Friday, 14 September 2012

Friday already!

Hi everyone! Did you enjoy having a little break from me yesterday?  I really should consider the amount of effort you lot put into reading my frequent, rambling narratives.

Yesterday was graduation day for my School. I went to two ceremonies because I work in two departments, and couldn't miss seeing all my students. As always, one of the games to play while sitting on the stage is to put names to faces: there are a surprising number who manage to get through a whole degree without ever speaking to their teachers! It's also great to match supporters with students, and admire the incredible lengths taken to dress up. Your teachers look like scruffy herberts in comparison! This year was all about the shoes: there seemed to be a height competition going on.

Graduation is one of those occasions which gives me an opportunity to see the university in the round: students from lots of different courses all together. The Hegemon's national and ethnic diversity is readily apparent, and the high quality of our awards. For instance, the English cohort managed five first-class degrees between them, an amazing achievement (about 8% of the intake). They're kosher too: every university course is scrutinised by academics from other institutions to make sure we're operating at the same level. Our current examiner is from Cardiff's brilliant English department, so our own graduates should know that they're up to the same standards.

The First-Class graduates this year are also special because they really representative of our intake: 3, possibly 4 of them are mature students who also look after children and have jobs. Similarly, I was particularly proud of Jana, who took the media prize for a dissertation which was not only of publishable quality in terms of research, but was written in beautiful, elegant English - her second language. Away from the top grades too were so many students whose degree was a triumph over circumstances, academic problems, health setbacks, a lack of confidence or traumatic experiences.

This year was also excellent because much more effort had been put into the day: a reception afterwards for everybody, shorter, sharper speeches (the two by SU officials were absolutely excellent: one personal and emotional, one political and pointed, and the same goes for the Vice-Chancellor's very deliberate praise for our international students) and a real sense of occasion. I also particularly appreciated the procession of staff: the embarrassment of parading through town in silly costumes was balanced by getting to the wine reception before the students and guests. We're a thirsty lot, so perhaps the authorities might rethink that element….

Talking of which, this year's graduation was a success in that I survived the post-match celebrations in a state no worse than exhaustion. Last year I was kidnapped by a determined bunch of graduates and rendered into a condition which can only be described as 'hog-whimpering', from which state I needed two full days to recover.

So that's all the fun over. I spent this morning at the Staff Wellbeing and Moral Task and Finish Group Workgroup 3 meeting, which was exactly as much fun as it sounds. Admin this afternoon, and maybe even a bit of academic work! The highlight of the weekend though is Mahler's Resurrection Symphony at Birmingham's Symphony Hall. Hopefully I won't end up sitting next to a Nazi this time - at Mahler's 8th, a pompous man informed me that if I liked it, I should listen to Bruckner: 'like the Fuhrer after dinner every day'.

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