Congratulations to all new SU officers taking up positions this month.
It’s an incredible thing that all around the country the peaceful transition of power happens so smoothly each year, and as someone who loves working for student officers, it’s the question I get asked so frequently – how do you deal with a change every year?
Well that is in fact the great thing – there is never a rut to get stuck in, because new ideas come through the door each handover.
There is of course one perennial challenge – the handover. There is a huge mountain of knowledge to climb for student officers and every SU delivers an intensive training session each year to induct the new faces to the inner sanctum of university life.
One of the big challenges in transitioning from “ordinary” student to “extra-ordinary” student officer is understanding what is said in university committee papers and communications.
To that end, here is a handy cut out and keep guide to what university language really means.
Messages of joy and unity
Senior management missives are a corporate communication artform. They are designed to make the interesting banal, and the banal interesting.
|What it says||What it means|
|Colleagues will be aware||I emailed you about this, you ignored me.|
|Staff will be pleased to learn||Staff will not be pleased to learn|
|As … has previously announced||… has told me to write this email|
|Following on from my previous communication||You all thought I had forgotten about this|
|… who has now decided to take on new challenges||We fired them|
|… who will be leaving the organisation shortly||We are about to fire them|
|… who has long been a valued member of the organisation||We can’t afford to fire them|
|… who has sadly left the organisation||They had the password to our Amazon account|
|To promote a sustainable approach||Parking permits are going up|
The pen is mightier than the sword
The art of committee paper writing is finely honed over time. Here lies a dangerous path riddled with university governors and finance lay members who require concise and informative committee papers – this is not the place to expose your cock-ups.
|What they say||What they mean|
|Some slippage in the project timeline||300 first years will be in a Travelodge for the first term|
|There were significant project learnings||We went £8m over budget|
|There remains some final snagging to resolve||The roof has fallen in|
|We are reviewing our procurement challenges||The builder has gone bust|
|There remain some regulatory challenges||The Office for Students will never let us do this|
|There are significant regulatory challenges||The Office for Students has found out we are trying to do this|
|There are fundamental regulatory and reputational challenges||The Telegraph has asked the Office for Students for a quote about this|
|Flipped learning||Look it up on YouTube|
|Self-guided study||Look it up on Google Scholar|
|Academic misconduct||You looked it up on Wikipedia|
|Traditional learning||This lecturer refuses to put their powerpoint on the VLE|
|Dynamic learning environment||There are not enough chairs in this teaching room|
|Sustainable recruitment strategy||Numbers are down|
|Competitive recruitment conditions||UCL have cleaned up|
|Significant IT investment||We’ve installed Windows 10|
|The latest learning technologies||Microsoft Office|
|Financial pressures||Whitetak is just as good as blutak|
|Significant financial pressures||Have you considered exploring new opportunities?|
If you can’t beat them
Don’t think for a moment that the SU is immune to corporate doublespeak, after a few months you’ll be using the lingo like a pro – and you will even understand what union staff are telling you.
|What they say||What they mean|
|Representing your academic interests||Please give us 5 in the NSS|
|Making your voice heard||Sharing your memes on Instagram|
|Forgive me if this has already been discussed||I totally disagree with what my predecessor wanted|
|It would be great to get this wrapped up before the end of term||I don’t want my successor taking the credit for this|
|Helping you deal with the stress of exams||OMG have you seen these puppies???|
|There may be some potential conflicts with the Staff/Student protocol||No|
|We may have some resource challenges with this||No|
|Perhaps this is an initiative that could be discussed at the next Board meeting?||No|
|That may be at odds with our charitable objects||Definitely no.|
|Yes, that’s a great idea||No, that’s a dreadful idea|
|All profits are reinvested in your student experience||If we made a profit, it would be reinvested into your student experience|
If you’ve heard – or hear – any more, I’d love to know and add to the list. Leave a comment below!