Foreign aid

May 21, 1999

The entrance to Dante's inferno reads "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here". The same advice might be given to overseas professors who get jobs at English universities.

I spent over 20 years teaching in mainly American universities, where lively debate was a characteristic of faculty meetings, where students came first and the teacher's job was to enthuse students.

In my experience of English universities, one old and one new, those who succeed are those who keep their mouths shut in meetings, the yes men and women who suck up to those above them. I offer the following words of wisdom to anyone unaccustomed to the scene here: n Do not expose your CV if it is better than those of your colleagues. The idea of a mentor from whom one can learn is an alien concept. Resentment of anyone who might be better is paramount

* Do not expect your colleagues to have PhDs, despite it being virtually impossible to find anyone on a faculty of an American university without one. Many on English faculties where I taught had only bachelor degrees. How they got there is anyone's guess

* Do not expect your colleagues to have a broad education. They will be narrowly specialised and will pass on this narrow view to students

* Do not speak up at faculty meetings. Certainly do not mention problems like students who never should have been accepted as they are patently not university material. Or the inadvisability of pushing foreign students through when their English is so abominable they do not know what is going on in class. The hush that greets such pronouncements is glacial

* Do not tangle with the administration and, if you do, don't expect there to be a grievance procedure if you are on someone's black list

* Do not expect anyone to be pleased with your successes. Abroad they are considered a good reflection on your faculty. Here they cause jealousy. Esprit de corps is completely missing, as is any sense of devotion to the university itself

* Do not try being friendly. The American way of cheerfulness is suspect. Keep it to yourself is the English way

* Do not be an activist. If elected to a union position, the union will not help you if you get in trouble with the administration. So should you just say no when offered a teaching assignment? Unfortunately if jobs and money are in short supply there is little choice. You certainly will not be hired as a professor no matter how sterling your academic achievements. A lecturer's position is the best you can hope for. If it is a part-time position, so much the worse. As a friendly colleague put it: "Part-timers are just slugs."

H. P. Livas Beverley, East Yorkshire

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