chapter  1
6 Pages

The life of the university

ByPaddy Scannell

The university is an environment that protects those who work in it from many of the stresses and anxieties of the outside world. It offers far greater job security (once one has negotiated the white-knuckle tenure ride) than most other jobs – one can be incompetent as a teacher, unproductive in research, and bloody-minded as a colleague, yet cannot be sacked for any or all of the things that might well lead to a summary dismissal in the outside world. Academics have far greater control over their own time than any other job I can think of – they don’t have to be seen to be in their office every day from nine to five, and on the days when they do go in to work, they do so at times that suit them, unless they have a class or a meeting. And on top of all that, there are four months of paid leave each year. Moreover, they choose what they do – what classes to teach, and (greatest gift of all) the things that interest them as the objects of research and enquiry. These three things – a very high level of job security, control of time, and freedom of choice in respect of what in fact they do – are powerful reasons why I am very, very glad to be what I am – an inmate of the zoo, an institutional creature cared for and looked after by the sheltering, nurturing, and protective environment of the university.