19 March 2018

Progressing bureaucracy

Things have changed since I went to university! And one would hope so; that was 25 years ago and it would have been silly if all was still the same. Some things are a lot better. I remember the pain in the bum it was to search for literature; you had to look it up, write a list, look up where all the journals you needed articles from were stored in the library, then go there and find them. Journals tended to be bound in thick heavy volumes, so you could only reasonably carry a few at a time. Then you had to copy them. And only then could you start reading! Doing all that online has really been an improvement.

Not everything is so unequivocally good; one thing that changed is the bureaucracy. If we now either see our students or don't, we have to document that. Email contact should be documented too. And you'd think it is; it's in your sent items box! But that's not centrally accessible, so I find myself regularly spending time copying emails to and from tutees or dissertation students into the central system. Is that a good thing? Well, I suppose leaving a paper (sensu lato) trail has pros and cons. But the system was very clunky. A bit silly; doing it digitally is supposed to make things easier. But now it is! I got an email about that the systems were now connected. And whether you like all that archiving or not; at least now it is easier; you just BCC your email to the central system and hey presto! It's there.

I suppose this is a bit of a symptom of universities becoming more commercial; they need the students, so they want to be able to spot it if something goes wrong. If caught in time, maybe the problem can be solved before the student drops out of university and stops paying tuition fees! And the students become more consumerist too. That means they can be rather demanding. Sometimes you need a paper trail to show you've done what you can. And do I like that new approach? Hell no. But it's there! Better make sure I survive in this system...

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