Looks like my department’s getting cut

I’ve copy and pasted this from a post I made at secular portal.

I’m so pissed off. The modern languages budget has come out for this year and not only are they getting rid of hourly paid teaching (ie tutors and language assistants – they make up 5 of my 7 contact hours a week in those subjects), but it looks like Portuguese is getting slashed completely, as well as Russian which I don’t study. Leaving staff (which I suspect will be quite a few with this news) will not be getting replaced.

Now the way Portuguese is at the moment is dire. The way the Edinburgh system works makes this very complicated but I’ll explain anyway, it’ll help me vent so maybe I can go back and revise again. I don’t expect anyone to actually read the next 5 paragraphs.

Portuguese is part of the Hispanic Studies Department. You can take Spanish as a single honours or with a lot of other subjects, but Portuguese is not a stand alone subject, you can only do it as a joint honours with Spanish (or with Spanish and EU Studies but I’ve never heard of anyone doing that).

Now at Edinburgh you take 3 subjects in your first two years (undergrad courses here are 4 years). Usually this would be whatever your degree is and the rest of the credits filled up with outside courses. So if I my degree were Politics and Chinese I would take those two and choose an outside, but if it were just Politics I would do politics and choose 2 outsides. Edinburgh is renowned for being very flexible, a large number of people end up doing a degree they didn’t apply to do.

The problem with Portuguese is that it doesn’t start until 2nd year. If Spanish and Portuguese is your degree, you do an hour a week in first year which doesn’t count for any credits. This is not at all made clear in the prospectus. So I did Spanish, Politics and Chinese, and this hour a week. At the start of 2nd year, I’d found out that Chinese clashed with Spanish in 2nd year and Politics was really badly taught, so I wanted to start Portuguese (getting rid of Chinese) and switch to first year Linguistics from Politics. Ordinarily this would not be a problem, but the smallprint on my degree programme meant that I had to carry on one of the courses I’d already started (the logic being that if I failed Spanish I’d have something to fall back on – personally I thought that should be my risk to take). Since Chinese clashed I was essentially forced to take Politics. So much for flexibility.

2nd year Portuguese takes the form of 2 half courses running simultaneously throughout the year, one in language, the other in history and literature (taught in English). There are people not on the degree doing each of these courses as their outside, but everyone on the degree does both. So just to recap, in terms of language you do 2 years full courses in Spanish on top of anything you’ve done before you get to uni, but in Portuguese you get 1 year’s half course, a quarter as much language. You then go on your year abroad.

Now I happen to be the class rep for Spanish and each of these Portuguese courses, and in staff/student liason meetings for the past 2 years they’ve been telling me that they have plans to improve Portuguese and make it into a stand alone course, but that the Head of Portuguese is on research leave, so they can’t do it yet. She’s been on leave since I started my degree, something we also weren’t told before applying, and I’ve since learned that this is contractually obligated by the University. The head of Russian is also on contractual research leave. This is extremely ironic since the reason their budgets are getting cut is because these departments aren’t doing enough research and aren’t making enough money. I fail to see how cutting tutors, forcing lecturers to do more teaching, is going to remedy that situation.

This is all part of a long-running situation where Edinburgh has been slipping down the league tables, particularly in terms of student satisfaction. The University have been focussing on research instead of teaching; it’s well known that promotions are given on research grounds rather than teaching competence, and the multi-million pound Informatics Forum which has been under construction for a long time and opened this year, is a research building. No teaching is allowed to take place there because otherwise they have to pay VAT on the building – surely that should be the other way around. The student association EUSA has been trying to improve this situation with the Teaching Awards starting this year and a long-running campaign to improve feedback, and the University was very vocally on-board, but now it seems they’ve just stabbed us all in the back.

The Students Representative Council is drumming up support but I don’t see what they can do. Money talks, at the end of the day. So I’ll be coming back from my year abroad with no idea whether my degree programme even exists. Of course they’ve brought the news out now because at the end of this week most language students will have gone home and the ones remaining will still be revising hard for their exams. Absolute bastards.

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2 Responses to Looks like my department’s getting cut

  1. Clare says:

    That’s terrible news. I have never understood the way that Edinburgh University does things. They seem to favour decisions which bring the worst outcomes for everybody.

  2. grammarking says:

    Just as an update, there was a meeting last night. I had to go to work so I couldn’t stay for the meeting itself but I went early to speak to certain people. The room was full when I left before the meeting and I understand over 200 people crammed into that room (not a particularly big room either).

    The situation is that DELC (the modern languages division) has to cut £200,000 this year, and a further £200,000 the following year. They’ve given DELC 2 weeks to sort out a new budget else they’re going to do it themselves. Staff and students are up in arms about this, there are over a thousand members in the facebook group so far (go and join – http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=84754786285&ref=ts).

    If you can do nothing else – SIGN THIS PETITION – http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/stopedinburghunicuts/.

    There’s also going to be a DEMONSTRATION at Old College on MONDAY 25th MAY at 12.30pm, when the University Court will be meeting.

    We’re gonna fight this tooth and nail and I urge you to support the campaign. Every aspect of your life probably has an international aspect to it, none of this is possible without fostering modern languages to a high level, so show your support.

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