Oh the Humanities

A tale of stupid paperwork

I’m into the second year of a part-time history PhD. I’m studying the influence of secularists in various popular movements in the late 19th and early 20th century. It’s pretty good. Tomorrow after work I’m going to an archive to read the minutes and letters from a political club (I suppose you’d call it) that was influential in the 20th century.

The start of my second year was a bit hard as I am essentially arguing against most of the historiography exists so I just spent ages writing my literature review of people telling me I’m wrong. Now though, its just full on research and writing (basically).

Except for the amount of FAFF you have to put up with as a graduate student. I’m sure there’s less paperwork involved in buying a house or starting a war. Why is everything such an administrative burden?

This is pretty much how it goes down:

  • Apply for PhD program, get accepted
  • A few months in, apply for registration. (What, wasn’t that the first bit? No, no it wasn’t), get accepted.
  • Around end of 1st year (or 2nd if part-time), apply for transfer to PhD. (Wait, I’m pretty fucking sure you’ve done that already. No, no you haven’t). Get accepted.
  • Every year write a report on what you’ve done, have chats with the graduate head. (Wait, don’t you have a supervisor? Yes, you do. Presumably they aren’t responsible enough to make you do work, despite supervising you).
  • At some point, finish your dissertation, defend. Dr. YOU.

Except there’s MORE! You also have to do ‘training’. I’m pretty sure this is for people who haven’t left university ever and have very little idea of marketable job skills. However, what if you HAVE a job, clearly have some marketable job skills — what about you? No, I’m afraid you also have to do some tedious crap. Some examples of training offered was things like “write your cv!” No thanks. I have a job! I’ve clearly succeeded at that bit of life.

I just wish there was some get out of jail card for all this sort of stuff. Like your supervisor says “no, you are fine, you don’t have to do all that tedious nonsense because clearly you are capable at managing your work.” I’ve been using committee meetings, work meetings, organising Soho Skeptics and doing SitP talks for past ‘training’ which is as close as I get as getting out of jail. Aside from the STUPID PAPERWORK that goes with it.

I wonder if this was the same 50 years ago or 20? When did being a research student involve so much wasteful time spent obsessing over pointless reports. It’s not like you get any feedback! I wonder if it is just a checkbox. Report submitted. Check. Did the content even matter? Arg!

Maybe its just for those full time students to keep them somewhat attached to reality. Who knows. I imagine all these things cause quite a bit of stress in an already stressful situation. I’d love to see some research done into tedious academic bullshit and see how much it lowers productivity.

Don’t even get me on lack of resources for part-time, out of town students. That is a whole other rant. Now. Back to this paperwork…