Academic Diary

Academic Diary

Or Why Higher Education Still Matters

By Les Back

Sharp and witty observations of academic life that range from the local to the global, from PowerPoint to the halls of power.

Distributed for Goldsmiths Press





Sharp and witty observations of academic life that range from the local to the global, from PowerPoint to the halls of power.

Is a university education still relevant? What are the forces that threaten it? Should academics ever be allowed near Twitter? In Academic Diary, Les Back has chronicled three decades of his academic career, turning his sharp and often satirical eye to the everyday aspects of life on campus and the larger forces that are reshaping it. Presented as a collection of entries from a single academic year, the diary moves from the local to the global, from PowerPoint to the halls of power. With entries like “Ivory Towers” and “The Library Angel,” these smart, humorous, and sometimes absurd campus tales not only demystify the opaque rituals of scholarship but also offer a personal perspective on the far-reaching issues of university life.

Commenting on topics that range from the impact of commercialization and fee increases to measurement and auditing research, the diary offers a critical analysis of higher education today. At the same time, it is a passionate argument for the life of the mind, the importance of collaborative thinking, and the reasons that scholarship and writing are still vital for making sense of our troubled and divided world.


$14.95 T ISBN: 9781906897581 272 pp. | 5 in x 8 in


  • Back offers so many insights and points of reflection within Academic Diary that it would be difficult to not come across something that makes you pause and think. I have no doubt that the book will become a firm favourite with many, and one that will be re-read time and time again.

    Kate Bailey

    LSE Review of Books


  • Les Back's Academic Diary is a profoundly humanistic account of the unexpected and often fleeting day-to-day pleasures of working in a contemporary university.

    Laurie Taylor


  • A beautifully written book, full of reflection and reverie, decency, and front-line documentation.

    Sukhdev Sandhu

    Director of the Center for Experimental Humanities and Associate Professor of English and Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University

  • All academics should make sure that they have a copy to hand.

    David Beer

    University of York

  • When discussions of higher education in England are dominated by loans and questions of finance, it's all too easy to forget about the lived, transformative experience of education. Episodes in Academic Diary serve as healthy reminders of what ought to be central to universities and colleges: learning. More than that, Les Back's generosity and collegiality forge the politics of this book into something distinct. Walter Benjamin wrote in his commentaries on Bertolt Brecht: 'Whoever wants to make the hard thing give way should miss no opportunity for friendliness.' In a similar spirit, Academic Diary tempers sentiment with critical aims.

    Andrew McGettigan

    author of The Great University Gamble: Money, Markets and the Future of Higher Education