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Introduction


section of the diary covers revision, invigilation, the stresses of marking and the annual exam board. It is also the period when PhDs have to be completed and vivas planned. By mid-July the academic cycle enters the languid pursuits of late summer when books are authored, articles written and holidays taken. It culminates in September with graduation - the New Year's Eve of academic life.

An academic diary outlines the annual cycle of intellectual life but it is also a navigation device, a compass ensuring - as far as possible - that we are in the right place (meetings, lectures, seminars) at the right time. I hope that the reflections offered in the pages that follow are useful in a similar way but in relation to the choices and values of higher education. Entries aim to entertain but also to explore the academic's craft from the dubious merits and surprises of Powerpoint, how to supervise PhD students, the challenges of developing one's own writing style, the value of teaching, widening participation in a period when the cost of higher education is escalating and what happens when you meet writers you admire. At the same time, the diary offers a commentary on the quality of higher education and its relationship to the wider world.

My intention was never to write some kind of campus exposé. It is not intended either as an exercise in 'professional impression management' which conveys busy self-importance or an 'advertisement for myself' to use Norman Mailer's telling phase. I have tried to write

 


about small experiences that connect to larger issues relating to the ethics and conduct of intellectual life. I want to explain some of the practical, stylistic and economic reasons why the project takes this form. Also, I want to explain the variety of ways the reader can access the pieces contained within it and offer some guidance on how to navigate the diary. In her book Killing Thinking Mary Evans writes: "Academic life has become subject to a degree of bureaucratic control which needs urgent anthropological investigation as a new form of social life and universities would repay the investigation of trained ethnographers." Some years ago inspired by Mary Evans, I began keeping a 'field diary,' although one with a somewhat broader focus than she outlined here. Some of those pieces were published in magazines and news papers and I had the idea of a book that used the diary format but was not a diary in the strict sense of the term. Initially, I took the idea to a range of publishers. There was a lot of interest, and even excitement but the idea simply didn't fit. "Could you write like an academic self-help book" one publisher commented or "maybe you should write a book about how to be a professor before you are 40"? All this advice was given in good faith but I had little or no interest in following it. For sometime considerable time I felt defeated and resigned to the fact that this was an idea that would never be realised. It wasn't until I met Kat Jungnickel who suggested an on-line format

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