Five Years in Maynooth!


It is 1st December 2022, which means that it’s five years to the day since I started work at Maynooth University. So much has happened in that period it seems very much longer since I first arrived here.
I’m very happy that I made the move here all those years ago. I won’t deny that the past five years have had their frustrations. The teaching and administrative workload, especially for the three years I was Head of Department, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, has been very heavy and has made it difficult to be very active in research.
Last year was a particularly tough year for the Department of Theoretical Physics, when we were forced to teach a whole year with only half the usual number of full-time teaching staff. It was very depressing not being able to deliver as a good a teaching experience as we wanted without the necessary resources. There never seems to be any shortage of funds for new senior management positions but not for the staff who actually perform the main function of a University.
Fortunately our immediate staffing problem has passed and we now have our usual number of lecturers in place. I was entitled to take a sabbatical when I reached the end of my term as Head of Department, but I deferred it because I didn’t want to leave my colleagues short-staffed again before the ship was properly steadied. I will put in a request in January to take it in 2023/24. If anyone out there feels like playing host to an old cosmologist please let me know!
On the bright side, I have great colleagues in the Department and the students are very engaged. There are few things in life more rewarding than teaching people who really want to learn. This year so far has been particularly enjoyable, if tiring because we have a large first year. I have also acquired two more PhD students and a Research Masters student.
The thing I’m probably most proud of over the past five years is, with the huge help of staff at Maynooth University Library, getting the Open Journal of Astrophysics off the ground and attracting some excellent papers. We’re still growing, though perhaps not as quickly as I’d hoped. The pandemic had something to do with that.
So, after a few years of hard and at times dispiriting slog, things are going pretty well. Meanwhile, in Brexit Britain, events have turned out exactly as I predicted, especially this:
Brexit will also doom the National Health Service and the UK university system, and clear the way for the destruction of workers’ rights and environmental protection. The poor and the sick will suffer, while only the rich swindlers who bought the referendum result will prosper. The country in which I was born, and in which I have lived for the best part of 54 years, is no longer something of which I want to be a part.
In other words I don’t regret for one minute my decision to leave Britain. Incidentally, five years is the term needed to qualify for Irish nationality by residence so if I had needed to I could now apply via that route.
I noticed looking at the similar post I wrote on this day last year that academic colleagues in the UK were on strike on that day. They are still taking industrial action, and indeed were on strike yesterday. My biggest fear for the Irish Higher Education system is that it follows the “business model” of soulless teaching factories with courses delivered by demoralized staff on casual teaching contracts. Things are definitely going that way here and this trend must be resisted.

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