“Ridiculously long vacations”?

Lord Adonis, former education minister, is reported here as saying universities should:

…just abandoning these ridiculously long vacations … That only really makes sense as far as I can see if you want to travel the world or you need to get a job…

This is to misunderstand what happens during the long university vacation – the teaching staff, who are also research staff are getting on with doing research or, more painfully, trying to get funding for research. His point is not entirely without merit: universities have a distinctly schizophrenic attitude to teaching. If, as I have, you have applied for a number of lectureship positions you will learn that the time in interview dedicated to discussing your teaching experience, aspirations and ideas is approaching zero. Status in a university department depends largely on your research achievements, not your teaching achievements. This means there is scope in the market for universities that make teaching their priority, rather than research.


    • Andrew on June 25, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    You are not wrong about the lack of emphasis on teaching experience or ability. You can wind up with cases of lecturers who are very poor but who can bring in big amounts of research money. Of course its the money that primarily interests the universities as they need it to survive. With the new fee regime we may start to see a shift in this attitude.

    Of course I wonder how many students do indeed use the summer vacation to get a job to offset the cost of doing a degree in the first place? Or frankly to recharge batteries from some intensive learning depending on their course of study (I may or may not be being sarcastic here). There is also an issue that teaching does not necessarily stop over summer anyway; I have worked intensively with MSc students on their final projects over the summer. I am also aware of undergraduate courses that have their students perform assessed directed reading modules over the summer.

    • on June 25, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    It would be nice to see the development of stronger teaching / research track careers in universities.

    University of Buckingham has dispensed with the long summer vacation to get a three year degree course into two years at a proportionally lower cost, so it may be that losing the summer vacation is no great loss in cash terms. The students I had at UMIST were working through term time to help make ends meet.

    I’ve been thinking about the research/teaching interaction, and I’ve come to the tentative conclusion that it’s in the final year that having lecturers who do research is a benefit (for all concerned).

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