There are fears that this could lead to poor contact hours for the Italian degree at Swansea University, a course that would subsequently be left with just one language tutor. Furthermore, there are concerns that these cuts are just the tip of the iceberg, as more cuts to funding for the Modern Languages department loom. This could even go as far as having to cut out the year abroad, as it would be rendered unaffordable, and thus be dropped.
The current economic climate has resulted in some drastic cuts for universities. In February of this year, it was announced that England's university budgets were to be cut by £449m, while Welsh universities are facing cuts of up to 4.3% this year. As a result, 8 other departments at Swansea University are affected, but none are facing cuts as drastic as those proposed for Modern Languages.
This apparent disregard for the importance of linguistic study is baffling in light of the Welsh Assembly's clear stance in favour of languages, outlined in their publication Making Languages Count. Swansea University's Modern Language department agrees that the proposed cuts are 'out of step with the Assembly and Westminster'. Why are Modern Languages being so undervalued by the University, despite the Assembly's clear pro-modern languages stance?
Students of Modern Language at Swansea are vigorously opposing these proposed cuts. Modern Languages at Swansea is a blog has been set up by a concerned student at Swansea University, with more information about the proposed cuts, and we are urging anyone who cares about the state of Modern Languages in the U.K to write their protest to the Vice-Chancellor and Registrar of Swansea University.
As a current student at Swansea University, I urge as many of you as possible to write letters of protest and sign our petition; every letter and signature will count. If you care about Modern Languages, you need to join us and take a stand against this gross injustice to the field of linguistic studies.
I’ve included a copy of my letter to the Vice-Chancellor:
Dear Professor Davies,
As a fourth year student of English Literature and German at Swansea University, I was dismayed to discover the extent of the cuts proposed for the Modern Languages department. While the cuts won’t affect me as I’m coming to the end of my time at Swansea University, they will greatly affect the quality of teaching received by future students of the University. In fact, my brother will be beginning his studies in German at the University this semester, and I don't want to see his studies detrimented by the proposed cuts.
My entire education has been bilingual, having been educated through the medium of Welsh at Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg in Barry, thus I’ve been fortunate enough to experience the benefits of multilingualism first hand. Perhaps my bilingual education is why I became so passionate about languages in the first place, and I strongly believe that modern languages should be present in primary education. When I applied for University, I chose Swansea because its German department came highly recommended. In fact, I chose Swansea over Cardiff University, despite the glowing reputation of Cardiff’s English Literature course, as I wanted to ensure that I could receive the best German tuition possible. My German studies at Swansea University have been exceptional, and this is due to the excellence of the tuition by the lecturers of the department.
As an English language assistant, I had first hand experience of how the rest of Europe place far more emphasis on languages studies than we do in the U.K. With English as our mother tongue, we have become complacent and lazy about learning languages, with claims that it’s ‘too hard’ to pick up another language being a common excuse, whereas in Germany, not only is English compulsory from a young age, but French, Spanish and Italian are common languages to be found taught in schools. In my role as an assistant, I was required to lead small groups of students taking the equivalent of an A Level in English, and found that my conversation classes were often attended by students who weren’t even taking any English qualifications. This is the kind of attitude that we need to foster in the U.K, and how do we have any hope of doing so when the highest educational institutions are giving the impression that languages aren’t worth learning?
By making the proposed cuts, you will be sending out the message that Modern Languages don’t matter, which is in complete opposition to the Welsh Assembly’s attempts to foster language studies in Wales. Modern languages are constantly undervalued while in reality, learning a language is one of the key skills that employers value in potential employees.
Languages do matter – in my part-time retail job, I am required to communicate extensively with the customer, and on the occasions that Germans have come to the shop, I have found a very positive reaction to my communicating through their mother tongue, no matter how good their English is. The common courtesy of attempting to communicate in a language more comfortable to them is something that cannot be underestimated.
In light of the understandable protest in reaction to these cuts, I hope you reconsider your proposals.
Write your own letter of protest to the following :
Professor Richard Davies
Registrar and Head of Administration