It's all about, like, knowin' the rules, innit... Ra-ther!

November 19, 2004

It's all about, like, knowin' the rules, innit...

Following reports of A-level students using slang in exams (one referred to how the Gestapo 'did over' those who 'bad-mouthed Hitler') Sally Feldman shows that anything students can do, academics can do better with her lighthearted submission to the QAA, while Raphael Salkie puts a bit of RAF banter to good use on the RAE.

An extract from the documentation being prepared by Westminster University for its forthcoming Quality Assurance Agency institutional audit:

Discipline Audit Trail: Self-Evaluation Document, Section 6a
"Articulate the discipline's assessment strategies and policies in relation to the achievement of learning outcomes."

BA Media Studies Learning Outcomes

(a) You'll be clued up on the whole telly biz: who runs the outfits, who's fit and who sucks;
(b) Students will be able to find out stuff, write it down and say where they got it, and show how everyone steals from everyone else in the media;
(c) You'll be able to work cameras, computers and that;
(d) Students will be brilliant at pitching concepts and turning them into projects;
(e) And getting them funded;
(f) You'll know all the rules and totally know how to get round them;
g) You will be amazing at sussing out different punters and how to wow them;
h) You will be cool enough to run your own thing, get a job, whatever;
(i) Or teach media studies (bless).

Assessment Policy

In line with the QAA Higher Education Framework, we tell them they can't just make it up. They have to check what they put and make sure it's not bollocks.

They get more marks if they have ideas but no marks if it's lifted from someone else. Students are supposed to write clearly and make it look good and everything.

Like it says in the Handbook, they have to show that they've done what they meant to do.

When they make programmes they've got to be cutting edge, real and interactive because that's what sells, innit? Students have to know how to use the kit properly, right?

Everything has to be marked twice. Sometimes this can be a bit on the dodgy side like the time a module leader got his flatmate to do the law and ethics coursework. He goes, yeah, but Barry knows all about the law and we were like, yeah, but doing time for driving without dew isn't the same as being an expert.

As if!

Methods of Assessment

As well as doing actual writing, students have to get it on in a group. If someone has a really awesome project, they may do better than the others.

It's well annoying when some tosser, like, just doesn't do their bit and everyone gets crap marks.

We give them a hard time if they don't make the deadline.

They also have to do work placements, which sounds a breeze but it can give you a load of grief. You live and learn. Now we know to tell them in advance not to do the boss's wife over the photocopier. And not to fake a bank robbery in order to get a namecheck on South East News .

Extenuating Circumstances

You wouldn't believe what some of them come up with - dead grandmothers, mystery illnesses, suddenly becoming dyslexic. Basically, they'll do anything to get a bit of extra time for doing essays. We have a bunch of jobsworths deciding which ones are scams.

Student Feedback

They get to say if things are going okay through course committees and module feedback forms. Sometimes they get heavy about wanting their essays back in the same year they handed them in, jammy bastards. Mostly, it's a load of gripes about getting their hands on Protools or not being allowed to swig pints in the library. Know what I mean?

Responding to External Examiners

A few of the lads come in and check it all out. Last semester one of them got on our case because the students are rubbish at speling. We went, look mate, if you wanna work in Channel 4 you're not gonna get there on grammer.

But we had a go at the students and showed them a well good spelcheck program. Sorted.

Sally Feldman is head of the School of Media, Arts and Design at Westminster University.



The RAF was notorious for having its own "banter" while it protected Britain from invasion. Sixty years on, the RAF has become the RAE, with its own arcane lingo as academics prepare for an assault by the dreaded "Panels"...

Location: Somewhere in England, 2004. The professor of linguistics enters the lecturers' mess and takes off his mortarboard. Spliffy, a lecturer in cultural and critical theory, is sitting in an armchair languidly reading the minutes of the Research Quality Assurance Strategy Working Group.

Spliffy: Morning, Professor.

Professor: What-ho, Spliffy.

Spliffy: How was it?

Professor: Not too good, old chap. Got rather archied by the groundwallahs, actually. Bally boffins at HQ thought contrastive linguistics was a wizard jape, but the mahogany penguins had the wind up. I told them I had a pukka translation corpus, but they gave me all kinds of flak and called it orff.

Spliffy: Er, I'm afraid I don't quite follow you, Professor.

Professor: It's perfectly ordinary RAE-Talk, Spliffy. I took my research submission to the GOC of the linguistics panel, and they went all arsy-tarsy and landed me in the drink. The Chomskyans were keen as mustard, but the cognitive chappies said it was too soupy to scramble in the near future. Jolly well hit me for six.

Spliffy: No, I'm just not understanding RAE-Talk at all well today. Give us it in civvy speak, you know, vernacular.

Professor: RAE-Talk's not the same if you say it in vernacular, Spliffy.

Spliffy: Hold on, then. (Shouts) Where's the bloody Hourly Paid Lecturer!

HPL: Yes!

Spliffy: You're the one who does all the work round here. Bend an ear to the Professor's RAE-Talk for a sec, would you?

HPL: Can do.

Professor: 'Fraid my latest research proposal has gone for a Burton. I wanted to contrast the major grammatical patterns from Blighty with those used by the Huns and the Frenchies. Damned fools on the committee took a waspy, thought it was a load of duff gen, got browned orff, and my methodology went belly up without a brolly.

HPL: ...No, don't understand that RAE-Talk at all.

Professor: Something up with my RAE-Talk, chaps?

An end-of-lesson bell goes off. The door bursts open and an out-of-breath young lecturer rushes in wearing full academic dress.

Lecturer: Solid lump of blitz on your tail, sir! The translation theorists have taken a prang. Grab your Black Archies and let's get the basic concepts analysed.

General incomprehension. They look at each other.

HPL: Do you understand that?

Professor: No, didn't get a word of it.

HPL: Sorry old man, we don't understand your RAE-Talk.

Lecturer: You know... bally interface theories dropping on the Naafi... (searching for the words) um... functional grammarians are hedgehopping in their kites... they say that language is system, not structure...

HPL: No, no... sorry.

Spliffy: Say it a bit slower, old chap.

Lecturer: Slower RAE-Talk, sir?

HPL: Ra-ther!

Lecturer: Um... magpie squad up the green end!

Professor: No, still don't get it.

Lecturer: Um... generative grammar chaps at four o'clock?

Professor: No.

HPL, Lecturer and Spliffy: No, no...

Stock film of students looking puzzled in a lecture.

Voiceover: But by then it was too late. The first attacks from the linguistics panel hit London in late 2008. That was just the beginning...

Raphael Salkie is professor of language studies, Brighton University.

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