To view a copy of the original, click Anonymised letter to Manchester VC
Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell
President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Manchester
Office of the President and Vice-Chancellor
University of Manchester
Manchester M13 9PL
Dear Dame Nancy
I write to add my own voice of protest and disbelief to the many you are doubtless receiving in light of recently announced ‘M2020’ plans to make severe cuts to the staffing in the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures and beyond. […] I find it difficult to believe that an institution of Manchester’s proven quality and reputation is prepared to reduce its provision in Modern Languages in particular and to risk its high academic standing by shrinking the provision of established areas of undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and thus almost inevitably adversely affecting the world-class research that comes from Manchester in these disciplines.
Manchester boasts a highly-respected body of language departments for whom the profession at large holds huge admiration. (The considerable output of internationally significant scholarship generated by your German Department is beyond dispute, and there is not space here to name all the highly-acclaimed personnel; this is, in any case, not a letter of special pleading for individuals but one of alarm at the possible damage being inflicted on a skilled team of modern linguists.) Not only is the academic distinction of colleagues undisputed, but the dedication and skill of your teaching team is clearly the major factor in producing excellent results year after year, both in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching as well as in research. Regrettably, the profession at large only has access to the information that is made available on your website. At first sight, it seems puzzling that this scale of hoped-for staff reductions can be announced whilst also expecting ‘100+ new, early-career academic appointments’ to be made.
Modern Languages is a teaching-intensive subject with a recognized need for smaller-group teaching and is doubtless a little more expensive to deliver. It is also widely known that the marking of A-Levels in Modern Languages has been comparatively harsh, and that this fact does much to discourage school students from pursuing Modern Languages beyond GCSE. But measures are now being introduced at secondary school level to try to address this. I understand that Manchester’s recruitment to German degrees in 2017 is, in any case, strong and that the university regularly welcomes over 60 undergraduates each year. I can only speak with authority about the schemes in my own subject area of German Studies and know that Manchester has an outstanding track record in providing intellectually rigorous teaching programmes that produce high-calibre graduates who, in addition to excellent language skills, possess a deep, historical understanding of German and European Politics and Cultures. Surely, these are skills that the sector wishes to foster and are very much in line with the international-facing mission statements of top universities. Moreover, with the United Kingdom now facing ‘Brexit’, the economy needs linguists and interculturally trained graduates as we encounter the economic and social difficulties of leaving the European Union. In terms of the employability of Manchester’s graduates, I understand that with 80.6% of German graduates from Manchester in positive graduate destinations six months after completion, this subject is higher than the School’s or the Faculty’s average.
These are not, of course, easy times in Higher Education, but I urge Manchester’s management team to reconsider the drastic measures proposed and to work instead with colleagues to foster new initiatives and to find more gradual and sustainable ways of achieving any necessary restructuring. I am grateful to you for registering our concerns. [Along] with many senior colleagues who are involved in research projects, conferences, impact and engagement activities with Manchester, I too hope that the large-scale staff reduction of ‘M2020’ can be reconsidered.
This letter is reproduced here anonymously, but with the permission of the sender.
- Professor Keith Brown (Dean of Humanities); Professor Alessandro Schiesaro (Head of School of Arts, Languages and Cultures; Edward Astle (Chair of the Board of Governors)