It's a bit strange really because it's a different path to most of my friends because a surprisingly high proportion of my friends did actually end up getting academic jobs which is good for them obviously. So it's been kind of interesting because there is a certain – I don't want to say resentment – but there is a kind of clash between academics and administrators, whether for good reasons or not, so it's going to be interesting to have conversations with people who did go on into academic careers. I mean and we're having quite sort of serious and sensible conversations on some of the issues and different cultures, so yeah in a slightly round about way they perhaps influenced me in terms of where it's gone in sort of making me just think through what I'm doing and why I'm doing it and what sort of value its adding to HEI and whether its worth doing, so I think talking to people who don't necessarily agree with it has actually been quite useful.
What kind of attitudes have you encountered from academics about working in HE admin?
I mean generally I think people are quite positive, at least on a sort of personal level. I mean there is sense that you are part of 'The Institution' or 'the University' which nobody ever really identifies, because if you actually challenge people to do so then nobody ever really puts a figure on it because it would be me or it would be the person sitting over there or – and if you said to them 'do you mean (…) university they will say 'no' so its this amorphous and (catch all) which is very useful for people to rail against. So generally in terms of individual relations it's generally been quite positive. I think there have been exceptions where people do sort of resent your existence and see it as an obstruction or whatever, but I think people do realise that my role is sympathetic to what they're doing and I'm trying to help as far as possible by guiding them through the various processes.
Do you ever feel personally an ambivalence about your role within HE and the potential that you had for an academic career?
Yes. I mean at times, I'm thinking how much (…) the process can be frustratingly bureaucratic and even if you're not personally trying to do things, there are certain things that you need to do or make other people do and that must be hugely frustrating and I do see that completely. And will admit to that. In conversations with people there's not always anything I can do about it and so you do sometimes think - are you actually adding anything? Have you passed the problem? But - you need to come back to that, but these things need to be done generally. These processes need to be gone through so I think on balance I think hopefully I'm contributing something to the sort of overall running of the place and helping to facilitate research within the university.
When you're helping people to complete grant applications do you ever wish that you were filling in one of these applications for your own project?
It's ironic really because I used to hate doing grant applications both as a post grad and in my other job as a researcher, we used to have to bid for funding. We used to really hate having to ask for money. So in that sense I don't miss it, but yes I mean I think I would occasionally - I would like to be writing research proposals and thinking of interesting things to do and sometimes its just reading something and 'wow that's a really great idea somebody's come up with and if they get money to do this that'll be a fantastic research project. And so yeah there is – and yet still – not all the time. I don't think you could do the job if all the time you're thinking 'I wish I was on the other side, I wish I was an academic or researcher'. I think it would drive you a bit mad, but yeah, occasionally.
Do you ever envisage a return to academia?
No I don't – well no probably not. Occasionally I think, actually no I could go back and do something. I could go and, you know, do a post doc now that there are post docs - post doc roles are a bit more common, but I think as a career path it would be very difficult, a very difficult thing to do because its just not really the way it works. Its not like I'll come into it later, not be a mature student, but come into it much later on which I think would be easier in some ways, because I've sort of been through and come out the other side, and so going back into that world would be quite difficult. Unless there was sort of an opportunity where somebody I knew was doing a research project or something like that and you could actually get into it that way I think, I mean I think I could probably offer something in that respect, do something involved in putting together project bits and add something of the mechanics of it, in a way that other people perhaps wouldn't do so there is potentially a hybrid role there I suppose. Which is not uncommon in some sciences, people are doing that sort of role between the two worlds.
Can you see some clear advantages to working in a 9 to 5 position within HE but not in an academic position?
There is a lot to be said for not working at home at weekends and evenings. (…) during the PhD you kind of felt like you were doing it all the time and lots of people enjoy that. I've got friends who become obsessed and they talk about their work all the time and which can be quite interesting but there is something to be said for being able to sort of leave things in the office in terms of sort of work/life balance and that sort of thing. Which is not insignificant because I do know people in academic jobs who do feel a bit that they're sort of working all the time, or they're constantly running, and teaching students, working at home and that sort of thing. There isn't that expectation, I think, in administration.