entries tagged ‘academia’

work for no work

I’m working to a deadline I should have reached last week. I never get things started until the last minute. So I’m re-drafting a new version of an earlier essay I wrote, hoping to submit it for journal publication sometime over Christmas. And I’m doing this against the backdrop of protest, anger, frustration and fear as the UK government has voted tonight to increase university tuition fees to £9,000 per year. It’s not just that though; my area, the arts and humanities, is expecting a 70%+ reduction in funding across the board — not just at my university, at ALL universities — and a massive cut in funding for staff. That’s for staff wages. Not just their holiday pay or their sabbatical leave or their research grants, that’s for it all. And so I’m finishing an article to submit to a journal — all part of what is expected when you’re a doctoral student, in preparation for an excellent publishing record ahead of job hunting — and I’m looking forward to the 3 years of research and writing ahead of me, and I realise I’m working — granted, on something I love — with near to zero prospects of being able to use my PhD in any meaningful way when I’m done. We’re told that students should pay more because when they graduate they’ll earn more. Not if the jobs have been taken away as well.

So I’m working for no work. It’s a bleak prospect. No doctoral student would embark on a PhD unless they were motivated by something other than money, but the prospect of nothing at the end of it, possible financial ruin, no outlet for continuing to be an expert in your field and contributing to knowledge and culture — that’s bleak. And it’s not just bleak for me. It’s not just bleak for my fellow postgraduates and undergraduates and soon-to-be (or never-to-be) undergraduates. It’s bleak for the entire country and for the future of knowledge.

i’m busy

I know I’m sporadic in my posting anyway, but I have a genuine reason at the moment. I’m down to the final three weeks before I have to hand in my MRes dissertation. Yeah, so I’m posting this instead of writing it, but it could be worse – I could be scanning negatives or cloning away dust.

So unless I have a complete meltdown between now and the 17th of September, there will be nothing to see here. I will likely be doing the majority of my procrastination over at twitter, if you find you’re suffering from separation anxiety.

In the meantime, look, some pictures!

all © catherine buca 2007-2010

bouncy-bouncy (or, out damn’d trudge! out, I say!)

Well, I wasn’t expecting just how much things would change once I started the masters. Despite not being incredibly busy, I’ve been busy enough that blogging and taking photos have been at the bottom of my list of things to do. At the top of the list have been:

  • getting up early (well, earlier than usual)
  • getting dressed every day
  • leaving the house every day
  • organising stuff
  • researching stuff

Strange times indeed.

I have gotten into the habit of carrying my Ricoh GR1 with me, and have almost finished 1 roll over the past 2 weeks. I’m also embarking on a collaboration with a very talented flickrer whose work I adore (and who has featured several times in my sunday flickr faves). I’m the one slacking off at the moment though; I need to get my arse in gear and do something towards it. This week, I promise …

Being busy agrees with me. I spent so long being non-busy I’d convinced myself I had a ‘can’t handle busy-ness’ type of personality. In other, incredibly simplistic words, I became lazy. I was wrong though; the activity gene has kicked in and now I bounce instead of trudge. It’s quite the most fun.

Despite my lack of photographaging, I can’t shake the need to have a photo in every post, so here’s an old one:

Untitled (by catherine buca)
© catherine buca 2008

sunday flickr favourites

I haven’t done anything much related to photo things this week. One thing or another kept cropping up. And now I have my new glasses everything looks weird, and I know my finished photos won’t look like what I see through them. They’ll settle down in time, I hope. And my keyboard looks bendy as I type this … good job I can touch type.

Some great photos from my flickr contacts this week. I am, quite frankly, embarrassed to know my pictures turn up in their contacts list …

Out Of Body Experience (by Psychedelic*Panda)
© Psychedelic*Panda

enough said | august 13. 2008 (by girl.x)
© girl.x

Turkish Coffee at the International Cafe (by Rev Dan Catt)
© Rev Dan Catt

windowsill (by Kim Denise)
© Kim Denise

deadleavesarepretty2 (by danske)
© danske

I’ve sent 7 rolls of 120 off to be processed, and should hopefully get them back early in the week. Fingers crossed I might actually have some new photos to put up soon.

In other news, I didn’t get funding from the AHRC for my MRes, which wasn’t, if I’m being honest, totally unexpected. I have a better shot at securing the fees bursary my university is making available, but won’t hear about that until some time in September. Who called it ‘the waiting game’? Aren’t games supposed to be fun?

hicham yezza, academia, and intellectual censorship

I’ve been following this story for a week or so now, and I can’t help but feel more and more uneasy about it.

Hicham Yezza, a postgraduate employee at Nottingham University, was arrested and detained for six days for possessing a copy of the al-Qaida training manual. Why did he have it? To print out for a friend who was researching an MA on their training methods. Hardly a threat to national security.

The Guardian’s article has the first interview with Yezza since the events unfolded, and highlights the crucial issues around censorship and intellectual freedom involved in the case. The article quotes academics, who point to a climate of self-censorship that is already present, and growing, within universities, hindering academic freedom and investigation. What is also interesting is Yezza’s position within the university. He was active within political societies, and the founder of the campus’ student peace movement. The university released a statement that claimed

The University works closely with the Students’ Union to promote dialogue, understanding and respect between student societies and is proactive in meeting regularly with representatives of key cultural groups. We also work closely with chaplains and faith groups, not only to meet the needs of students from particular faiths, but also to balance the interests of particular cultural or religious groups with those of the wider campus community. Where individual or group action unsettles the harmony of the campus, the University is committed to working through established channels to reinforce the values and standards that underpin a diverse and tolerant environment.

