Vitae, or losing the will to live.

April 30, 2012 at 7:49 pm (academe, Education, students)

Guest post from Pink Prosecco

When visiting a friend who teaches at a university, I found myself looking at a printout of a strange pie chart. It looked at first glance like something produced by a cult targeting the terminally insecure, offering various paths to self-improvement and enlightenment. However it turned out to be a diagram presenting the skill sets required by postgraduate researchers.

An idle google brought up a whole website full of further documentation about this framework, produced by Vitae. It seems that there are 63 skills, each of which can be further subdivided into five levels of attainment. I was reminded of this (begins 12:30 minutes in).

Some people will leap on any opportunity to avoid what they should be doing in favour of peripheral preliminaries – and it’s very easy to imagine a certain type of student striving for perfection in all these areas, going up the levels like a Dungeon and a Dragons character – rather than actually producing a thesis.

Given the hike in student fees and the loss of the EMA – the production of this obsessively elaborate scheme and its reams of associated documentation didn’t seem like the best use of public money. My friend seemed to be drowning in grant applications, marking, publishing deadlines, research audits, and countless other still more thankless tasks. Bureaucrats have plenty of time to produce superfluous schemes, new hoops for everyone to jump through – but lecturers seem to have no time to fight back. But perhaps they – and their students – don’t want to? I’m surprised to find no critical or simply satirical comment on this – not because I think what it’s saying and promoting is particularly objectionable – simply because it seems so cumbersome and unnecessary.


  1. Jim Denham said,

    There’s a very tenuous connection with this…isn’t there?
    Even if there isn’t it’s still bloody funny:

    P.S: The YouTube clip (above) is an abridged version, which misses the crucial section on “roll play.” The full version can be found by clicking on the “Pirates Training Day” link here:

  2. Ralph said,

    I work in HE as an academic, and god knows some parts of it need a lot more professionalism than has been historically the case. There are a lot of lazy, self-indulgent academics who think that they are owed a living and that students are an irritating distraction. Forgive the rant but I’ve been in a meeting today …. Thank God there were no students or ‘members of the public’ present…

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