September 30, 2015

8.20 am. A disposal of emails with attachments to staff pertaining to postgraduate allocations of various sorts, before a walk to School, cutting a track down Llanbardarn Road, up Pound Place (I wonder why so called) and Trinity Road, passed the church, and onto the Buarth. 9.10 am. Further email flurries. My ‘To Do Today’ and ‘To Do This Week’ lists grow, dispiritingly. 10.00 am. A PhD Fine Art tutorial with Eileen:


11.30 am. The beginning of a day of MA Fine Art assessments. That the show is strong doesn’t make the task any easier. Sarah was feeling the pressure … getting the jitters:



In my capacity as either first supervisor or second marker, I assessed until 5.15 pm, with half hour for lunch. (This is a nobbling regime.) Some principles and observations:

  • The more ‘mature’ MA students have been among those who have made the greatest leap forward since Exhibition 1. Age is no obstacle to artistic vitality and growth. On the contrary, it may be contributory factor.
  • More than native talent, cognisance of the context of one’s operations, technical expertise, and intellectual wherewithal, the capacity for hard work is the necessary foundation for success.
  • We should expect to exceed our own expectations (and, indeed, those of others).
  • We may not feel success, even when we have achieved it.
  • We may feel successful, even when we aren’t.

5.15 pm. Even the light draws lines here:


7.30 pm. An evening writing up assessment reports in readiness for the external examiner’s arrival, tomorrow.

The discussions about student satisfaction rubble on. Of course, students should receive the best quality of teaching and care and resources we can offer. But not at any cost. Balancing principles are required:

  • Staff must place professional integrity before popularity. They mustn’t be afraid to upset or rebuke a student when it is clearly in a student’s best interests. Any other attitude is irresponsible in my opinion.
  • The concept of student satisfaction is becoming a form of benign intimidation. It should be resisted as such.
  • The concept of student satisfaction is primarily about the student’s perception of reality, rather than about the nature of the reality itself (which may be very different). 
  • Disgruntled students can respond to questionnaires selfishly, mischievously and unintelligently. They are human, like the rest of us. 
  • Negative comments may be representative of a small minority of students only (particularly in a department the size of the School of Art). One doesn’t turn a cruise liner around just because a few passengers are seasick.
  • There’ll always be criticism, even when it’s not deserved. 

If everyone (students and staff) in the School were mobilised towards a common goal, fuelled by equality of commitment and an intensity of passion (savoured with honesty, optimism, and goodwill) then anything should be possible.

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