Thursday, 4 August 2011

A Prelude to Privatisation?

There's no mention of it in his blog this week... well not that we can divine and we have made extensive use of the liturgy and the forked willow.

In its salt'n'vinegar strokes a mention is made of a 'rich resource' for the 'University' but we don't think he's talking about the staff who work in the EFL (English as a Foreign Language) department formerly of the School of Languages.

Are they taking the lead or taking something else?

Over the past year or so we've tried to ginger up the Salford UCU leadership so that they might take the initiative in something other than applied fustian grandiloquence. Our attempts have not fallen on deaf ears as the major protests and rolling strikes at Salchester over the last couple of months in defending the 200 or so jobs threatened with exposure at the foot of Mount Taygetos have clearly demonstrated.(1) Thus in keeping with our grand old tradition we invite Salford UCU Presidente Christine Sheehy to consider the plight of the twenty or so teaching staff who work in EFL.

Playing the long game

Now it's the opinion of the vagrants that Salford EFL staff work bloody hard. They are possibly one of the best adverts for students from abroad to come to the North West and study at Salchester. However, we learned last week that so cherished are these staff, that many of these long-service EFL-ers have been providing their teaching services over the course of the academic year without the simple nicety of having a signed contract with their employer. This despite the almost urgent attention devoted to their cause by the UCU branch leadership. At the time of 'going to press' nothing has nearly been secured by the union and nobody's quite sure what this nothing isn't. We've cleverly formed an opinion that this might be an adroit double strategy consisting of on one hand not rocking boats and being extra nice to HR managers, and on the other something to do with two aged snails, a trap and an arboreal primate.(2)

Bitter-sweet laments from Ivorical Towers

Yet there are rumblings. Could it be that others sections of University staff of a more gradualist hue are straining at the leash to follow this route? We haven't heard yet if the Salchester Professoriat, so enamoured with this idea and the obvious long-term security that it potentially offers, are contemplating adopting it wholesale. Possibly, if a clause is inserted for wider palatability back-dating its introduction to the academic period 1878-79.

As it's been related to this tired tilter, morale among EFL staff is said to be at an all-time high. It's been disclosed that those who are not already members of Salchester UCU are photocopying a registration form desperate to join up and secure any potential benefits on equal terms. Nor is anyone said to be threatening in the slightest to tear up their union membership cards.


Yet it's the more recent policy of re-designation that has added to their intermutual joy. Some are said to have over-urinated in contemplation of the future. Others are said to have developed a form of predysphasic-pedagogery. One or two have likened it to the penultimate stage of Rapture played we're told to within the final inch of its life on an old 'Dansette' in the now defunct staff room on the eight floor by an irked former part-timer, smoking joint-bundles and dropping amphetamines."What's re-designation" you ask? Well it would appear that in this case its a highly attenuated shift from the use of the rather old-fashioned and unrefined bourgeois classification Teaching Staff  for the current crop of EFL staff, to the more exalted and thoroughly modern appellation of S.T.U.D.E.N.T.S.U.P.P.O.R.T.S.T.A.F.F.(in a Daleky voice). It's thought that there may be great kudos in other academic and teaching staff accepting this nouveau appellation and if successful it might well be rolled out across the entire HE sector by a division of  early 19th century Plug-Plotters on piecework rates.

A new approach to teaching?

It's not been confirmed if the re-designation is in response to a manager's claim that there has been a paradigmatic shift among EFL staff from a thoroughly dialectical approach to knowledge impartation to a more empirically based form of educative conveyance known as the R.O.T.E. method named after its Swedish founder Svart Tavla Undervisning Lärarjobb Rote.* Coincidentally the current fiscal climate has led to this intensely modernistic method garnering a recent welcome boost from the doyen of contemporaneity David Willetts. Staff are said to be actively polishing down their hard-earned skills in preparation for next years 'teaching out of a book'. An already visible shrinkage in EFL staff admin hours, historically seen by staff as a vital adjunct to intelligence promulgation among students, might indicate this policy may already be well under way.

Old skool... rather bourgeois
New Skool... rather less bourgeois
If you saw Sid and told him, would he shit himself too?

Yet even these substantive re-adjustments to the fabric of academic space-time in all things English as a Foreign Language related are small fry when considered within the context of an email received last week.

'Subject: Review of EFL Provision

Message sent on behalf of Professor Cynthia Pine

Dear colleagues

I am writing to thank you for engaging in the review; your contributions were very valuable and were incorporated into the report to the Executive. The discussion at Executive confirmed that that [sic] this is an important area for the University; that provision will remain internal to the University in the short to medium term; and will be subject to review as external changes (e.g. UKBA) become clearer. The Executive has decided that EFL provision will be separately managed; that this will be outside of the new School but within the University. The Deputy Vice Chancellor, Dr Adrian Graves is now leading the next stages. His office will be in contact to provide further details.

With best wishes


Professor Cynthia Pine CBE, BDS, MBA, PhD, FDSRCS, FRSA, Pro Vice Chancellor International, Dean of the College of Health and Social Care'

Enter the re-situationists

Apart from the word executive being remarkably like the word execute, we nearly had to rent space in a disused panopticon adjacent to Strangeways to situate Cynthia's modest cognominations. We alighted at the bus stop opposite the sentence that said '...that provision will remain internal to the University in the short to medium term; and will be subject to review...'. The next bus to 'The Deputy Vice Chancellor, Dr Adrian Graves is now leading the next stages. His office will be in contact to provide further details...' was late. 

If EFL is to be relocated from its former position within the School of Languages into the arms of Student Life** without a whimper from the unions, maybe the UCU's Chris Sheehy might want to at least consider applying the full force of her considerable rhetorical powers to extract from one of The Executives - The Chief Executive a certain Martin Hall - a most solemn undertaking in blood or its equivalent. It could for example  secure the long-term future of EFL provision ie, that it will remain 'in-house', not privatised and thus out-housed. To obtain such a promise would almost certainly do her the power of good and will obviate the need for a short or indeed a medium term. It might also save a few bob in the process as it's quite well known in the 'Term' Trade that short terms like ill-founded libel claims can prove rather an unnecessary drain on vital financial resources.

DALEK: Out of my way you bald useless fuck-er?
DALEK LEADER: You will refer to me by my full title which is 
(in a Daleky voice)

Notes and References

*R.O.T.E. Reading Out Teacher's Edicts (readers can do the translation themselves)
** Student Life provides advice and support to students according to the website
(1) This is an obvious attempt at irony
(2) The Vagrants have been informed that a 'slowly.. slowly... catchy... monkey... strategy' has been invoked by certain union officers concerning this matter. At the time of going to press we were still not quite sure which century they're anticipating getting something negotiated or indeed which genus they are hoping to trap.


As usual, this is a work rooted in the fine old tradition of satire. The contents are the honestly held opinions of the author who is far from anonymous. Being a humorous work, it is not intended to hurt the feelings of senior types or their immediate subordinates who do after all get paid a lot from public funds and suchlike.

If you would like to add to the emergent picture in EFL, please feel free to post comments or email the Vagrants. We will treat any information provided in the utmost confidence. If there are any inaccuracies or if any individuals or institutions feel corrections are necessary, please send an email by pressing here. It is most definitely worth doing this before availing oneself  of the libel laws or sending expensive threatening Pre-Action Protocols demanding we close down the entire blog, as like a company of miniature clowns who perform exclusively on a Venetian blind, it would be silly on a variety of levels. 

We do of course also operate a right of reply and unlike some other blogs, will let you make more than one posting if you feel so inclined under your own name or anonymously as it's a free-ish country.

The Vagrants

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