It’s that time again. ‘Have a nice holiday!’ departing students wish us as they exit their
final tutorial under the misapprehension that university, like school, only happens when
they are around. The fact that most academics get four weeks’ leave a year appears not
to have registered, nor does the possibility that once the students are gone, there is just
so much to be done and so little time in which to do it.
Thus, while the promise of a four-month teaching break beckons like an oasis of
opportunity, by the time we get up to it, often it has dissolved into the mirage it always
was. First, there’s the marking, then the curriculum planning and for those of us coordinating
courses overseas or over summer, a whole other set of deadlines to accommodate. And
that’s before we get to our own commitments: the overdue papers, the promised chapters,
the articles to referee (hint), and the expectation that at least some of one’s time will
be spent on laborious grant applications with little chance of success. Not forgetting the
conferences, which offer a tantalising glimpse of the intellectual life we signed up for
in the first place.