Labours of Love?

A typical working day

Inspired by the THE’s feature on typical working days, our head of Marketing and Commuincations, Justin Marks, thought it would be fun to use our new automated news-gathering and publishing  system to ask a cross-section of Burston Central staff to share their own days.

Thinking of coming to work here? This should inspire you!

The VC, Bill Noakes

I don’t have time for this kind of crap, Justin. I’m busy. And I’ll be looking carefully at the contract of anyone around here who does have time to answer you.

Martin, busy lecturer and union official

I have an early start to walk to the station. Then I have the horrid experience of standing in a sardine-can and trying to avoid being elbowed by annoying office workers.  I do try to think of higher things, but the stupid car-parking policy usually occupies my mind. From the station, it’s only a five minute walk to the office, but it’s enough to get wet. The car park is handier as there’s a covered walkway into the main building.

I used to make a brew when I got to work in the morning, but of course we aren’t allowed kettles in our offices any more, and I don’t have time to get to the canteen in the day. Too busy, plus, it’s shockingly overpriced. So I bring a flask in with me.

As an over-stretched union official, I sometimes have to start the day dealing with urgent union business. We get a time allocation but it’s not really enough. There are a lot of grievances at the moment.

I do quite a lot of phone networking, finding out what’s happening in departments. I also try to spend time keeping up with journals. I usually provide office hours at the end of the morning.

I try to take a full lunch hour to recharge the batteries. The afternoon is often spent filling in the latest forms, then I try to get away promptly so I can get a seat on the train – if you can get on it by 3pm you can usually sit down. Of course I have to take some work with me to do in the evening.  It’s never-ending.


I like to get up early, it’s one of the Habits of Highly Effective People. I’m on my treadmill by 4.30am. A good healthy breakfast, and I’m at my desk by 7. In the summer,  that gives me a moment to enjoy the view across the park. Mock cherry blossom is followed by horse chestnut flowers. Lovely.

Once I’ve cleared my email, I have a wander round campus ‘walking the floor’ and seeing if there is anything news-worthy to be found. As we move more and more to open-plan offices, there is more opportunity to bump into people doing interesting things.

Then it’s back to the office to look at the latest impact figures – we collect data on all our social media mentions and press-cuttings. I may make a couple of follow-up calls to local or national journalists, to help with their fact-checking or to place a story.

After a quick coffee and catch-up with my PA, I usually do a bit of report-writing. The VC likes me to keep him up to date. Then it’s home for tea – I’m a bit of a foodie, so I like to spend some time on that – and some work-related reading before bed. But of course, no two days are the same at Burston Central!

Sunita, International Partnerships Director

I have young children, so I need to work fairly regular hours to accommodate childcare. Also, I have to travel a lot for the job, which involves long hours, so when I’m in Burston I try to make sure that I’m around for them. My job is really varied. sometimes I’m talking to potential partners about collaborations – we always do the first stage of the work with them, before they talk to any academics. I’m also likely to be trouble-shooting existing partnerships. Just to give you an idea of the kind of problem-solving that’s needed, we’ve got one at the moment where, without giving away too much, our partner from Eastern Europe is concerned about the match between their courses and ours. Their students come for their final year here. Unfortunately it seems that two years on Soviet accounting styles isn’t such a good preparation for our final year politics and economics course after all. I think I’m going to have to get some remediation courses put on, hopefully not too expensive or it will wipe out the profits from that particular collaboration! I’m sure our academic staff are willing to go the extra mile to sort it out.

Then of course there are all of the policy matters. I report directly to the VC, so I need to keep him up to speed with our policies and he sometimes has a few ideas of his own, too.

My team is brilliant and mostly get on with things on their own.

When I’m overseas I usually have to work in the evenings – receptions and so on – that’s a whole other column, isn’t it! But here, I get home around 5pm and switch off from the job. I think that’s key.

Phil, an academic

Awake at 2.30. I wonder if I locked the front door before I went to bed? I need to finish that marking and get all the marks into the system by Friday. 300 scripts. How am I going to do it? Should I get up now and do it? But I’m so tired, I need to sleep. I must go back to sleep  so I can do the students justice. (continue for two hours)

8am. Shit. Slept in. Missed bus.

9.30. Arrive at work. Make coffee. Get out pile of scripts from locked drawer. Look at them. Decide how many I’ll do before I have a break (Eight). Look around the room. Spot Sally and remember I have to ask her about something to do with next term’s teaching. Better do it now before I forget.

10.00. Start marking.

10.45. Two scripts done. Make more coffee. Bump into Alison in the kitchen. Quick chat about (lack of) progress with periodic review.

11.15. Back at desk. Head down.

12.00. Early lunch break. Sun is shining! Hurrah! Go and sit in park with next year’s reading list.

13.00. Back at desk. head down.

13.15 Make coffee. Back to desk.

14.00. Meeting about next year’s marking schedule. Must go otherwise might get nobbled for something.

15.00. Shit. only done ten scripts. Need to finish another forty today.

19.00. Building closes. Pick up remaining 10 scripts and stuff into bag. Open locked drawer, remove another 10 for good measure. Might as well, since I’ve got to do some at home anyway.

20.00. Get home. Not much food in house. Toast some stale bread and eat it with sun-dried tomato paste. Not bad. Open bottle of wine. Switch on TV. Great. Come Dine with Me is on.

23.00.  Finish marking last script with last glass of wine. Bed.

Do add your own diaries in the comments section.

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