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Academic life in a regional campus

I have worked in the business school of this small, regional campus for more than five years now, although I do not coordinate a unit in the traditional sense. I see this campus as the ‘campus of second chance’ for … More...

I have worked in the business school of this small, regional campus for more than five years now, although I do not coordinate a unit in the traditional sense. I see this campus as the ‘campus of second chance’ for many people who would, otherwise, not get the opportunity to study at a university. My role is to teach in units that are developed by Unit Coordinators in the main campus, and supervise sessional staff. I tell my staff their job is to help our students get a degree, which means being supportive and doing everything they can to facilitate this while maintaining their integrity.

I have seen many early career academics at this campus ‘just trying to survive’ because transition and mentoring are not offered to enable them to do a really good job. Instead, they learn through making mistakes and leaving a path of collateral damage that more experienced coordinators must rectify. It is difficult for them to take the time to step back, reassess and discuss things with their colleagues. Funding constraints put pressures on everyone because there is little money to train people, or to employ sessional and administration staff to help alleviate workloads. I try to understand this fact of university life, but I see compromises being made in important areas like assessment and I do not like it. For example, to reduce payments for marking, coordinators may re-design assessments to a less rigorous format.

I feel frustrated at the moment because I expected this environment would enhance flexibility and other advantages. However, instead, I have to abide by the main campus rules and regulations that don’t really apply here. The idea of improving unit quality is a misnomer because there is little incentive for new Unit Coordinators to change the texts, content and materials already developed despite their assessment that the unit they are now responsible for needs to change. I suggest to them that they must learn to become organisationally smart. Otherwise they may suffer burnout as other well-recognised, successful lecturers have done.

My main driver is to see school leavers and mature aged students come in from one kind of life and three years later emerge into a different life through the effort they exert in their studies. Helping them achieve is what gives meaning to my role. To me, the human side is more important than the systems and I focus on that to keep me sane. I also trust in the professionalism of my colleagues and believe they are doing the right thing. I find my role intellectually challenging and I try to teach in a practical way. There is endless variety and I like the responsibility of making things work for each student cohort I encounter. I have achieved a sort of work/life balance by working according to the ebbs and flows. This means I work hard through the semester and less so in between.

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