By Jack Taylor
Staff in the School of Modern Languages & Cultures feel like “second class citizens” amid concerns over their career progression.
Grade 6 academic staff members, who are primarily from the MLAC department, spoke to Palatinate about being excluded from a scheme which supports academic growth, whilst feeling they are at a “dead-end” within the careers.
The University first piloted the Academic Progression scheme in 2017 as part of the University‘s 10-year strategy which aimed to “promote job satisfaction, productivity and career progression routes for employees, and create communities of practice within which colleagues can develop their professional expertise.”
At the time, Grade 6 teaching staff expressed their concerns over their exclusion from the scheme to the previous Head of School. Despite this, the staff of the department were ignored as the scheme went ahead.
Grade 6 teaching staff expressed their concerns over their exclusion from the scheme to the previous Head of School
Palatinate was told by MLAC staff members that this move left them feeling like “a cheap and casualised workforce” within the University, and in a “dead-end situation.”
Grade 6 staff teach students, develop the curriculum, set examination material and engage in scholarship projects. It is also understood that these staff members take extra steps in enriching students’ wider University life and promoting languages within the University.
At a meeting with the Human Resources Department, the idea of placing these Grade 6 staff members within the Jobs Families network was mentioned. This network is used for roles such as teaching but also includes estate, infrastructure, participation and business roles.
This sparked more backlash amongst those of the Grade 6 teaching staff, who called the move inappropriate. Their main criticism was that the required level of qualification for the Jobs Families network was GCSE grades.
Palatinate has, however, been told by the University that many existing members of this network are qualified to degree level and some to a postgraduate and professional level.
They also stated that some amendments will be required to the Technical, Research and Teaching Services group to reflect the nature of teaching roles.
It is also understood that at other Russell Group Universities, this group of teaching staff are assimilated to the Grade 7 level of staff.
Teaching staff in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at Durham lead core modules for students from first year to fourth.
Such teaching includes compulsory language modules comprised of oral and grammar classes.
Antony Long, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, said: “We’re carefully considering the most appropriate framework for Grade 6 teaching staff, acknowledging the desire for colleagues to develop their careers.
“We recognise there are staff concerns here”
Antony Long, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost
“One option currently under consideration is the ‘Job Families Framework’, which could be amended to reflect the teaching aspect of the role.
“We recognise there are staff concerns here, and we’d encourage any staff concerned about their career development to speak with their manager or head of the department.”
Responding to the news, Durham Casuals told Palatinate: “By not allowing grade 6 staff any sort of progression, the University is sending the message that they consider language teaching to be non-specialised.
“By refusing to allow promotion for grade 6 staff, they’re not only preventing personal development for staff, but they’re also refusing to invest in language teaching itself by suppressing the opportunities for curriculum development that would come with grade progression.
“Many colleagues on grade 6 are already fulfilling responsibilities that would normally come within the remit of grade 7 anyway. And, in practical terms, the majority of staff in grade 6 in MLAC are women. That’s a pretty big glass ceiling that’s just been dumped on a large cohort of experienced and valued colleagues who deserve better from the institution.
“MLAC students will appreciate the quality of language teaching they receive from affected staff, and we urge them to write to the Vice Chancellor to show their support for their lecturers.”
Photograph: Maddie Flisher