Only last year, the British government discovered 'overwhelming support for foreign languages' when the Department of Education proposed to bring forward compulsory language learning to the age of 7.
Education minister Elizabeth Truss stated:
"We must give young people the opportunities they need to compete in a global jobs market - fluency in a foreign language will now be another asset our school leavers and graduates will be able to boast."
Despite the continual stress that linguists enjoy greater employability, one of the country's best established department of languages (University of Salford) is to close "to secure the future of the University" and ensure that the institution can "benefit students in areas that are in demand with employers."
Although it seems there is a clash in what is now considered as a requisite from employers, "disestablishment" has been considered as the last resort and is reportedly due to "low levels in interest from applicants". This could be due to a manner of reasons: tuition fee increase, culling of mandatory language learning at GSCE by Labour government, staff cutbacks in SOL to name a few.
As highlighted by Professor Myriam Salama-Carr in her statement to Vice Chancellor, Martin Hall, the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences should be merited for its ongoing achievements and keeping in line with what was once the University's core mission. Here is the statement:
"The University of Salford has a 40 year old track record of teaching applied languages. Its postgraduate programmes in translation and interpreting, which are now part of the prestigious European Masters in Translation’s Network, were first set up in the early 1980s and the growing network of alumni are playing a key role in the translation and interpreting profession. With an annual average of 65 postgraduate students on its translation and interpreting programme and a vibrant community of research students in the field (20 students are currently enrolled on doctoral programme, and Salford PhD holders are in academic posts in a number of institutions in the UK and abroad), the School has been active in various translation and interpreting related initiatives. The University of Salford is currently leading the Routes into Languages National Network for Translation and is a partner in the Routes’ National Network for Interpreting.
At a national and European level, the proposed closure represents a step backwards and a short-sighted initiative at a time when the UK government recognises the need to protect languages – an indispensable asset for any professional in an increasingly globalised world.
The University proclaims its commitment to Internationalisation as part of its Teaching and Learning strategy. With the closure of Languages, it is difficult to see how this strategic goal can be met in any serious way. With the removal of the Languages programmes and strong links to international areas these provide, the university’s claims to be an international institution will greatly diminish. The strong reputation of Languages programmes in the Middle East has influenced recruitment to programmes across the University. Following the damage done by these moves international recruitment is likely to suffer.
Past and current students, staff and key players in Modern Foreign Languages, Linguistics and Translation and Interpreting strongly condemned the proposals for the disestablishment of the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences.
We ask that the University reconsiders the decision as a matter of urgency and looks actively for ways to retain Languages within a strategy aimed at preparing students for a globalised labour market and society.
Today we are calling on you for support and would like to encourage you to send letters condemning these proposals to the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Martin Hall. In closing, may we express our gratitude and appreciation of the many messages of support which have been received by individual colleagues.
On behalf of colleagues in the Directorate of Languages, and the Centre for Translation and Interpreting
Professor of Translation Studies"
We seem to be only a couple of years behind our American counterparts in blocking off routes into languages. If you feel that language learning and translation and interpreting play a key role in today’s internationalised world please take the time to sign this petition to encourage the Vice-Chancellor to reconsider.