Private concerns 1

February 9, 2007

We are not surprised that Andrew Colin of Into University Partnerships is "staggered" at the opposition to his company's plans for language centres ("UCU battles private enterprise", February 2). After all, he strikes deals only with vice-chancellors.

Teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP) requires insights into UK academic culture and practice - the role of a supervisor, the use and abuse of other people's work, for example. The departments and staff that teach EAP must be integrated into university life, not hived off into so-called "joint ventures".

Overseas students pay high fees and often face language difficulties. They need and deserve specialised language support. Will a private com-pany meet this need? What will happen to students and staff and quality when one private company sells on its franchise? Moreover, if English language teaching can be outsourced, why not introductory courses or support services or whole degree programmes? Everyone in higher education thus has a personal interest in fighting these early privatisations. The University and College Union is making progress in reversing the history of casual contracts in EAP. Privatisation would let them back in through a side door. A web petition has been launched to oppose this, but expressions of concern are not enough. We need a national demonstration or lobby of Parliament on this threat to the integrity of universities. We need full national support for local action against privatisation and to serve notice on the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association and the funding councils that the UCU will mobilise for action nationally.

Tom Hickey, Jenny Toomey, Geoff Abbott, Richard Hull and Jean Crocker

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