I’m still trying to come to terms with this week’s news that Colin Bateman, one of the world’s top authors, has been told by Queens’ University, Belfast that he can’t be considered for a post as a lecturer in creative writing. With typically elitist and outmoded reasoning they say the decision is based on the fact that Bateman (pictured right) hasn’t got a degree!
I don’t know about you but if I was undertaking studies in creative writing I’d want to listen to a man who has been doing just that for all his professional life and has more than 20 successful novels under his belt. It seems to me to be infinitely better than being subjected to the theorising of some academic. It just doesn’t make sense on a whole lot of levels.
Bateman’s portfolio stacks up against anyone. His ground-breaking novel Divorcing Jack was turned into a hit film, not to mention the smash television series based on his book Murphy’s Law. He cut his writing teeth in local journalism and has devoted his time touring schools and book clubs in an effort to bring reading to the masses. What Colin Bateman doesn’t know about creative writing isn’t worth knowing.
I’m a big fan of Queen’s University. It rightly enjoys a worldwide reputation as a centre of educational excellence. Two of my daughters earned their degrees there and a third is currently undergoing the QUB experience. I’ve therefore no axe to grind with the University but I have to tell ‘em they got this one badly wrong.
Most of the problem appears to stem from the advertised job description. Too often these days employers are looking for nothing less than degree-level candidates – a rash pre-requisite that precludes any possibility of taking into account the equally valuable – if not more so- benefits and practicalities of life-learned experiences.
There’s still time for Queen’s to put this right. The idea that someone of Bateman’s calibre is interested in joining their illustrious halls should have them scampering to find a solution. They could create a special ‘visiting’ lecturer status for him, or what about just re-advertising the post because they acknowledge they have seriously limited their options?
What it needs is for someone at Queen’s to get creative. I wonder who would be able to help them?