higher Education states, young academics have to contend with much broader job descriptions than previously:

"The essential criteria for selection included not just detailed requirements for research and teaching, but also the ability to perform duties in administration and community engagement."
"[the] new academic…is a multitalented, always ready and available worker that we have started to label the ‘academic super-hero'...The "academic superhero" is "capable of being everything to everyone and leaping over 24 key selection criteria in a single job application"

"This is what early career researchers have to be prepared for. Gone are the days when pure research with some teaching experience on the side was enough. You have to network, conference, publish, do public engagement and outreach, have strong interpersonal skills and excellent administration skills."
So when the author of the Guardian piece complains, I just have to smile:
"And what is it that gets under academics’ skin? Academics are simple folk. They want to teach their students and do their research. Yet, these activities are guarded by regulatory booby traps. You want to teach a new course? And what are your learning objectives? Where is the business plan? You want to conduct some new research? Do you have approval from the ethics committee? And yes, you do have to buy your new hard disk from the university’s official supplier even though you can get it at half the price online. Small things can loom large at close range."
I know that the bureaucracy can be frustrating and annoying, but having worked in administration I can say that there usually is some valid reasoning behind decisions, even if you don't agree with it. However, I would have loved an acknowledgement from the author that he speaks from a place of priveledged job security. Many ECR's are faced with similarly frustrating distractions from research and teaching, yet lack the job security or elevated salaries that come with roles such as Dean.

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