I've mentioned from time to time that I - like many academics - work as an external examiner for other universities. The two institutions I currently external (yes, it definitely is a verb) for are the Universities of York and Edinburgh. I started at Edinburgh only last year but I began at York back in 2017, so my term there, even though it's been extended by a year (the normal term is three years) will finish in August.
I was there at my first exam board to oversee the Centre for Lifelong Learning's social science provision, but a number of other courses were going through the same board, including one that intrigued me: a Postgraduate Diploma in Railway Studies. From the first, I toyed with the idea that I might like to do that course once I was no longer wotrking for them as an external, and over the years the idea has taken root. The PGDip has now been expanded to a full MA, taught part time over three years. Although the course is - and always has been - taught by distance learning, there is an annual weekend school at the Museum.
So ... I did actually follow though on my idle fascination, and applied - and have been offered a place for this September. Though as I've said, I find the whole field daunting in its scope, I'm excited at the thought of learning in a completely new area - and a new discipline, because the Railway Studies MA is largely history-based. As well as learning something about railways, I'm really looking forward to finding out about how history is studied and researched.
I've also said - and I mentioned this to the Railway Studies external back in 2017 - that I would like to look at the broader context of transport infrastructure and transport policy, including of course inland waterways transport, so there's no way this is a shift in interest away from boats and waterways. But it's filling in a fascinating part of the bigger picture and hopefully will be highly complemenrary - and enable me to know and understand more about waterways history as well. Anyway, only one way to find out. I guess I'd best get on and accept that offer.