Time to take higher education (and research) seriously!

I’ve been a PhD student for two years now, and in that time I’ve attended my fair share of conferences, both as a speaker, and a delegate. I’ve also organised several events of my own, including the AHRC’s postgraduate conference for the North West.

One thing that all these events have in common is they all cost a lot of money. Only last week I received an email inviting me to register for a conference and pay the £35 required for me to attend. Of course, this fee wasn’t advertised before I applied, and if I wasn’t speaking, I dare say I wouldn’t go – especially given the cost of travel and accommodation.

But £35 (plus extras) is barely scratching the surface of academic conference costs these days. The International Gothic Association is charging a whopping £180 to attend the four day event at the end of July. And that’s just the unwaged price; a full delegate can expect to pay £250 for four days, or £120 for a single day, plus a further £60 to attend the conference dinner. Continue reading »

Oliver the Justice Dog and what it means to be human

I was somewhat surprised this week to see a post on social media announcing that a dog has received a staff ID card at Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU).

While I have no problem with dogs on campus, or indeed the work of Justice Support Dogs International (JSDI), I do find the fact that a dog should receive a human staff ID card somewhat unsettling. This is because it serves to further enshrine a biopolitical discourse surrounding the human and the animal, and goes to show the power of major institutions to dictate the terms on which we define what constitutes the human and the animal.

While some readers may find the news about Oliver fairly innocuous, or even quite fun, the problem is not the card itself, but what the card represents, and the border for inclusion that places a dog above those not included within the formalised university group. In this case, Oliver the dog has more rights than many human employees at the same institution, even though he is incapable of exercising the same human responsibilities that form a part of the membership contract.

In this way, Oliver the Justice Dog reveals something of the operation of power within the biopolitical state through the very act of his exclusory-inclusion within the category of the human. Continue reading »

PhD Diary: The Lancaster Award

I’ve just recently completed my submission for the Lancaster Gold Award. The Award tracks extra-curricular activities and contributions to campus life and the community, as well as work experience and other activities related to employability.

Many of you reading this will probably wonder why I decided to bother with the Lancaster Award – after all, I have loads of work experience, and am not perhaps the target market for the Award, which is mainly aimed at undergraduates who perhaps don’t have all that much on their CV. But then I thought: why not?

The more I think about it, I’m not sure I know any postgraduate, and certainly no PhD student who has completed the Lancaster Gold Award, so that in itself is a minor ‘plus’ to my CV. Sure, it may not be the be all and end all in the academic jobs market, but it does go to show my hard work and contribution to University life while I’ve been working on a full-time PhD. The fact I’ve been able to balance my PhD alongside paid work and other related activities is actually a skill in itself and is testament to what I hope makes me a highly employable academic. Continue reading »

In Loving Memory of Tom Cramp (1930–2018)

Grandpa Tom died today. I miss him already.

Grandpa Tom, Christmas jumpers, December 2015

Christmas jumpers, December 2015

Early years

My first ‘memory’ of Grandpa Tom isn’t a memory as such, but rather a photo. There’s young me aged about five shooting him with a water squirter while he’s lying asleep on a deckchair. I don’t remember the incident as such, but I do remember the photo – I’m just sorry I can’t find it.

Skip forward a few years and my first ‘proper’ memory of Grandpa Tom is from my teenage years when we used to do gardening together under the watchful supervision of my dear old Gran (Sheila). Gran was a very small, frail lady, who was partially sighted but possessed with a great spirit and energy, which she applied to the directions she gave her two reluctant workers as we chopped, dug and scraped our way around their small back-garden. We didn’t say much to each other, but we shared that bond you get when suffering quietly in adversity, as I balanced precariously at the top of a ladder while Grandpa Tom collected the rubbish down below.

Lunchtime would always be the same: chicken-flavour Bachelor super noodles followed by a chocolate roll, or two if we were lucky. On extra special occasions we might even get beans and cheese on toast and a cup of tea before trudging back outside to get covered in cuts and bruises in what must be the prickliest garden in the whole of Ramsgate. Continue reading »