Macquarie finalises plan to halve language programmes

Course cuts will ‘revitalise’ language offerings, make students more employable and ‘address global challenges’, university claims

六月 7, 2024
Sign at South Australia’s southernmost point, Port Macdonnell, showing the distances to various cities and the South Pole
Source: iStock/Trung Nguyen

Macquarie University will seek to “revitalise” its language offerings by jettisoning almost half of them, the Sydney institution has confirmed.

The university will push ahead with last year’s plan to stop teaching Croatian, Italian, Greek and Russian, as it shifts its emphasis from language competency to “global cultures” – a new discipline that treats human expression such as language and the arts as a “mediating lens” between the local and the global.

A spokeswoman said language teaching was evolving and Macquarie wanted to align its curriculum with “the needs of a changing national and global context”. 

“The discipline of global cultures will revitalise the university’s language offerings to focus on matters of global concern from a linguistic and cultural perspective, emphasise employability skills and deliver a curriculum that supports intercultural engagement and addresses global challenges,” she said.

John Hajek, president of the Languages and Cultures Network for Australian Universities, said the institution should reconsider. He said the cuts would damage Macquarie’s reputation and its relationships with “important communities” that had provided “significant ongoing financial support” to its language programmes.

“It makes no sense to close them when there is little or no financial cost to Macquarie, and will also lead to a loss of important community goodwill,” Professor Hajek said. “Those languages that are to be retained look likely to be lost in a new megastructure.”

The university also plans to scrap diploma courses in all nine languages it teaches, in changes that will cost six academic jobs. They are part of a wider restructure that will corral programmes in politics, international relations, security, criminology and global cultures in a new School of Global Studies.

“Bringing together disciplines focused on international affairs and global challenges will create and enhance opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration and amplified research output and education outcomes,” the spokeswoman said.

Macquarie has relented on its original plan to also stop teaching German. Its spokeswoman did not say whether this reflected a desire to avoid upsetting German partners.

Macquarie academics have enjoyed considerable success in winning grants from the German Academic Exchange Service. The university has more exchange partner institutions in Germany than in any other country apart from the US and Japan.

Macquarie’s spokeswoman said the abolition of language programmes followed “a formal consultation period”. The proposal is “now finalised”, she said. “A proposed implementation plan will be put forward for consultation with staff and stakeholders later this month.”

The Italian consul general and the director of the Italian Cultural Institute pleaded in vain for the retention of Macquarie’s Italian language programme, according to the Committee of Italians Abroad. The course’s axing was the latest in a series of “major programme closures”, following a similar move by the University of Wollongong.



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