Never forget your Welsh?

September 9, 2010

Although Swansea University's decision to cut the number of academics in its modern languages department from 22 to 12 at least has the redeeming feature of not relegating the institution to hick status by the wholesale elimination of a major European language à la the University of Leicester, Swansea's explicit protection of Welsh and Welsh-medium teaching in this context is hard to justify ("Voices raised as tongues silenced", 2 September).

Welsh is well catered for at other universities in those areas of the country where the language is spoken by a significant percentage of the population. In South Wales, where English is overwhelmingly predominant, artificially preserving the presence of Welsh at the university level is pure tokenism, as Noel Thompson, Swansea's pro vice-chancellor for academic development, implies when he talks about protecting it in line with government priorities.

To prevent devolution from fostering high-risk parochialism in higher education and business in South Wales, local members of the Welsh Assembly should urge Swansea to demonstrate its academic autonomy by prioritising its highly rated and strategically important expertise in major European languages, rather than weakening it by a misplaced adherence to linguistic doctrine.

(I write as someone who gained his first degree, in German, from what was then known as the University College of Swansea.)

David Head, Dean, Faculty of Business and Law, University of Lincoln.

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