Asian history ignored

August 22, 2003

Despite our long colonial and trading history, the UK has never had a national plan for teaching Asian languages and cultures, a proper knowledge of which is vital now more than ever to our economy and even national security ( Letters , THES, August 1).

The fad for "market-driven" university management makes matters worse. Vice-chancellors of institutions such as Durham University are allowed to pick off so-called "uneconomic" smaller departments to balance budgets without the slightest regard for national consequences.

Durham is preparing to axe not just East Asian studies but also Arabic. The justification is that budding political scientists can learn all they need to know about the Middle East from secondary sources written in English.

Arabic is apparently too hard, takes to long to learn and is too expensive to teach. Meanwhile, in response to this myopia, the funding council executives rearrange the deckchairs as the ship slowly sinks.

Clive Holes
University of Oxford

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