Rights and rungs of promotion (1)

November 26, 2004

I am sure that Susan Bassnett's contribution to your How to Get Promoted booklet (November 19) was intended to be supportive of academic staff on fixed-term contracts. It was, however, very patronising.

First, it seems odd to suggest that access to a secure job should be considered a promotion. Second, the title you gave to the chapter, "The first rung", subtitled "How to convert a fixed-term contract into a full-time job", lends weight to the myth that fixed-term staff are on the "first rung" of an academic career and that the work they do is not the "proper" full-time work permanent academics do.

These are myths the Association of University Teachers has been trying to dispel for a long time. Academics on fixed-term contracts are often experienced researchers and teachers who do exactly the same work as their permanent colleagues. It is condescending to suggest they should sit in on staff-student liaison meetings, learn to write decent CVs, learn how to use PowerPoint and enhance their computer skills if they want to be considered for a permanent job.

Lastly, Bassnett suggests that fixed-term staff should work harder and stop complaining if they want permanent jobs. Wouldn't this approach simply facilitate their exploitation?

Hazel Conley
Senior lecturer
Bristol Business School
University of the West of England

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