Stop ANU Cuts to Arabic!

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What is happening:

The Australian National University's (ANU) College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) is proposing to cut two (2) of its ONLY three (3) valued lecturers from its already small Arabic Language Program run by the College of Arabic and Islamic Studies (CAIS). 

The exceptional quality of the Arabic Language Program, and the broader Middle Eastern course offerings at ANU are unparalleled across the country. This accolade is a testament to the tireless efforts of its dedicated staff that have worked around the clock since day one to provide support for students and foster a close-knit learning community.

Their justification:

The justification staff and students have received for this decision is due to: 

“the steady continued decline in student numbers in the Arabic Program coupled with further expected decline as a result of the global pandemic has resulted in the program not being financially viable or sustainable.”

This reasoning is misleading for multiple reasons:

  • According to the latest enrollment data the university itself produces, enrolments have been increasing over the past 10 years until 2019* - the same year CASS decided to remove the Diploma of Language and restructured many of its degrees to remove the language minor component. 
  • The onset of the coronavirus has reduced enrolment numbers across the university seeing that international students choose not to enrol and many domestic students chose to take a gap year instead.
  • These combined scenarios - outside of lecturer's control - has led to the last two years of a reduced trend in enrolments, and CASS has chosen to use this small sample size bias as a justification to remove two hard working teaching staff from a program that in 2018 served almost 300 enrolments over 7 courses between 3 lecturers over that year alone*.
  • Some courses even saw increases between 2018 and 2019.

The very small number of staff currently in the program are highly valued by students and essential if the program is to continue providing excellent education to students and achieving overall outstanding results. 

What we want:

We, as students of the Arabic Program at the ANU, have simple demands for the university and CASS, represented by Vice Chancellor Prof Brian Schmidt and Dean of CASS Prof Raelene Frances respectively:

  1. For the university and CASS to comment on data showing the increasing number of student enrolments in the Arabic Program over the last ten years. 
  2. For the university and CASS to be transparent about the financial situation of CAIS. How much of CAIS funding comes from the university compared to how much is sustained by the student enrolments?
  3. For the university and CASS to be transparent about the financial situation of the current Arabic Program. How much money does the current Arabic program make? How does this figure differ from other languages?
  4. For the university and CASS to explain, with clear and justified reasoning, how one lecturer who will be required to teach an entire language program will have the capability and time to effectively teach the entire program that currently requires three lecturers. How is the exceptional quality of teaching expected to be maintained?
  5. For the university and CASS to recognise the incredible learning community these three (3) lecturers have each in their own unique way fostered, and to understand that without their continued combined stewardship this whole project will be jeopardised.

Why do we want it:

  • The justification for these staff cuts is unsatisfactory for the above reasoning.
  • The Arabic program and staff have consistently some of the highest SELT reviews (ANU’s course feedback scheme) than any other department here at the ANU. 
  • We enrolled in the Arabic program on its credentials as the premier applied Arabic language program in the country, if not the region. We made this informed decision on the basis that no cuts would occur to the course and thus disrupt our ability to complete a quality degree.
  • The Arabic Language lecturers have created a thriving learning community full of passionate and caring students eager to smash through stigmas and break through crippling stereotypes of the Arab world in Australia. This program and its diverse lecturers are crucial in achieving this.
  • These lecturers and tutors are in our opinion among the best in Australia, who offer a professional program that teaches a fundamental global language language to students across all disciplines. These proposed cuts would be a significant detriment to the current and future ANU community.
  • We, the students of the Arabic Language Program, firmly believe that these three (3) crucial lecturers that run this difficult yet rewarding program deserve their position within this institution.

If you want to support this department and these amazing lecturers, please sign this petition

*Information based on the SELT Reviews published by the ANU detailing enrolment numbers across the 7 Arabic Language courses ran by the Department over the last 10 years