The end of the latest academic round

There are several reasons why we were so late getting to bed last night, (it was 2:30 am – and we were catching a 5:30 am train!). Loathe though I am to admit it, but Matthew is right with his observations about my inability to decide what to take to wear and my dithering over what to include given my determination to travel as lightly-loaded as possible. However, I am also just coming out of a protracted bout of lower back pain – possibly not unrelated to having also just about come to the end of the academic year. I’ve been through a groaning mountain of marking and reading.

This year I took up two new external examiner positions – meaning even more assignments and examination scripts and dissertations to read. As the positions were both new it’s also been a case of reading through degree programme details, module outlines, learning outcomes, assessment weightings and checking through all the grades. It’s always more onerous with the first set of work with an unfamiliar institution. I’ve had meetings to attend in Bournemouth and London, too. I only finished reading through and commenting on everything yesterday and sent my report to London at about 6:30 last evening. So that’s when I felt like I could begin packing for our trip!

Being an external examiner is a bit of a thankless task – but it’s always interesting – good to meet other academic colleagues and learn about what they’re doing. Timing is dreadful though – all their students’ work is ready to check just as I’ve finished working on my own students’ assignments. I was worn out and really looking forward to the holiday, even though I’d done very little planning for this one, (Matthew’s been brilliant and done almost all if it – route planning, accommodation, packing and much more – even though he’s just started a new job himself). So imagine my delight when this arrived in my inbox at 8:00!

Mike, as my 14 year old would say, ‘wow’! That is the best external comments I have ever read in 20 years of dealing with really good externals! There is a great deal to think about across the board, really useful and thoughtful insights. You pick up on a number of issues that we continually grapple with, your voice is a welcome one to help us with these struggles. Thank you very much for your hard work. Enjoy your cycling and I look forward to discussing these points with you in July, best regards, Stuart

That gave me a real lift and so even though we’re both dog-tired, I’m feeling really optimistic and excited about the trip and the ride ahead!

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