New Term Ahead!

I know that there are quite a few people out there who think the summer is one long holiday for academic staff. Well, it may still be July but after my 10 days away that’s the holidays over as far as I’m concerned. Still, ten days’ summer holiday is ten days more holiday than I got last summer.

Next week the Repeat Examination period begins; it lasts from 4th August to 14th August. Once again these examinations are online and once again they have to be supervised by a member of academic staff. I have five paper scheduled and have to be at the screen for all of them. Then there’s the marking, checking, collation and uploading of the marks which must be done by 18th August. After that there’s an Examination Board before the final submission of all the repeat exams by August 23rd.

Incidentally, I was just checking over my Semester 1 repeat examinations and it seems like decades since I taught those modules last Autumn! The pandemic has played havoc with the perception of time!

After the Repeat Examinations are done, I have the unenviable task of preparing teaching for the next academic year. Although I’m stepping down as Head of Department of Theoretical Physics at the end of September I am still in that position until then so that task falls to me. Quite apart from the continuing uncertainty about what the Covid-19 situation will be like at the start of term (20th September), I have to deal with the fact that three out of our six full-time permanent lecturers are not available for next year. One is retiring this summer, one is departing for a position in Germany and another is on sabbatical.

The appointment of a temporary lecturer to provide sabbatical cover is normal, but the two other departures have not been replaced with permanent staff but by two one-year temporary lecturers. None of these new staff will be in post until 1st September but will have to teach a full complement of modules from 20th September onwards. Half our modules will therefore have to be reassigned, which means that the organization of teaching for the new academic year is not just the usual slight rearrangement of the previous year’s assignments but a major overhaul.

Losing two of our permanent staff to be replaced by temporary staff will of course have a negative impact on our research but that doesn’t seem to be important.

On top of al this the University is pressing ahead with a complete reorganization in the form of a merger of the Departments of Theoretical Physics and Experimental Physics which it intends to force through by 1st October 2021…

While glad that we may at last be emerging from the pandemic I’m dreading the next two months, not only because of the huge amount that has to be done by the end of September, but also because I think that period is going to set the scene for the longer-term future. I know I’m not the only academic who fears the massively increased workload dumped on us during the pandemic is going to become, to use a hackneyed phrase, “the new normal”.

4 Responses to “New Term Ahead!”

  1. Francis Says:

    Is sabbatical leave a ‘right’ in the sense that you are entitled to e.g. one year’s sabbatical for every 7 years in post, or do you have to apply for it? Given your situation with staff leaving and the impact of Covid, I would have thought it reasonable to ‘suspend’ sabbaticals for a period of time.

    I am sure you, line many academics, are fed up with the comments you get from people around June time – usually something like ‘So that’s you off for the summer now that the students are gone…’ !!!

    • telescoper Says:

      The sabbatical leave policy can be found here. It’s not a right – you have to apply and there’s a maximum of one year in any 7 year period.

      The sabbatical in question was actually granted for this current academic year but was deferred until next because of the pandemic.

      • Francis Says:

        Very interesting. The form requires quite a large amount of detail. However the part that really surprised me was that the staff member is expected to take a salary deduction to help pay for the replacement post. Don’t think I have ever seen this anywhere else!

      • Jonivar Skullerud Says:

        The salary deduction is compensated for by a large fraction of your salary being reclassified as expenses for tax purposes if you go overseas, so it becomes tax-free. You may end up with a net increase for that reason. If you stay at home for your sabbatical you may not be as lucky.

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