Watson’s laws of academic life

29 10 2009

Professor Sir David Watson, who recently won the Times Higher Education Lifetime Achievement Award, has nine laws of academic politics he would like to share.

* Academics grow in confidence the farther away they are from their true fields of expertise (what you really know about is provisional and ambiguous, what other people do is clear-cut and usually wrong)

* You should never go to a school or department for anything that is in its title (which university consults its architecture department on the estate, or – heaven forbid – its business school on the budget?)

* The first thing a committee member says is the exact opposite of what she means (“I’d like to agree with everything the vice-chancellor has just said, but…”; or “with respect”…; or even “briefly”)

* Courtesy is a one-way street (social-academic language is full of hyperbole, and one result is the confusion of rudeness – or even cruelty – with forthrightness; however, if a manager responds in kind, it’s a federal case)

* On email, nobody ever has the last word

* Somebody always does it better elsewhere (because they are better supported)

* Feedback counts only if I agree with it

* The temptation to say “I told you so” is irresistible

* Finally, there is never enough money, but there used to be.

[H/T: timeshighereducation.co.uk]


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31 10 2009
bob rodriguez

I wish these comments were limited to academia but people sure seem to be the same the world over regardless of profession. In my view, all we can do is be ourselves and try to be respectful & supportive of the rest. That said, if you figure out how to do that please let me know.

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