Written by an academic we can really felt drawn into the American way of university life.

To a British lecturer in a British university that is not Oxbridge, this way of life seems very remote from my own experience.

To begin with. This whole notion of tenure. Which I have commented on in the past. It is true that you often have to work part-time or on a temporary contract for the first year or two but then a permanent  position is usually offered assuming that you have 1. A PhD; 2. Scholarly articles published in ‘good’ journals; and 3. A teaching qualification.  So quite a lot of hoops to go through but nothing like the politics of a US university as indicated in this story.

In the university in the story, it required some 6-7 years with that university with a yearly evaluation to be passed at an excellent grade, before you could be considered for a tenured post.  The annual review includes a faculty vote as well as consideration of your research output and course evaluations. This all sounds very stressful to me and I doubt if this had been the case for me, that I would have wanted to be an academic…

I do however, get the issue of course proposals as discussed in the story. I myself proposed a number of modules and even degrees, that never happened because the Dean at that time deemed them not applicable to our current programmes. And that was very frustrating. And even when we had full degrees prepared it was difficult to get them through validation if internal politics was involved.

And then there are the research grant proposals and applications that far outnumber those actually granted. In fact in the US it is usually easier to obtain such monies than it is here in the UK – and this applies to the charity work I am undertaking now too… lots of effort but little reward on such grants!

Tenure is so difficult to obtain because once achieved you have usually no set retirement age and it is very difficult to sack you.  However, the reality is now very similar in the UK, as we no longer have a set retirement age – as long as your teaching is still required, you can continue working. You can be full-time, or as I did, go part-time, but as a fraction of my full-time contract and thus with all the rights of that contract.

And then there is how they are paid. Not saying that British academics are paid well in universities because they are not. They have had very few pay increases in the past years and are well behind what they should be paid for their qualifications and the time spent on training but at least in the UK they have 6 weeks paid holiday per year – if they can manage to take it – which I never did but that is another story – we also get paid sick leave and are paid during teaching breaks as we are expected to undertake research, paper writing, various academic tasks including marking, attending committees and so on – so we are paid during the long summer break(!); and also don’t forget the free medical care from the NHS…


Overall, I found this an accurate if rather intense and exaggerated story of academic rivalries and internal politics.

But truthfully, the only murder in any of the universities I have worked at was when a student stalked a lecturer and eventually killed her. No murder for internal rivalries and jealousy!

Well written and keeps you guessing. Especially interesting if you are an academic or something about the life of course, but not a requirement to read this as all is explained in enough detail for you to understand the situation.

I received this free book in exchange for an honest review

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