Student Testimony- anon

As a student who has just finished my time as a languages undergraduate at Manchester, it was saddening and painful to hear of the plans to cut 171 positions, which will undoubtedly affect many of the lecturers and staff who have supported me throughout the past four years. After almost becoming a school refuser in my teens, to battling mental health issues and learning to cope with a physical disability, it was only at university that I first began to come out of my shell. I will forever be indebted to the languages teaching staff for this, who were always on hand to offer both academic and pastoral support, embodying the strong pastoral values that the university values so highly.
Thanks to the irreplaceable language staff, I have achieved things which I never imagined I would, whether it be winning various awards at the university, finding the strength to continue battling my health issues or taking the first steps towards my plans following graduation. All the staff in the languages departments are true assets to the university and their actions often go beyond the ‘call of duty’ or their job descriptions, which shows how truly committed they are to student excellence. Creating graduates of the highest calibre involves so much more than simply teaching a language or delivering content courses.
In this respect, the language staff are the glue that hold the department together, often dedicating their own time outside the seminar room to enrich our experience and really give us a flavour of the cultural life of our target language country, whether be this encouraging us to enter the ‘Great German Bake Off’ or organising trips to the Christmas markets to enjoy a Glühwein and Brezen with us. Cutting these jobs will mean more than just cutting contracts. Behind the numbers and statistics are real people, with real lives and passions; people who are dedicated not just to their jobs, but to the many students whose lives they change for the better. Yes, they help us to grow as linguists and intellectuals. But more importantly they help us to grow as people and members of society.
Passionate as I am about all those who have supported me throughout my degree, I also firmly believe that languages and academia are and will continue to be pertinent on a wider social scale. Research, debate, sharing ideas between colleagues and like-minded intellectuals – all these are key motors to push for change in an ever-evolving society and necessary to meet the demands of the future. The decision by the university to cut 171 positions seems particularly targeted at the language departments, yet it is equally a decision that seems rather ill-timed and potentially short-sighted. With the changing world following political events of the last year (and yes, Brexit springs to mind especially), communication, interaction and negotiation with our European neighbours and fellow countries on a more global scale – in South America, China, Japan or the Arab States – will become increasingly important. For an institution which is part of the ‘prestigious Russell Group’ and which claims to be dedicated to educating some of the UK’s leading graduates to face the challenges of the future, the decision to cut positions at the exact moment when language teaching may be needed most has the potential to be a rather ill-considered move.
These cuts are a serious matter, and something we should not take lightly. They cut to the heart of our very community, and I would urge every student to do what you can to encourage the university to reconsider this saddening decision.

Student testimony: Stuart Dunlop

As the first in my family to attend university, I consider my time at the University of Manchester as a student of languages an invaluable experience. I have gained fond memories, friends and colleagues, and am now considering career prospects I could never have dreamed of just four years ago. However, what I am about to write was not merely my success, but that of the University’s staff and resources which, according to those I have neither met nor received any advice from, are now not necessary for their view of ‘excellence’.
When I arrived in 2013, I was undergoing major family difficulties owing to the long-term illness and eventual death of a direct parent. This was also unaided by trepidation towards the cost of student life, coming from an economically disadvantaged region. Thanks to this, I was diagnosed with low mood and debilitating anxiety, and, over the first two semesters, very nearly caused myself further psychological and physical harm through compulsive over-studying. However, it was thanks to the advice of the staff in both the German and Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies departments that I was capable enough to prioritise my health, while still retaining the grades I could achieve.
Through the attention, engagement and encouragement of these professional members of staff, I was able to improve my strengths and handle my weaknesses. As a result, I have attained high marks in each of my academic years, participated in two German-language theatre productions as part of the acclaimed Palaver International Festival, and was able to enjoy an enriching year abroad, working in Cologne and studying at the University of Coimbra in the 2015-16 academic year. The latter experiences were entirely new and daunting challenges, which would not have been surmountable without the support I had received.
Upon my return, I was able to try new things and find my niche in translation. As a result, I am now able to confidently pursue a MA in Translation and Interpreting, with an interest in maintaining contact with the other departments in SALC. Most recently, I received the first prize in the Wiener Library Translation competition as part of the Oxford German Olympiad, a national competition run by Oxford University. This competition was brought to my attention by the German department staff at the University of Manchester, and thus, I owe a great thanks to them for this opportunity.
I am aware that this represents a personal experience, rather than charts and statistics. However, this only adds to the value of what I have to say. Without the ambition of this department, I myself could not have grown. I had hoped, after my graduation, to use this period of my life as an example, to encourage modern languages to younger students through my story, and to embrace the communication I consider integral to a functional society.
This decision by the University to vivisect the staff numbers of this department severely damages this hope, and goes completely against my principles as someone who views communication and knowledge as fundamental elements of human experience. If the proposed cuts had occurred during my first year, I doubt I would have achieved at all, and represents a waste of resources, both for the student and the university body. I have gained through the multitude of offers given to me, both in knowledge and personal character, and have never once heard talk of irrational financial risks taken for these offers. If the University of Manchester prioritises arbitrary profits over these assets, it will lose its influence and resources in the long-term, as will its students, its remaining staff, and the worldwide academia which it wishes to represent.

