Monday, 24 September 2012

Talking of Plebs, here's the New College of the Humanities

You may have heard of the New College of the Humanities. It's the £18,000 per year private college which has hired a lot of very famous, greedy celebrity academics to fly in now and then and tend to the demands of those rich students who either won't or can't mix with the hoi polloi of more proletarian institutions such as Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Exeter and the like. If you think £18,000 is a lot, bear in mind that it's about half the cost of the kind of public school attended by these kids. It's a discount for them, and it keeps out the oiks. And anyway, airport academics cost a lot of money.

Also: the college doesn't award degrees. What you'll get is access to the University of London's degrees via external student status, which costs money. 

So the big question is: who's going to do the teaching? Will it be Richard Dawkins, David Cannadine, Linda Colley, Niall Ferguson, Steve Jones, Christopher Pinker and the other gruesome pseudo-liberals who've found that actually they would like to end their careers at a finishing school? Don't you believe it. NCH has fallen back on that tried and tested way to sweat their assets: exploitation and outsourcing. 

For instance, try this job ad for a teacher of English language. 
Salary: Hourly rate dependent on qualifications and experience  

So: no agreed rate for the job because NCH doesn't hold with any of that national pay bargaining, trades union nonsense. No, the employee must pit her/his individual labour against a private-equity company and come to some kind of agreement.
Security of tenure? Dear me, no: such old thinking:
Contract type: Fixed
Well, at least the employee will be paid handsomely to devote some of his or her time to  the research which keeps teaching relevant and outstanding?

Contract term: 7th January – 22nd March 2013

Well, not exactly. You're paid by the hour just for your teaching, and as soon as term finishes, you're out of the door. Maybe we'll hire you again in September and expect you to have new material prepared, but between March and September you can sign on. After all, Ferguson, Cannadine et al. cost a lot of money, and economies must be made somewhere. 

But Vole, hold your horses! What's this?
While this appointment is fixed term, there is a strong possibility that should the appointee prove satisfactory, she or he will be offered a permanent full-time position starting in the academic year 2013-14.
Ooh, a 'strong possibility'! With that kind of security, I'll put down the deposit on that second Bentley! Who needs collective agreements anyway? So, what does a hungry academic have to do to qualify for this three month hourly-paid position?
An established research record, publications record and evidence of potential for producing distinguished research within the field of English are essential. You will combine this with excellent communication, presentation, organisational and interpersonal skills as well as sympathy for the aims of the College and the ability and willingness to both assist in its collegiate life and undertake pastoral responsibilities.
During the Hilary Term you will give two lectures per week on the course ‘Introduction to English Language’, which is part of the University of London International Programme BA in English Literature. This course introduces students to basic concepts in the study of the English language, linguistics, phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. O 
So despite being paid only for 20 hours' teaching with no security, NCH is looking for someone with a great deal of experience, an enviable publications record, prominent standing in the academic community and ('presentation') a neat haircut. You'll have to be a cheerleader for the college's noble mission of reserving quality education for the ultra-privileged and accept that while they want research, they have no intention of paying you to produce any. Oh, and you have to wipe the poor darlings' bottoms and occasionally stand bail (I've read P. G. Wodehouse: I know what 'pastoral responsibilities' means in these circles). If you don't know what 'Hilary Term' is, you're an Oik and won't get the job. 

Worried that the teaching encompasses virtually every area of linguistics, and yet they want highly-distinguished researcher to cover all these very wide bases? There's more!
Preference may be given to those candidates able to teach sociolinguistics, and/or the literature of the later Middle Ages.
Riiiggggghhhhhtttttt. They don't just want a recognised expert in English linguistics. They want one who dabbles in Medieval Literature too! Because they always go together… unless they've a specific candidate in mind already. Surely not!

Mind you, they probably need an English generalist, if only to check their spelling:
Teaching expertise in medieaval literature 
I can tell you're all desperate to polish your CVs and get up that academic chimney. Plebs of the Academic World: Know Your Place!


Jason D Jawando said...

I followed the link and couldn't resist having a look round the rest of the site. It seems that Howard Jacobson is also a visiting professor. Oddly, his potted biography mentions teaching at the University of Sydney and Selwyn College, Cambridge, but not his spell at a certain institution in the West Midlands.

The Plashing Vole said...

The cowardly snob. After the bitterness of Coming from Behind, I thought he'd grow up in the intervening years. Apparently not.