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?