Monday, 13 June 2016

The Uni of Bath is planning to cut funding for its Foreign Languages Centre

This is a copy of the email I sent my Director of Studies expressing my dismay at learning that the Uni is planning to cut Foreign Languages provision dramatically. I see it as symptomatic of the same little-England attitude that has led to next week's EU referendum.

I’ll start in 2011, when I was applying to universities: I wanted to come to Bath over anywhere else due to language offer. It’s Bath’s unique selling point, in my opinion – none of the other universities I looked at offered the ability to do a language alongside my degree from the first year, with some actively discouraging extracurricular language study. That is: I came to Bath almost entirely because of the FLC offering. I have always believed that languages open doors and so I was keen not to stop language learning when I left school. Arriving at Bath in 2012, I chose to pick up German, which I had taken at GCSE, and went into stage 3, taking a 3-credit unit in the first year. I found it difficult to balance language deadlines with reading for my ‘main units’ and therefore chose to take 6-credit German in second year. Being able to learn a language for course credit has been incredible: the wider reading I do for my language feeds into my Politics courses, and vice versa. Another benefit of the 6-credit courses is that the workload is spread throughout the semester far more equally than it tends to be in ‘main units’, through continuous assessment and weekly homeworks. The smaller classes also offer a far more personal learning experience than large lectures: it’s very easy otherwise to spend a week studying and not really talk to people, because reading and writing are by their nature fairly solitary pursuits.

Because I’d done those German courses, I was able to study abroad in Germany for my third year: that year of learning was absolutely incredible and is one of the best things I’ve done as a Bath student. I was able to broaden my academic horizons and gain the confidence necessary to success in the final year, after suffering from a nervous breakdown in the second year. It’s not an overstatement to say that, without that year out (which I was only able to do because of FLC courses), I probably wouldn’t have felt able to complete the degree. In my final year I have taken Stage 6 German for 6 credits, which involves translating into German in exam conditions: this is an intellectual challenge which uses my brain in a way unlike anything else I do at university and which I have really relished. It has meant that I am able to leave university with functional fluency in a foreign language, massively opening up my future opportunities.

There’s also the ‘value for money’ aspect: in a course taught largely through large lectures and self-directed reading, it can be very easy for PoLIS students to feel like we get a raw deal compared to friends in other departments. Taking FLC courses mitigates this.

Even if the changes to the FLC are necessary, this September is far too soon to introduce them. Many prospective students have applied to study at Bath based on the availability of FLC courses, and many current students chose to come here due to the courses. To apply the cuts from this September would pull the rug from under those students’ feet.

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