All entries for Monday 23 October 2006

October 23, 2006

The first campus novel?

Title:
Rating:
2 out of 5 stars

The Groves of Academe – Mary McCarthy

I struggled for ages to track down this book which is, arguably, the first campus novel and was very positively disposed towards it in principle. Liberal arts college in the US, 60s turmoil, lots of politics, undercurrents of sexual intrigue – can’t go wrong, I thought. Unfortunately, whilst it does have some merits, including what feels like an accurate portrayal of a largely second rate faculty torn apart by petty strife, it is really rather dull.

The first part of the book focuses on the main character, Mulcahy, and his attempts through bizarre means to secure an extension to his short term contract whilst he seeks both to create and deny a vaguely mysterious communist background. The second part covers an awful poetry conference at the college and the shenanigans around the poets and their sponsors.

It must all have seemed terribly daring and challenging at the time but, whereas Lodge’s campus novels really do stand the test of time, this one I am afraid does not.


How to run a University?

Title:
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

The University: An Owner’s Manual

Very interesting set of insights from former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard. Some wonderfully pragmatic and blunt tips aimed in particular at those academics who find themselves in senior management positions.

I found it pretty difficult to disagree with the sage advice herein although the references to Oxford were overly generous in terms of its managerial self-sufficiency and the assertions about the need for all senior academic administrative staff to be appointed rather than elected were inadequately defended.

Although the coverage of the student experience is very US-oriented, the sections on academic life and governance are extremely well done.

Overall, the style is relaxed and yet insightful and punchy, born out of many years of toil at the decanal coal face. Well worth a read.


How to run a University?

Title:
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

The University: An Owner’s Manual

Very interesting set of insights from former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard. Some wonderfully pragmatic and blunt tips aimed in particular at those academics who find themselves in senior management positions.

I found it pretty difficult to disagree with the sage advice herein although the references to Oxford were overly generous in terms of its managerial self-sufficiency and the assertions about the need for all senior academic administrative staff to be appointed rather than elected were inadequately defended.

Although the coverage of the student experience is very US-oriented, the sections on academic life and governance are extremely well done.

Overall, the style is relaxed and yet insightful and punchy, born out of many years of toil at the decanal coal face. Well worth a read.


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