So here I am sitting with a glass of wine on a hotel veranda in Barbados, musing on the occasional delights of academic life….
Actually one of the biggest oddities must be travelling all the way to somewhere like Barbados and not even making it onto the beach, but that’s how it goes sometimes. I’m over here to do job (leading a Faculty Review of the Law Faculty at the University of the West Indies) and competing pressures on my time mean I arrived late last Sunday afternoon, have been working with the review team all week and fly out tomorrow (Friday) pretty much as soon as we have reported back to the Faculty. Still it has been interesting. I find these kinds of quality processes fascinating, and enjoyable – especially when the students are as engaging and articulate as they are at UWI – but challenging too. There’s the whole rather forensic thing of asking the right questions of different people and working through papers to triangulate the data we’re accumulating, and then there’s the developmental processes of trying to articulate good practice and make viable recommendations that will support a department to make improvements where necessary. Plus sitting behind all that activity is the little voice in your own head (not so) quietly interrogating you on your own and your department’s practice!
Obviously the outcomes are confidential, but fortunately the incidental things that fall out of the process are always really interesting too. I know more about the Caribbean Single Market than I did before I started, have discussed with a Jamaican Professor of International Law whether Caribbean human rights law allows a margin of appreciation in the way of the ECHR (answer: it doesn’t, or certainly not in those terms) and experienced lots of the ways in which globalization is shrinking our world. For example, meeting the head of the law school at the College of the Bahamas, who just happens to be a Warwick graduate; sitting at lunch up at the Cave Hill Campus discussing Obama’s prospects for the Democrat US Presidential nomination, almost as if it were a matter of local politics; hearing law students and law teachers expressing concerns that almost exactly mirror those I hear in the UK: increasing numbers, worries about appropriate levels of skills (of the students, not the staff… mostly), worries about job prospects (students again)and the increasing work pressures on the academics too. Plus ca change….