Student testimony: Elouise Wills, third year, Italian

The Italian Department at the University of Manchester is small as it is. Downsizing even more will ruin future opportunities for me and my course mates. The standard of support and teaching I have received at Manchester, and more specifically the Italian Department itself, has been second to none; so why would the University want to minimize a department that embodies the values of excellent pastoral care and high quality education it holds so highly?

Manchester says it wants to “invest in its strategic priorities” and “improve the student experience in some areas”. So, what does that mean for us? Is a languages student’s future worth less than another student’s because their passion is different? Is my educational experience worth less money, and therefore you’ve decided to destroy it in order to profit more from someone else’s?

Being on my year abroad whilst watching all this happen is like watching a car wreck from the side of the motorway. I can’t do anything, my friends and I are helpless and what’s more is that the University won’t listen because I am a very small fish in a magnificently large pond. I am passionate about languages and I am passionate about the University of Manchester. I will not be penalised or under appreciated by an establishment to which I have given everything, just because they think my love for languages is not profitable anymore. This is not something I can bear to watch from the side of the motorway, this is something that we all need to stand up against.

To get the chance to live and study in Italy for a year is huge, and the skills it teaches are so unique. Before my first year of University I never thought I would be capable of it, but with the Italian Department my confidence has skyrocketed and I feel good, strong and independent for the first time in years. However, with the news of job cuts I feel like I’m in a bubble, across Europe with little connection to the University and the choices it has made on my behalf. Any connection I had feels like it’s been frayed, torn and pulled away from me because of Nancy Rothwell and her decisions. 171 jobs may seem like a drop in the ocean when comparing it to the 12,000 members of staff employed by Manchester, but let’s remember that these job cuts are directed at a select few departments, so the aftershocks will hit hard on all their respective faculties. How many students have these people educated and helped, how many have they had a hand in moulding into strong, intelligent members of our society? And how many students will not benefit from these 171 in the future?

I am filled with worry for myself, my peers and my lecturers. Who out of my beloved Italian Department will be taken from us? Will it be my academic adviser, who has helped me through so much and made me feel in control of my education when nobody else did? Will it be my incredible grammar and oral tutors, who care so much about me and my class, who have always gone the extra mile to ensure that I am using all their vast resources in order to get the best possible grades I can? These people (real people, with families and bubbly personalities and so much hope for their successors) have become so ingrained in my University life that I cannot imagine going back to Manchester in September without them to support me, to help me integrate back into British life. If even one of my lecturers has to leave, I will feel lost and disconnected. The Italian department, as small as it is already, will not be the same if any of its staff members are told to go.

I am a single honours student who takes pride in her degree programme of Italian Studies. If Manchester decides to not focus its time, energy or money on my department, I will have nothing. There is nothing for me to fall back on. My education will suffer to an extreme and all my hard work, sweat and tears that I have poured into it will all be for nothing.