Thursday, September 2, 2010

Languages Fight for Survival in Wales: Action Needed!!!

I have been asked to distribute the following sad news. Please do the same and take action to save Modern Languages in Wales. We cannot stand by while the Humanities are being destroyed everywhere in the English-speaking world. If it feels like Wales is too far away and shouldn't be any of our concern, think about all the similar measures that are starting to take place here in the US. Tomorrow, we will need our British colleagues to do the same thing to save our jobs and our departments:

22 staff in Modern Languages at Swansea University are threatened with compulsory redundancy. A proposed restructuring announced by the University on August 6, with no prior consultation, would delete 40 academic jobs in all, in 9 departments, over the next three years. 95 people have been told that their jobs are at risk. Of the 40 redundancies, 11.8 are planned in Modern Languages, with effect from summer 2011. The department has 22 lecturing staff. Just 10 will remain. Its the swiftest, most savage cut proposed. Its also very bad news for education in Wales.

Swansea University's Department of Modern Languages is a national and international centre of excellence in Wales for research and teaching in French, German, Italian and Spanish. (Until last year, also Catalan, Portuguese, and Russian.) Modern Languages are recognised as strategically vital to the economy of Wales, and protected under Welsh Assembly policy for Higher Education.

Halving the number of research-active staff will devastate provision of BA degrees, Masters degrees and PhD programmes. The staff under threat are overwhelmingly youngish (under 50), and productive researchers. There has been a long-term decline in applicants wanting to study Modern Languages. But recruitment has stabilised. The university's financial case is based on misleading statistics about staff-student ratios, and ignores the research strengths of the department. Most crucially, they assume that degree-level and postgraduate teaching in Modern Languages can be delivered by teaching-only staff with no research qualifications.

If these plans go ahead, Wales will lose its only nationally and internationally recognised centre for Modern Languages research and teaching, which has been built up over the past 20 years. Talented students of Modern Languages will not be well advised to study in Wales at all. Swansea University will only offer bare-bones language-skills teaching, without the cultural enrichment provided by research-active staff. These staff not only teach language skills to the highest levels, they teach courses in culture, history, and social, economic and political issues. Many also teach or co-teach courses in other departments such as English, History, Politics, or Media Studies.

Why has Modern Languages been targeted, on the basis of spurious figures and short-sighted arguments? It seems that the senior management of the University (and of the College of Arts and Humanities) see Modern Languages as a soft target. They think it is easier to attack us than to restructure staffing in a rational way, in the long-term interests of the University and of Wales.We aim to prove them wrong.


If you share our concern we urge you to write a letter of protest (with a copy to ) to:

1. Professor Richard Davies, Vice-Chancellor, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea, SA2 8PP E-mail:

2. Raymond Ciborowski, Registrar and Head of Administration, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea, SA2 8PP E-mail:

Please, people, consider doing this. It's just an e-mail that you can base on the following sample text (or copy-paste it directly) and send to these e-mail addresses:
Sample text of a letter of protest:

Dear Mr Ciborowski, I am writing to add my voice to those who have already expressed dismay at your universitys proposals for the reduction in size of Modern Languages.There are several elements in the proposals that cause me concern. The first of these is that Modern Languages provision at Swansea should be cut to a level where the subject ceases to be viable enough to attract students. At a time when it is generally agreed that national interest is being threatened by the shortage of people equipped to speak foreign languages, I would expect universities to be the first to consider what they can do to improve the situation, rather than take steps to aggravate it. I understand that the motives for your proposals are financial, but if universities are do not regard themselves as the guardians of national, let alone cultural, interest then this is a sad comment on their sense of the purpose of higher education.Secondly, I am appalled that the university should have decided on a plan without consulting the departments concerned. This seems to me a deeply regrettable attitude to adopt to highly qualified and dedicated academics.Thirdly, I am quite astonished that you are requiring those in the relevant departments to reapply for a much reduced number of posts. This is a particularly cruel and inhuman form of musical chairs.Fourthly, at time when university departments are constantly under one form of assessment or another, it seems particularly cynical to ignore the ratings that the departments of Modern Languages at Swansea have been granted in the RAE, student satisfaction, and post-graduate provision.

Sincerely yours,


Clarissa said...

One of the readers of this blog has sent a powerfully worded letter to the administration of Swansea U. Three other readers have been tweeting about this issue. Thank you, guys!!!

I urge everybody else to take a moment and consider joining our efforts.


Clarissa said...

My colleague Kola Tubosun has written a blog post about this issue as well:

Thanks, Kola!

Suzi Garcia said...

I did the MA in Translation with Language Technology here and it was excellent. I'll be contacting fellow former students too. This is so short-sighted.

Suzi Garcia

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