Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Triumphans, exultans

I mentioned earlier that our little department in our big university, the Little CHEF (Centre for Hammering English into Foreigners) was threatened with becoming a joint venture with the property speculator known as UpYours University Partnerships, an Education-for-Certain-People's-Profit organisation that would take over the running of our English language programmes and foundation courses whilst reducing rates of pay, increasing workloads, denying teachers union rights and not paying into the teachers' pension scheme. They would have to hire underqualified and under-experienced staff who'd be prepared to work for about a tenner an hour. In addition to this, they would go for bums on seats by hyping the 'product', promising success, and accepting onto the programmes kids who really ought not to be on them, alongside other kids who deserve not to be held back by huge classes of very mixed level and teachers who are not always up to the task. They would then be forced to assess these kids over-generously at the end of the courses, lest the product be revealed as a pig in a poke; if you make promises in exchange for money and fail to deliver, people tell their mates and you are totally screwed. Why risk that, when you can introduce your own assessment system in which everyone's a winner?

All that aside, I'm sure they have everyone's best interests at heart.

However, let joy be unconfined, for UpYours was defeated bei uns just as they were at Essex, Oxford Brookes, Reading, Goldsmith's College and Westminster University. An hour ago I got this e-mail:

Thanks to strong resistance from Little CHEF staff, and thanks to the excellent backing from the UCU union at branch, regional and national level, together we've managed to see off the UpYours privateers. Additionally, we've given a firm message to the likes of Professor Grabbie and Dr Slymebagge-Hogg that if they wish to muck about with us again, then it will be at their peril.

While management will undoubtedly claim that their reversal over UpYours was purely a business decision that had nothing to do with the activities of UCU members here,* make no mistake, if we had not stood up and fought them over this, then the UpYours deal would have gone through and we'd soon be working for the educational version of Macdonalds, with those teachers intending to come back for courses later in the year being offered less than half the pay rate and much worse terms and conditions. So well done to everyone for sticking together!

This is a huge relief at a time when huge reliefs are rare as teddy-bear turds. I suspect there will be celebratory post-lesson drinkies in the Little CHEF tomorrow, for Christmas has come early. Note to our regular burglars: if you are planning to abstract another monitor from our classrooms (there are still seven up for grabs, as no doubt you know) I suggest you make burgling time a tad later than usual tomorrow evening, OK?


* The claim made by the same crew after the serious butt-kicking administered by UCU and staff at Essex University in 2008: 'it was felt in the end that the joint venture was not appropriate in that context'. Too bloody right it wasn't.


From the union today, 26th November, emphasis triumphantly added:

In case you haven't seen already the news on UCU's website, 90% of the voters in our poll have said that a partnership with INTO* would damage the university's reputation. The Branch Committee would like to thank everyone who took part in our online poll. INTO has now been rejected by staff at every UK university that has been polled on whether or not their institution should get involved with the company.

*The real name of 'UpYours' - who did I imagine I was protecting?


Bo said...

I'm SO pleased for you!

Anonymous said...

Most excellent! A little bit of good news sparking up the terminal cynicism that is now colouring my life, is always a good thing - especially when it falls to them as are worthy of it and, even more so, to those who have chosen to spend their lives in our somewhat benighted profession. There are many things today that seem unstoppable and relentlessly heartless, any attempt at voicing an objection or even an opinion sometimes feels like head- banging on the most obdurate of walls. But for this indeed, I salute you and all concerned. Enjoy the pre-Christmas wassail.

Vilges Suola said...

Thank ye both. This has been a lesson to me in the sheer fucking sliminess of those in management who stood to gain from everyone else's loss, who swore their subordinates in HR to secrecy, who called the first meeting with our teachers when they had pretty much made the whole thing a done deal, who tactically sent into the department a bunch of suits and photographers to stride purposefully about saying: 'well, we could have these rooms here, couldn't we?', all this a stunt just to make it appear that this was all going through above our heads and we might as well lie down and take it. Arseholes. Well, we didn't! Am chuffed to bits.

Anonymous said...

Wicked- as they say in sub-cultures from which I am excluded. I am so sick of accountants and management and fucking consultants and smug- up-themselves- business execs who just weasel their way in everywhere and destroy the good, the clean and the real. Bastards. Keep on trucking, VS.

Anonymous said...

'The sheer fucking sliminess of those in management' does not (alas) come as a surprise. But as we live in the times (how did this happen?) when education revolves around profit, thinking outside the box is not the agenda and compromising standards is status quo, this is a wonderful piece of news. Congratulations! This has restored my faith -- clearly voicing your dissent can after all make a difference. Very impressed!

Vilges Suola said...

It took a leafleting campaign, an approach to local MPs and an open letter from the union to the two chief conspirators to wake up the board of governors, who would otherwise have thought, well, Professor Slymebagge and Dr. Greedie-Kunt no doubt know what they're doing, let them get on with it, eh? Slymebagge and Greedie-Kunt will no doubt be moving on to another university in due course to attempt to pull the same stunt.

Vilges Suola said...

@Anon: My own optimism wavered a fair bit over the 3 month campaign, but yes, it can be done IF you find out soon enough what the sneaky bastards are up to.

Fionnchú said...

As I've semi-discreetly weighed in earlier about this takeover, VS, may I congratulate you and your mates for such solidarity. The "market-funded" (the bandied-about euphemism replacing "for-profit") sector's spread throughout higher ed's a global trend in this bottom-line era, when every part of what we try to teach and learn translates as stats and speadsheets. We find "success" may be measured by how our "customers" are pleased by us. I'm glad at least Over There you've resisted this trend.

Vilges Suola said...

@Fionnchu, yes, allowing the customers to evaluate our success or otherwise in education is pretty scary. I think we are already generous enough as it is, so it is heartening to know we won't be forced to sell out completely.

'UpYours' (aka INTO University Partnerships) have not been very successful - they are making big losses and their overtures to several universities have been rejected in the last five years or so - we are the latest and I hope not the last.


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