Back in December 2010, over 100 students held a Funeral for Modern Languages in protest to the proposed cuts to the Modern Foreign Languages Department at Swansea University. The day of the protest was slated as D-Day, but the vote was delayed until March. Now that March has rolled around, what’s the update on the MFL cuts situation? Last week Modern Languages at Swansea blogged: “On 7 March, Modern Languages staff received a letter from the Swansea University Director of Human Resources announcing that the proposed cuts to the department of over 50% would go ahead.” Elena Cresci takes another look at the situation she has followed closely since the beginning.
“A strong commitment to teaching and student support is at the heart of Modern Languages at Swansea.” This is the statement which greets you upon accessing the Modern Languages section of Swansea University’s website. Ironic, no?
As a final year student, I could easily sit back and ignore these cuts; after all, I won’t be here next year to feel their effects. Except, as a linguist, I care deeply about the state of modern languages here in Wales and in the UK as I’ve had firsthand experience of the benefits a modern language can bring. I also feel a sense of duty to fight these cuts until the end because my brother began studying languages here precisely because it came so highly recommended by his older sister, and I can’t help but feel somewhat guilty for recommending a university which is utterly blind to the values of modern languages.
The blog Modern Languages at Swansea gives an excellent synopsis of these cuts. These aren’t minor cuts either – we’re talking cuts of over 50%. Arguably the worst casualty would be Italian, which would be left with no academic staff whatsoever should proposals go through. This leaves the students of Italian with solely one language tutor to take them through an entire degree, and they’re not happy about it.
“It’s unfair that I found about the cuts after I made the decision to study Italian,” my brother told me when I spoke to him about it last week. “I feel like I’m paying for a degree that I’m not necessarily going to get, and my future here at Swansea is very uncertain.” This is certainly the case – earlier this year I even suggested that Jack go look at other Universities, but why should he? Swansea was his first choice; surely he should get what he signed up for? “I came to Swansea because of its good reputation for modern languages, and I’ll be more than disappointed if these cuts go through.”
Fellow first year student and Secretary of the Italian society Marianna Puzzo was specifically recommended a Welsh university for her choice of degree in English Language and Italian. “I was told that if I was interested in a language degree that I should look at Welsh Universities because of their passion towards languages and especially in keeping the Welsh language alive.” Unfortunately for Marianna, in Swansea she has found a Welsh university whose officials seem to have little passion for modern languages. The cuts have left her and many other Italian students disheartened and disappointed in the degree they’re paying for.
Ben Sluckin, a first year Italian student who has been on the frontline of the movement against the cuts since the beginning feels that “all language students at Swansea, and especially those of Italian, are being ripped off and lied to when told that this will not affect the student experience, and above all, [they] will not receive the education they were promised on application to the university.” Marianna agreed with Ben, saying “I cannot see a way in which the degree won’t be affected,” despite the university stating otherwise.
The key problem here is any future MFL students simply are not getting what they’re paying for, a sobering fact as we move into times when these very same courses may cost £6,000 a year or more. That’s a lot of money for a degree provided by no academic tutors whatsoever. “A degree coming from a university with no academics in that department will not be hugely respected,” stated Ben. “It is naïve of us to think that prospective employers will not check the reputations of out universities. What would an Engineering firm think if it were to have applications from people holding Engineering degrees from a university that does not have a single Academic of Engineering?”
Are potential future students of Italian or any other languages at Swansea even aware of the impending cuts? I took a trip back in time and headed to the UCAS website and did a course search for Italian at Swansea. For entry in 2011, a quick course search for all Italian courses came up with about 50 course options for students wanting to study Italian, from a Joint Honours language degree to Italian and Law. If fees are getting higher, then so should students’ standards. If these cuts go through, the Modern Language degrees at Swansea are hardly going to be worth the £3,000 Welsh students will pay, let alone the £6,000 English students will be forced to fork out.
One thing is for certain; students of MFL are not going to take this one lying down. Want to do something about it? Sign the petition here.
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