17 September 2015

Go Turnbull!

Two days, two Turnbulls. Everybody will have noticed that a certain Malcolm Turnbull ousted Tony Abbott and is now the new Australian prime minister. The BBC keeps stressing his sensible views on climate change and equal rights. It seems what the BBC says is a simplification, but still, the man is a breath of fresh air after Abbott, who is rather misogynist, racist, and a climate denier. So there's clearly still room for improvement but things are better than they were!

And the other Turnbull, you may ask? Well, Oliver Turnbull is Bangor University's Pro Vice-Chancellor, with special responsibility for teaching and learning. So if one starts to do one's PGCertHE, one is likely to run into him. One may do that at many other occasions, but if you're in the School of Ocean Sciences and thus residing on Anglesey you are  less likely to engage in events on the main campus (where pretty much everything except Ocean Science takes place) than most. You have to add an hour to all events going on there to account for travel time!

During the PGCertHE induction we were repeatedly reminded of the upcoming CELT conference (CELT being Centre for Enhancement of Learning and teaching). It sounded like a useful follow-up so I registered. And Oliver Turnbull would be the first and the last to talk. Did I expect an awful lot of that? No, not really. Maybe it was my several years at Plymouth University that had made me prejudiced against the higher echelons of university management. Academia is like the rest of society; once you get to the top, you are likely to lose yourself in ill-advised vanity projects and giving yourself massive pay increases. But this chap already made a good impression on me when, upon spotting me in the crowd, approached me as he said he didn't recognise my face and he figured I was new staff. A pro vice-chancellor who actually knows the people on the ground! That's good. But then the man took the stage and gave a speech and it got a lot better.

You could tell this chap actually cared about the university. And he stopped himself on several occasions when his talk threatened to turn into a rant on Tory governments who, well, lose themselves in ill-advised vanity projects and do massive damage to universities. He seemed a thoroughly decent guy!

The day was topped off with a dinner and a ceilidh. I like ceilidhs! I went. Due to the usual Anglesey thing I didn't go back to the office or back home between conference and dinner; I just popped into the library to look for a book I needed, and did some sitting in the sun and practicing Welsh. Everybody else, though, turned out to have gone home and put on some glamorous outfit. Deary me! I felt very underdressed. But it was nice; I ended up at a table with an SOS colleague and her bloke, and one lady from Linguistics and one from Psychology. Nice and interesting people! And the food was good and the room glamorous. And then there were some more Oliver Turnbull speeches, honouring and thanking all sorts of people who had done remarkable things in the field of teaching and learning. It even involved him scampering across the hall to hug a lady who was not well and would have struggled to come onto the stage. He cares!


And then the ceilidh unfurled. I had fun! And as if I haven't sung Turnbull praise enough already the man also stands his dancing ground. I came to learn useful things about teaching but I ended up feeling better about humanity. A good day!

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