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7:13pm on Thursday, 2nd November, 2006:

95% FTE


I'm beginning to remember why I left academia the first time round.

I have two lecture courses for which I have to create new material: EE114 and EE224. It takes me the best part of a day to put together a lecture for each one. It takes half a day to go into the university to deliver them. I also have an EE200 class every other week (no preparation) and an EE314 lecture (which I have to update from last year, but that only takes 30 minutes or so), and they also take half a day to deliver. Fortunately, they're on the same day as the EE224 lecture, so it's not an extra 2 half-days gone, just one full day. I have an EE001 lecture coming up soon, too, but basically my days look like this:

Monday: write EE114 (full day)
Tuesday: deliver EE114 (half day)
Wednesday: write EE224 (full day)
Thursday: deliver EE224, EE314 and EE200 (half day one week, full day the next week)
Friday: administration — examination/test questions, report-reading, form-filling-in, whatever they send me (sometimes half day, sometimes full day)

I also have to meet my supervisees somewhere in there, and shortly will have to spend half of Wednesday interviewing potential undergraduate recruits for next year.

If I want to do anything that takes a full day, such as visit Newcastle next Monday to give a talk, I have to cover for it elsewhere. This means I'll be writing my next-week's EE114 lecture over the weekend. Great. My half day on Tuesday will shortly be swallowed up by writing half of EE224 to cover for the half of Wednesday I'll be missing. Oh, and next term I have to teach 5 or 6 lectures of EE214 as well.

Officially, I'm 50% FTE ("Full-Time Equivalent"), yet I spend almost all my working week teaching or preparing to teach or supervising or filling in forms or reading and replying to emails. What happened to the 50% of my week when I get to revise my book or write games or implement my new programming language or do any of the many other things I'm bursting to do?

I took up teaching again with the aim of setting up a course on virtual worlds. I said this from the outset, and to be fair the Electronics Department kept its side of the bargain too. In return for teaching things I knew a lot about but that I wasn't all that enamoured of (production — gahh!) I got the professor title and I got to create a new course fulfilling my central passion, virtual worlds. Great, until it was instantly canned the moment that the merger with Computer Science was announced: now, there's no prospect nor possibility of its ever being resurrected.

So, what's keeping me lecturing?

Well there are the students, of course, whose education would probably suffer if I handed in my notice (finding a replacement would be difficult). I'd feel really bad about that. This merely suggests a two-year ramping down of my involvement, though, not a reason for staying until I retire or drop dead.

I suppose, fundamentally, my problem is that I'd lose my 50% FTE salary, meagre though it is, if I resigned. Before returning to academia, I used to have several consultancy gigs a year which kept me nicely afloat, but those have dried up now that I can't disappear off for 2 weeks at the drop of a hat. Furthermore, even though I do have lots of projects that this level of teaching commitment is preventing me from pursuing, none of them are actually money-spinners; I couldn't call them employment.

The situation is made even more complicated by the possibility that even if I do stay at Essex University, I may lose my position anyway. The computer games course isn't attracting the hordes of undergraduates it was expected to attract (primarily because the only publicity it gets is a prospectus entry under "Computer Games and Internet Technology"), and it doesn't fit well with any of the other (somewhat austere) courses proposed. If post-merger costs need to be cut further then my rolling one-year contract might well be terminated as part of a further rationalisation of the new department's offerings, in which case I'll be out of a job anyway.


It's just as well I had my mid-life crisis at 25, otherwise I'd be depressed...

Referenced by What I'm Doing.

Referenced by Done!.

Referenced by Rather Too Broken.

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Copyright © 2006 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).