Dundee University has denied first year students will miss out on language courses, after being accused of scrapping modules in a bid to save money.
An online petition launched to “save” German studies as a possible course option for first years claimed that despite having “sufficient funding”, the university has “failed to recruit replacement staff for retiring lecturers” at the University of Dundee’s School of Humanities.
Those behind the petition, which was launched last week and has since gained more than 1,000 signatures, argue that this will eventually result in the disappearance of the German language department at the institution.
The petition said: “We fear that German is the start of a phased removal of languages from the school of humanities and it would be shocking and ridiculous to deprive our students of the opportunity to improve and gain the essential skill of learning a foreign language.
The financial implications of the Covid-19 pandemic means we are being forced to make a number of tough decisions in order to ensure the sustainability of the university, and this includes suspending some modules with lower take-up rates among students.”
Dundee University spokesman
“This is a university-wide issue that will be affecting many students, even outside the school of humanities.”
The university was also accused of failing to consult staff about the removal of German studies as a course option for first years, as well as giving incoming students the impression that they will still be able to study the language alongside their primary courses.
“Staff were not consulted about this decision, even though the university insists they were,” the petition added.
“The university continues to give incoming 2020/21 first-year students the belief that they will be able to study with German, despite having stated that they will not be offering German for the year 2020/21.
“Furthermore, they are working the remaining members of the department to their maximum capacity for wages which do not suffice the efforts that they put in.”
Close to 80 comments of support have been left on the petition, many of which pointed to the importance of learning the language given its use in both business and engineering sectors.
One supporter said: “Being the most widely spoken language in Europe, German is vital for business, technology, engineering, science and research – not just in Europe but worldwide.
“German is a language which is becoming extinct in the UK, where second-language acquisition is already poor, which really does put us at a disadvantage.”
Another added: “This is one of the few places we can study German as an additional teaching qualification. Do not remove it.”
Whilst the university confirmed the German studies module has been suspended for incoming students, a spokesman insisted that anyone who wished to study the language alongside their primary course would still be able to do so through the languages for all programme.
We fear that German is the start of a phased removal of languages from the School of Humanities and it would be shocking and ridiculous to deprive our students of the opportunity to improve and gain the essential skill of learning a foreign language.”
Petition launched to save German studies at the uni
The university statement said: “The financial implications of the Covid-19 pandemic means we are being forced to make a number of tough decisions in order to ensure the sustainability of the university, and this includes suspending some modules with lower take-up rates among students.
“These will be reviewed in the future and there are no plans for the phased removal of languages from the school of humanities.
“The suspension of the level one German module will not affect any current students. Around 25 undergraduates will be starting at Dundee in October whose courses allow them to take a language as second subject.
“We will be contacting each of them individually to tell them that, although this particular module has been suspended, they can still learn German to the same standard and earn the required amount of academic credits through our Languages for All programme.
“In addition, they can still choose to study either French, Spanish, or both, as part of their degree.”