University of Glasgow Foreign Language Cuts

From Herald Scotland, February 23, 2011:  (please note that the “I” from this article is not me — it belongs to a person from Scotland whose name was not provided)


I WAS appalled to learn of the proposed closure of Modern Languages and Cultures, as well as other departments, including the Department of Adult and Continuing Education, at the University of Glasgow (“University to press ahead with cuts despite protest”, The Herald, February 17).

The proposed cuts would harm severely the quality of education in Humanities, Social Sciences, Arts and beyond.

These proposals beggar belief. In an increasingly interlinked world, knowledge of other languages and cultures is more important than ever. Providing adult education for “non-traditional” learners is vital. Or are all native speakers of English to stumble ignorantly around the world, clueless, ignorant of the history, politics, literature and language of other countries? If, for whatever reason, an adult should wish to continue learning, or start learning again, should he or she just forget it, and turn on the television instead?

As a graduate of modern languages from Glasgow University (1991, French and German), a full-time translator, with experience as a teacher in the field of adult education, I strongly urge the university management to reconsider these cuts, which are destructive, short-sighted, and ultimately self-defeating to a university that should exist in order to provide a “universal” education.


There has been a lot of press surrounding the surging costs of accommodating EU students in our universities. What is not highlighted is that this deficit is exacerbated by the failure of our own students to take advantage of the same opportunities offered by universities across the EU.

The reluctance of our student population to be as internationally mobile as their EU counterparts has been long reflected in the low uptake of Erasmus placements by Scottish students compared with the rest of the EU. Rather than looking to halt the number of EU students coming to our shores, we should be looking to invest in our education system to ensure that the same global opportunities enjoyed by EU students are provided to our own.

Given that poor language skills are one of the principal barriers to students studying abroad, it is worrying that one of the first subject areas to meet the wrath of spending cuts is modern languages.

While education in the rest of the world is becoming increasingly global and internationalist with greater emphasis on modern languages, our own education system is doing the reverse. Over the last few years we have seen cuts to modern languages in primary school training, foreign language assistants and the modern language departments of our two biggest universities.

The lip-service approach to modern languages raises real and pressing concerns about our education system’s internationalist credentials. With elections coming up, I would be interested to hear how incumbent and prospective education ministers intend to halt the demise of modern language provision to ensure our education system is fit for a global 21st century.

AM shocked and dismayed that Glasgow University is seeking to drop courses in modern languages and culture studies. Are these studies not more necessary than ever, especially in the light of what is happening in the Middle East?

I know that cuts in spending are necessary, but are there not other ways of reducing the budget than dropping this course? What about some of the better-paid professors taking a pay freeze or, indeed, a cut?

As someone who took the Divinity course as a very mature student in the 1990s, I am concerned about the cuts to Adult Continuing Education.

Along with many other mature students this was the way that I got into university. I think those of us on the Continuing course were able to cope better with our studies at university because the lecturers and tutors had drummed into us the need to answer the question when doing our essays and exams. This was very helpful for me; as I had left school at 15 with no qualifications.

I hope that there will be a strong campaign to help students who want to take these courses as Glasgow University has a very high standard. I would be saddened if these standards were to be lowered.


You report that fees of £12,000 might be charged for a four-year degree (“Secret plans to charge Scots students £12,00”, The Herald, February 21).

That’s not really as alarming as it sounds since I was charged £75 a year in 1951. Allowing for an approximate (and conservative) 20-fold change in the Consumer Price index, that is 75 x 20 x 4, or £6,000.




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