Dr Corrina Osborne is Head of Academic Operations at BU, working in the Office of the Vice-Chancellor. She spent a number of years working as a researcher before making the transition to a career in university administration and management. Read Corrina’s case study for information on her career progression.
‘Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory’ Indiana Jones
It probably will not come as a surprise to learn that social anthropology is not a vocational subject to study. Near the end of my UG degree, I was drawn to pursue a career in academia as I imagined it would entail an office in a beautiful old building and travelling around the globe undertaking exciting research. This was the result I am perfectly sure, of a misspent youth watching the Indiana Jones movies on repeat.
Three months after completing my UG degree I started a Masters in my department at Newcastle University and coupled this with lecturing. Three years later I’d got my PhD and within a few weeks I was working as a researcher in HE Learning Pedagogy. It was becoming evident that in order to do research I would enjoy, it was going to take a bit more work than just getting a PhD and a job as a researcher.
‘Diligence is the mother of good FORTUNE’ Benjamin Disraeli
I knew that in order to be able to undertake the kind of research I wanted to, I needed to learn how funders operate and the secrets of writing a successful grant. I took up a role as a Funding Development Officer and in my spare time I completed post-graduate qualifications relevant to an academic career, such as a PG Cert in Research Degree Supervision. The next step was getting experience in managing finances, resources and people to reassure a funder or future employer of my capabilities, which led me to take on the role of Acting Head of RKE. This was during the REF preparations where across the sector discussions of the ‘glory’ of excellent research were seemingly constant.
‘GLORY lies in the attempt to reach one’s goal and not in reaching it’ Mahatma Ghandi
During that time I also qualified as a Neuro-Linguistic Programming Practitioner and this prompted me to reflect on the glory aspect of research and to ponder whether I really did want to have an academic career. I knew to be included in a REF submission it was likely I would need to spend years working on other peoples projects, making applications to funders with single figure success rates, waiting for months on end to see if papers I’d written were accepted for publication and lecturing students who probably didn’t want to hear my dulcet Geordie murmurings for their £9k a year. I was unconvinced that I would find glory in the journey of becoming excellent in research.
‘A bit of anthropology in the evening is always better than staying and watching the telly’ – Nick Rhodes
I took up a job as Director of Operations to explore what else I may like instead. Luckily for me, by day I was able to work among different groups of people to successfully design and implement strategies for improvement. By night I could reflect on the structural context, construction of identities and reactions to cultural change. This summer I was able to widen this further by taking on the role of Head of Academic Operations and while I spend many an evening placing my experiences into the context of social anthropology, I manage to balance this with watching a bit of telly too and I am enjoying it all.
Read more about planning a career in university administration and management here.