Apparently, ‘harmony’ in this case means not protesting – about anything. If I was a conspiraloon I might say that Yezza’s correspondence was monitored by the university because of his activity in the peace movement (that and his unfortunate affliction of having a strange-sounding foreign name), and it is through this monitoring that they found the copy of the manual in the first place, and that the over-reaction of going straight to the police was in direct response to those issues. However, I’m not into my conspiraloonery, so I won’t say that. But I can understand why some might.

You can follow Yezza’s deportation struggle at the Free Hicham Yezza blog, which also provides some useful comment on the events that led up to this.

titles, again, and good news x 2

I finally decided on a title for my dissertation. I know there are lots and lots of you sitting eagerly on the edges of your seats, desperate to know, intrigued and awed by my titling prowess, so I won’t make you suffer any longer. The title is: Travels In The ‘Austerian’: Writing and the (Self-) Surveillance of Paul Auster. Pretty catchy, eh?

The more eagle-eyed of you are no doubt driving yourselves to despair trying to work out how the picture here relates to that. Well it doesn’t. It relates to my good news. I want to do a Masters degree. In fact, it’s the only reason I decided to do this undergraduate degree, so at this point, after three years of financial and emotional sacrifice it’s less ‘want’ and more ‘need’ to do it. The problem is the fees. I’m getting on a bit, so doing the Masters part-time, so I can work more to pay them myself, isn’t really feasible. That leaves the daunting prospect of scholarship funding.

The research council responsible for funding in my field are the AHRC, and, as you can imagine, competition is fierce. They have recently changed how applications are made, splitting it into two stages of elimination, the first internal to the student’s prospective institution. This meant I had to submit a personal statement/research proposal last week to my supervisor, who then officially ‘nominated’ me as a candidate. Out of these nominations, only eight go forward to be allowed to apply to the AHRC. This is from students across the entire university, not just my discipline, and includes both Masters and PhD hopefuls.

The panel met yesterday afternoon to go through the proposals and handpick their choice eight. I made it. I’m overjoyed. I know this is only the first hurdle, and now I have to compete against those eight, plus other candidates from the universities within our division for a lump of the cash. I don’t know what my chances are, but I’m feeling a hell of a lot more confident about it all today than I was yesterday.

My second piece of good news arrived in the form of last semester’s assessment results. I got firsts across the board. I honestly thought I had managed to scupper my chances of a first in at least one of the modules in the exam after Christmas. However, it would seem not, and I got strong firsts for them all. The bouncing that began with my AHRC news has resumed with this news. Thankfully this time I’m on my own at home and not in the university’s computer lab, with everyone sat staring at me like I’m a mildly deranged lunatic having an epileptic fit.

All I need to do now to complete my credentials as the best person in the whole entire world is take some photos. The deeper I’m getting into this final year the less inclination I have to pick up a camera. I must try to though; all genii need to exhibit multifaceted excellence.


Travels in the ScriptoriumI have serious problems choosing titles. For my photographs, for my blog posts, and, most importantly at the moment, for my dissertation.

By the end of next week I have to submit my final title to my supervisor. I find that a more daunting prospect than writing the actual paper. My titles usually sound far too poncy.  The little gem I came up with as a place-holder, of sorts, for my dissertation when submitting my proposal was, “Paul Auster’s Travels in the Scriptorium And Problems With The ‘Austerian’”. Not too far up my own arse with that one, eh?

I came up with it in a fit of blind panic, needing to choose something, fast. It doesn’t really get to the heart of what I want to look at, which, in essence, will be a Bourdieusian analysis of the book and its place within whatever this strange thing called the ‘Austerian’ is.

I expect that when it comes down to it, once I have jotted down my expectations and ideas, I’ll be able to come up with something that doesn’t sound like I’m aiming to submit to the  leading ‘look at me I’m really pretentious’ journal. I’ll save that for my PhD. Although I know I’ll find the right title for this work, it won’t change my crippling inability to pick them for photos, or blog posts (this one excepted, of course). I go for “untitled” far too often. I’ve tried flowery, enigmatic ones before, like, “she stepped through the bushes to see her dreams unfolding”, or comedy titles such as, “the problem with faddy eating (only tall food need apply)”. More often than not I settle for the tried-and-tested vanilla descriptive titles, like, “seven brushes in a jar”. Or I won’t title them at all (because “untitled” is, afterall, a title).

It is, actually, a source of a great deal of conflict and stress. It might not seem that big a deal, picking a title, but those words represent an authorial stamp, something that sets out your intent before you’ve even started. It’s a crucial part of how we choose and consume our entertainment; get it wrong in the publishing or film business and your multi-million dollar investment might go right down the pan. Is it really that important for my wee blog though? Or the photos I take but only 7 people look at? Probably not. I suspect, however, that agonising over my inconsequential titles now can only set me in good stead for academic titling in the future.

I just need to be wary of naming my journal submissions, “An Essay (With Four Sub-Sections And An Appendix)”.