So, this morning, I got a nice email from Liverpool University. It got me thinking.
Im going to be an external examiner, for a PhD. As is the norm there is a very modest stipend (165 STG ) plus reasonable expenses. So, a trip to Liverpool, a chance to engage in some discussion with a young scholar, a few beers with some mates there in the Uni and elsewhere. This is a nice job. But..in the email is this, a variant of which I have noted over the last few years is coming into more and more emails from UK universities when they ask one to do anything.
‘Please note if you are a non UK national you must have the right to work in the UK for us to pay you the External Examiner Fee.’
Fast forward to the post Brexit UK. EU nationals will no longer have an automatic right to work in the UK. So, how will universities manage that? Will external examining, for PhD or as a course examiner, require engagement with the UK work permit police? Or will some blanket exclusion be put in place? How long before some demented kipper starts to mumble about German or Irish or Greek academics taking the jobs of honest hard working English academics?
The reality is that academics do external examining not for the paltry fees, but because its part of the social fabric of academia. I external examine for you so that you will do so for us down the line. It also allows and is designed to give one a degree of cross checking, of peer review, of one’s own shop and to exchange good ideas, and to take home processes and practices that might improve one’s own. Hampering this free flow of ideas is a bad idea. Cutting oneself off from it is a worse one. If I have to engage with a government bureaucracy to do external examining in the UK I ….wont. Its not worth the hassle. Maybe Universities UK have thought this one through and have solutions. The evidence is that the UK authorities are struggling to make any sense of the mess in which they have landed themselves.