Most of today was spent reading through various chapters of several PhD students – checking the arguments and suggesting changes to writing styles. I *really* like working with the UHI PhD students, they are so enthusiastic and the standard of their work is as good or better than any other university that I have visited. I like to get to grips with the details of their projects, and to encourage them to go that little bit further with their ideas! I think the distributed nature of the UHI offer makes supervision that bit more interesting, and I would like to see a bit more inter-college supervision panels in the next year or two as we gear up to Research Degree Awarding Powers (rDAP).
I spent part of today thinking about and planning a new module on digital literacy.
Frustration with the dynamics of a network where some people seem to think that important things can (should) only happen at a centre. How can an integrated network have a centre? I firmly believe that we can dissociate a centralised function from a centralised geographical location. In the UHI, the huge videoconferencing network is co-ordinated from Shetland – which I am sure most people would agree is not a “central” location (apart from those people who live in Shetland!) I thoroughly approve of this, and I wish other “centrallised” functions would be geographically de-centrallised. I think it would benefit the entire network to ‘walk-the-talk’ and commit to the fact that Inverness is not the automatic choice of university functions that are established to benefit the whole network. With decentrallised communications and an efficient transport system (ten flights a day from Stornoway – I can leave home at breakfast and be in London/Paris/Brussels by lunch-time) – why do we cling to this comfort-blanket of co-location in an over-priced urban office?
Just back from a couple of days in the Executive Office, in part discussing the strategy for encouraging future research at the UHI. It was a really successful meeting and it feels like a change in the wind. Some really good ideas from the new Vice Principal (Research) and some good discussion among the staff present. Despite being a big fan or “participating at a distance” through videoconferencing and other tools, this is a good example of when a bit of ‘face-time’ goes a long way. In a distribute environment like our university – thirteen Academic Partners (college and research centres) spread over a huge wedge of country – it is invaluable to be able to use technology to link to distant sites, but even once or twice a year it’s good to catch up with colleagues and go for a meal and a drink afterwards. Unfortunately the down-side is that I got caught by the storm that swept the UK yesterday and my flight was delayed for over four hours, landing at 22.30 in the dark and the snow. There are many advantages to networking from the comfort of my cosy office!