Contrary to statements by Court and Head of College, languages diplomas suspended.

Published

An email circulated around the School of Modern Languages and Cultures (SMLC) on behalf of John Macklin, Head of School, has revealed that the school has decided to suspend the postgraduate diplomas in Russian, Czech and Polish, despite the University Court’s statement in June that “the SMLC should maintain the teaching of the full current range of modern languages at the levels currently taught.”

The email, which summarizes a meeting of the School’s executive on October 5th, states that:

[I]t was agreed that, in light of this year’s experience and in view of current uncertainties, not to admit students to the PG [postgraduate] diplomas in Czech, Polish and Russian in session 2012-13. The programs will remain live and the position for future years will be reviewed.

There are currently 8 students studying on the diplomas, which account for half of the SMLC’s 16 postgraduate taught students. Upon finding out about the proposed suspension, Sam Beaton, a student on the Czech diploma, said:

The ‘suspending’, in effect cutting, of postgraduate diplomas in the Slavic languages goes not only against popular opinion nationwide but is denying the possibility for students to take up languages to complement their undergraduate degrees. I study Czech at PGDip level in the hope of continuing my studies of Czech issues, and the support we are getting from the SMLC Executive is non-existent.”

Further emails which were circulated around the school indicate that the decision was made with: “no consultation with Slavonic [staff] about the decision to suspend the Czech, Russian and Polish Diplomas for the next session.” A university spokesman said of the decision:

The University remains committed to language teaching and regard it as central to its strategy. The University Court agreed on the 22 June 2011 that the School of Modern Languages and Cultures (SMLC) would continue to teach the full, current range of modern languages, and at the levels presently taught, assuming there is sufficient demand. The reason that we are not admitting students to the PG Diplomas in Russian, Czech and Polish in 2012-13 relate to the extremely low numbers coming forward to express interest as potential students.

The future of Slavonic languages and cultures at Glasgow University has been a matter of controversy and confusion in recent months. Several modern languages, including Russian, Czech and Polish were threatened in the package of cuts announced in February, however they were spared the axe when University Court decided in June that “the SMLC should maintain the teaching of the full current range of modern languages at the levels currently taught”. At the time, no qualifications were made with regards to course numbers.

The future of the postgraduate diploma in Russian was thrown into question over the summer, when an email dated 26th August, was circulated by Murray Pittock, Head of the College of Arts, indicating that the diploma had been suspended for 2011-12:

The College received SMLC’s decision today to suspend the PG Diploma in Russian due to low anticipated numbers in 2011-12 only. It is important to stress that this decision, which is in line with practice across the College and University, is for 11-12 only and does not affect the availability of the Diploma from 2012 to support Erasmus Mundus needs in Social Sciences

In contradiction with the latest move to suspend all Slavic language diplomas, Prof. Pittock’s email, recognizes the importance of the diploma to the School of Social Sciences, where it is used to provide intensive language training for postgraduates in Central and East European Studies, and talks about further developing the provision, indicating that “work will take place with the College of Social Sciences on developing provision from 2012”.

According to further emails on the subject, when the decision was made to cancel the Diploma for 2011-2012, 11 students had applied with 7 having confirmed their acceptance. The course numbers are capped at 15 due to the intensive nature of teaching in small classes.

Students never received any official confirmation that the course was cancelled and in September a last minute decision was taken to run the diploma, however by this time, 3 of the 7 students had dropped out. David McCallum, a postgraduate student on the course said that:

I first heard that it was under threat in July, when I was making enquiries about funding. Others didn’t learn that the course was under threat until August, and some of those applicants were coming from secure employment in other cities and countries, with the belief that they were entering full time education. Obviously these applicants faced a far worse problem than I did if the course failed to run. In the end, we didn’t learn that the course was to run in 2011/12 until the 9th of September – 10 days before the first scheduled class.

The University Court’s decision to close the Slavonic studies degree program is also still the subject of controversy due to the ongoing legal challenge by Professors from the University’s School of Law.

Written by Amy Mackinnon