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Monday 23 January 2023

Mick Copier

Most university lecturers work very hard (at least in my experience). They spend hours planning teaching and helping students, and give up too many of their evenings and weekends dealing with email. I also used to put in further time carrying out research, writing academic papers and applying for external funding. With some success, I might add.

Yet I always had a sneaking regard for those who did basically what was asked of them and little more. One such colleague was called Mick Copier.

I first came across him when I still worked in the software industry. My employer sent me on a course in SSADM (Structured Systems Analysis and Design Method) and Mick was on the same course. Around a year later I got a job at the same university where he worked and found myself sharing an office with him. If truth be told, the course helped me get the job and Mick put in a good word for me.

Part of my role involved visiting students out on their work placement years. Late one morning, arriving back on the train, I was surprised to see Mick at the railway station. “Are you on a placement visit too?” I asked him. “No,” he said, “I’ve done all I need to do today so I thought I would have an afternoon out in York.”

Mick based much of his teaching around the SSADM course we have both been on. I sometimes used it too, but Mick took it to extremes. Every June, our office would fill up with boxes from the reprographics room. Soon they were stacked four or five high and three or four deep. They were his teaching materials for the next academic year. From October to April, all he then had to do was to hand out these pre-prepared notes and worksheets week-by-week and guide the students through them. They nicknamed him Mick Photocopier.

To be fair, he was extremely knowledgeable, and the students liked and respected him.

With his preparation all finished, Mick  then took all his holiday in one block over the summer. While workaholics like me spent our time writing and researching obsessively, he kept a boat on the River Ouse and could comfortably make it to the Mediterranean and back on the French canals. One day I would be like that, I told myself.

Mick came unstuck in the end. Well, sort of. The university decided it needed to reduce the number of lecturers and began a redundancy consultation. I survived, largely because of my research output. Mick didn’t. Instead, he accepted a large voluntary severance payment and walked straight into a new and highly paid position with a nearby passenger transport authority, restructuring their database of bus and train timetables. He even took some of our students on placement. He knew what he was doing, in more ways than one.

I never did get to be like Mick. I think now that I drove myself far too hard.


  1. "Some guys have all the luck!" - Rod Stewart.

  2. He certainly seemed to know how to play the game.

  3. I think we all know a Mick!

  4. We only have one life and clearly Mick didn't plan on slaving his away. He was all about work-life balance before it was cool, apparently.

  5. I think it takes superior executive skills as well as knowledge to be like Mick!

  6. One can only go with one's nature. It was the same in secondary school teaching. Some worked like carthorses while others were like weasels.

  7. I would assess Mick's latter life as harder than his academic life. Restructuring bus and truck time tables sounds a bit more onerous than passing out prepared SSADM materials for students to work up.

  8. Some people just know how to 'work it'. I never mastered that.

    PS: It is good to see a new post!

  9. At least your research will have added to the human body of knowledge. Most of my lecturers were the other way round - there for the research but paid for the lecturing (which they resented having to do).

  10. I guess there is some "Mick" in me. Much as I like my work and get satisfaction from a job well done, if I have the opportunity, I rather interrupt work for two hours (or leave early) to go for a walk in the sun than staying stuck at my desk and maybe getting ahead of my planned tasks.
    All things considered, I am a diligent and reliable worker - but I also need time to myself and away from work for my mental and physical wellbeing. If I work myself to the ground (as I did when I was younger), my output is not the best; if my clients and employers want the best I can give, they get that only from a well-balanced Meike.

  11. Tasker - unfortunately we are like we are and I don't really think we can change that. Job satisfaction is what matters- our jobs take up a huge chunki of our hours in this life and all that really matters is that we are satisfied with how things pan out for us as individuals.

  12. Your mate could do the job. doing your best whilst sucking from the public teat is remunerative but wouldn't satisfy me.
    We had a three year six month release system in the merchant marine. Cadets came and went and in those days they had to be able to do spherical trigonometry. It was a stumbling block for many as was short wave radio. Not to mention north up radar displays. It sorted the wheat from the chaff.
    Kids today can navigate across oceans due to folk like you or can you claim any credit.
    Everything is chip based now. I've just had to pay sixty quid for an OBD2 scanner so I can cancel the no service light on my old Golf as a warning light is an MOT fail. Who dreamt that one up. I'll have to find out where to plug it in. It's not easy to find. Bloody Krauts hide it. I'll find it and sort it's nonsense. Who would have ever imagined that they lost a war.
    None of this is your fault at all. keep well.

    1. Also not much teating by me Adrian. I have been well funded in my time by oil companies, the IT industry and the U.S. military.


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